Energy

The University of Manchester has more than 600 experts working on solutions to today's energy and clean growth challenges. We're involved in research right across the energy journey – from generation for power, transport and heat, through to energy consumption.

What's your area of interest? Choose from the below categories.

General Academic Industry Policy

With an energy research portfolio worth in excess of £80m, our academics and researchers are working across diverse fields, including power networks; advanced materials; climate change and clean energy generation such as nuclear, solar, wind, tidal and bioenergy. We also explore how societies can develop and transition to low-carbon futures.

With such scale and scope we’re able to address a broad range of challenges, working across disciplines to help deliver a brighter and more sustainable world for future generations.

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Making a difference

At The University of Manchester we know the value of working together with others. We break down barriers and get involved; we collaborate across disciplines, cultures and countries to solve global problems; and we transform people’s lives by making positive change across the world.

“We are among the first in the world to try to capture the true diversity of energy demand in cities and project how this will change when smarter technologies will be available.”

Prof Pierluigi Mancarella / Professor of Smart Energy Systems

Delivering impact

Our expertise delivers real-world impact. We are enhancing the efficiency and viability of sustainable energy sources, helping partners in the bridging fuel sectors continue to meet demand and supporting the nuclear industry with the life extension of reactors and underpinning science for new nuclear manufacturing.

We’re helping to ensure energy gets to the point of need efficiently, providing UK network partners with the knowledge to deliver reliable and sustainable power.

Our work looks at integration challenges for decentralised energy, improving grid flexibility and the development of microgrids, smart energy networks and community-based energy schemes.

We also work closely with our local region on projects such as the UK’s largest ever trial of heat pumps. We’re finding out more about how today’s urban society uses energy, blending expertise from engineering and the social sciences to learn more about demand and how it can be met.

As part of the SCATTER (Setting City Areas Targets and Trajectories for Emission Reductions) project, commissioned by Greater Manchester Combined Authority and The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, our academics at Tyndall Manchester have calculated a carbon budget for Greater Manchester that is compatible with the commitment in the Paris Climate Agreement and have helped provide a pathway for Manchester to reach its zero carbon commitment by 2038.

The University of Manchester also leads the European Energy Poverty Observatory (EPOV) consortium which is dedicated to bringing about transformational change in our knowledge about the extent of energy poverty in Europe and the measures we can use to combat it.

Energy: Research breakthroughs

Podcast: Making solar energy more efficient and cost effective

Solar panels are among the most available systems for generating energy through renewable sources due to their relative cost and consumer availability. However, the majority of solar cells only achieve 20% efficiency. Now an international team of researchers has resolved a key fundamental issue which limits and degrades solar cell efficiency. The problem has been studied for more than 40 years, with more than 270 research papers attributed to the issue with no solution. In this podcast Tony Peaker, Matthew Halsall and Iain Crowe discuss their research and what led to this first observation of a previously unknown material defect which limits silicon solar cell efficiency and the potential economic benefits.

Research paper: ‘Identification of the mechanism responsible for the boron oxygen light induced degradation in silicon photovoltaic cells’ by Michelle Vaqueiro-Contreras, Vladimir P. Markevich, José Coutinho, Paulo Santos, Iain F. Crowe, Matthew P. Halsall, Ian Hawkins, Stanislau B. Lastovskii, Leonid I. Murin, Anthony R. Peaker, published in the Journal of Applied Physics. DOI: 10.1063/1.5091759

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Case studies

Global challenges, Manchester solutions

Reprocessing radioactive materials

Global challenge

Removing nuclear fuel and other waste products, whether from damaged nuclear power plants such as Fukushimi Daiichi or decaying storage ponds at Sellafield, is extremely difficult due to high levels of radioactivity.

Manchester solution

We’ve designed an amphibious, remotely operated vehicle that can fit through small access ports, typically found in nuclear facilities; carry neutron detection and navigation equipment, and withstand extremely radioactive environments.

At Fukushima Daiichi the vehicle will help identify fuel that is believed to have melted so that it can be safely removed, significantly reducing radiation levels, lowering risk and making the plant easier and cheaper to decommission.

