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…far-reaching research for sustainable solutions

Climate change, pollution pressures, expanding populations, finite supplies of traditional energy sources – perplexing issues like these mean the quest to develop the sustainable, secure and efficient energy technologies critical to the world’s well-being has never been more urgent. Little wonder it’s recognised as a Global Grand Challenge.

Research is the key to success and we’re prominent in this fascinating but formidable field. Whether providing support, offering access to world-leading research facilities, forging collaborations with academia and industry or harnessing our own unique capabilities, we’re helping to break the shackles and pinpoint ways of producing, distributing and storing energy that can not only cut carbon emissions but create jobs too.

We work on both finding new ways of producing energy and on improving the existing ones.

Exploring radical new energy horizons

Here, our focus is on developing startling new energy options inspired by Nature and opening up revolutionary vistas in energy generation. For example:

  • Laser Fusion: We’re at the forefront of work aiming to recreate the process that powers the Sun by using high-power lasers that fuse hydrogen isotopes into helium atoms. For instance, we’re a founding partner in the pioneering European HiPER (High Power laser Energy Research) initiative.
  • Fast Ignition: Our Central Laser Facility is probing the potential to generate fusion energy by guiding and focusing electron beams with magnetic fields – an approach that could offer big cost benefits over other laser fusion options. Find out more here
  • Artificial Photosynthesis: Our Central Laser Facility is studying and synthesising molecules that may make it possible to mimic the process used by plants to turn sunlight into energy – and then harness it to generate electricity. Find out more here

Optimising emerging and established technologies

Our aim is simple: to maximise the benefits offered by a whole range of energy technologies and surmount barriers to their efficient and economic use. For example:

  • Hydrogen Storage: We’re harnessing our expertise in innovative materials to deliver advances vital to realising hydrogen’s huge potential as a clean energy carrier. For instance, our ISIS neutron-scattering source is producing insights into the structure and properties of promising hydrogen storage materials, including very recent work with Toyota. Our spinout Cella Energy is a world leader in bringing low-cost storage technology to market.
  • Fuel Cells: We’re contributing to the fundamental scientific understanding crucial to the ongoing development of fuel cells, a technology that promises to make clean, hydrogen-powered cars and other vehicles a familiar sight on the world’s roads in the years and decades ahead.
  • Batteries: We help scientists investigate new materials for battery electrodes and electrolytes, increasing the capacity and life time, while reducing the weight of the world’s most ubiquitous energy storage medium for example, to increase the range of electric vehicles.
  • Solar Power: We’re assisting the development of ground-breaking polymers with the potential to improve the performance, efficiency and economic attractiveness of solar cells, encouraging more widespread deployment of this quintessential renewable energy technology.
  • Catalysts: ISIS is helping scientists understand the mechanism of catalysts, which in turn drives the development of better catalysts, and thus more efficient catalytic processes
  • Fossil Fuels: Working closely with the oil industry, cutting-edge research at ISIS, the Diamond Light Source and the Institut Laue-Langevin has extended the life of fossil fuel reserves by aiding development of techniques for enhanced oil recovery.
  • Capturing waste gases: One possible way to alleviate pollution is to capture pollutant gasses such as CO2 and SO2. Recent work work between ISIS and the University of Nottingham has identified a family of cheap, green metal organic framework (MOF) materials that show enhanced selectivity for these, and other, pollutant gasses and may offer a way for gas separation.

Through leading-edge skills, state-of-the-art facilities and wide-ranging initiatives we’re delivering breakthroughs that are bringing closer a new era of safe, sustainable, affordable energy for the UK, its citizens and the world.

Last updated: 26 February 2016


Science and Technology Facilities Council
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