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Published: 26 March 2014

Surrey leads research to revolutionise energy capture and storage

The University’s ATI has won funding from the UK and Indian governments for two projects exploring how nanotechnology will impact the future of renewable energy.

The two projects will involve close collaboration between the University’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) and universities in India, with support from Tata Steel Research and Development UK. Funding is being provided jointly by the governments of the UK and India through the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UK-IERI).

The first research project – which will bring together researchers from Surrey and the University of Hyderabad, India – will investigate how to effectively capture and store solar energy using an approach known as ‘inorganics-in-organics’, in which composite materials work together to increase efficiency.

With collaboration from Tata Steel, which will lend its fuel cell expertise, the project will partner research with industry to provide technologies for improved energy generation and storage. Tata Steel is part of the Indian multinational conglomerate company, Tata group, which comprises over 100 companies operating in seven business sectors including communications and information technology, engineering, materials, services, energy, consumer products and chemicals.

The second project will examine the use of zinc oxide nanomaterials in ultra-high sensitivity gas sensors. These gas sensors can be used in environmental monitoring devices to deliver improved sensitivity and increased energy efficiency. They can also be used in breathalysers, or even for sensing potentially explosive gas leaks in places such as hydrogen storage facilities.

This project will see the University of Surrey collaborating with researchers from Queen’s University, Belfast, and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research.

Leading the projects, Professor Ravi Silva of the ATI said, “Nanotechnology projects such as these are hugely exciting and offer direct solutions for the key challenges that the energy sector faces. Supported by both the respective governments and the multinational Tata, our expert teams from India and the UK will impact the future of renewable energy on a global scale through the development of new technologies. Working with cutting-edge nanomaterials such as ZnO, graphene and carbon nanotubes, we can revolutionise energy storage and capture.”

Professor Vince Emery, Surrey’s Pro-Vice Chancellor International Affairs said, “Projects such as these clearly illustrate the global nature of research without boundaries. The University of Surrey has very talented researchers who contribute significantly to world-class research and the most pressing challenges faced by the world today, including cheap renewable energy. The close collaboration between academics and industry is key in achieving visionary goals such as those outlined in these projects.”

Dr Debashish Bhattercharjee, Group Director (Research and Development) at Tata Steel commented, “I am pleased Tata Steel is partnering with global research leaders at the University of Surrey and India on these UKIERI projects which are won on a highly competitive basis in both countries. Solar energy and functional coatings are part of our research strategy and will form an important component of global business in the next decade. We are happy to be part of this research effort spearheaded by the two governments.”

The two UKIERI projects are scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2014.