Locking up radioactive wastes

Global challenge

Radioactive wastes contain long-lived radionuclides that will be around for millions of years. Understanding their behaviour in waste disposal systems is critical to ensuring safe, publicly acceptable disposal of these challenging
byproducts of nuclear energy generation.

Manchester solution

In collaboration with Diamond Light Source, our researchers investigated long-lived radionuclides using X-ray spectroscopy techniques. We found that radionuclides could be directly and irreversibly ‘locked up’ within the iron oxide mineral frameworks that are present in the waste, under a range of different conditions, thereby limiting their movement into the environment. The research is being used by Radioactive Waste Management and Sellafield Ltd.

Harnessing the potential of biomass

Global challenge

Biomass has potential to provide sustainable, low carbon energy. Rice farming in Asia produces about 550 million tonnes of straw residue annually; however, this potential fuel source is simply burnt in fields, resulting in emissions hazardous to humans and the ecosystem.

Manchester solution

Manchester researchers use a multidisciplinary approach to deliver the technology to turn rice straw residue into a clean energy source, factoring in the priorities and preferences of local communities and their energy demands.

Our academics have experience working across the globe to tackle logistical, technological and environmental issues.

Storing energy until required

Global challenge

Renewables are key for a growth in low carbon energy, but are inherently intermittent power generation sources. Enhancing how we store energy will therefore by pivotal to our efforts to decarbonise our energy system.

Manchester solution

Our research is transforming the processes that bring energy to our homes and finding ways to use existing systems more efficiently. Our involvement in the multidisciplinary MY-STORE project is bringing a new perspective on the wide-scale deployment of energy storage by exploring socioeconomic and environmental factors as well as public perceptions for future distributed multi-energy systems.

Combating energy poverty

Global challenge

Many people across the world cannot afford enough energy to meet their basic needs, which seriously impacts on their well-being.

Manchester solution

Researchers at our Centre for Urban Resilience and Energy are working to understand the complex causes of energy poverty. Our researchers are advocating an ambitious and strategic approach, backed by national government resources, which includes comprehensive energy efficiency improvements proactively targeted at areas of poor housing stock.

Wider measures should address rising energy prices and the structural causes of low incomes, such as unemployment. Manchester is also the lead institution for the European Energy Poverty Observatory.

Reducing the costs of nuclear power

Global challenge

Manufacturing high-integrity nuclear power station components is expensive. New approaches are needed to make this less costly, balanced with a detailed understanding of new manufacturing processes and the effect these have on component performance over design life.

Manchester solution

We’re building a capability to produce realistic manufacturing features, such as industry-standard welds, carrying out detailed materials analysis to determine performance at the micro and macro scale, and developing analytical models of long-term performance. We’ve also invested £8 million in our Manufacturing Technology Research Laboratory, dedicated to innovation in nuclear manufacturing.

Social research in nuclear power

Global challenge

The global transition to zero carbon energy will have a profound impact on society. New understandings of the social controversies around nuclear power will be vital if it is to play its part in this transition.

Manchester solution

Manchester is leading The Beam, a novel research network fostering engagement between the nuclear sciences and social research to open up new thinking and approaches for civil nuclear decision-makers. The network invites world-class researchers to bring their insight to bear on global nuclear challenges, encouraging an ethnographic approach and placing emphasis on those impacted by nuclear power.

Unique facilities

Our academics, researchers, collaborators and partners have access to a comprehensive range of state-of-the-art and bespoke experimental equipment and powerful computing infrastructure to help them deliver ground-breaking R&D. Facilities include the Dalton Cumbrian Facility (part of the National Nuclear User Facility and offering the world’s highest energy dual ion beam accelerator system), the UK’s largest university high voltage facility, a six-rack RTDS real-time power system simulator, fully-programmable AC grid-connected energy storage system, world-leading X-ray imaging systems and 1MW energy storage test bed, plus facilities at the new Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC). The University campus itself is a living laboratory, with our 339 buildings providing a test bed for tomorrow’s energy systems.


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