The University of Manchester is pioneering the energy systems of the future so that we can continue to heat our homes, light our buildings and travel.
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The energy that we depend upon travels a long way before it reaches your fingertips. We need to assess each stage of the energy journey if we’re to continue to meet demand.
In doing so we’ll be tackling some big questions. Are our energy sources sustainable? Do we transport energy efficiently? Can we meet demand while minimising the effects on our environment?
Can we make homes and cities smarter in how they use energy? Can we address the social inequalities that underpin energy use?
The University of Manchester has over 600 academics and researchers taking on these key challenges.
Research at each stage of the energy journey
Our expertise is enhancing the efficiency and viability of sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind, tidal and bioenergy. It’s supporting partners in the bridging fuel sectors, such as oil and gas, to continue to meet demand.
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. Renewable sources of generation tend to be more intermittent – so we’re working on systems that will help keep supply constant, and finding ways to persuade people to use energy at the best times.
We 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.
Podcast series: Keeping the lights on
Join our enery experts for illuminating conversations on the global challenge of keeping the lights on while driving towards decarbonisation.
Download an overview of our energy expertise (PDF document, 1.7MB).
Our experts are guiding the UK’s industrial strategy for the civil nuclear sector via our Dalton Nuclear Institute, the UK’s most advanced academic nuclear research capability. Here, we undertake research across the entire nuclear fuel cycle – from innovative manufacturing techniques to waste management.
A living laboratory
Leading facilities – from the 2MV high-voltage laboratory at our Manchester campus to our £20 million Dalton Cumbrian Facility – help both us and our industry partners develop these solutions. The University campus itself is a living laboratory, with our 339 buildings providing a test bed for tomorrow’s energy systems.
To get to tomorrow’s homes, energy will have to travel new routes, going further and faster, leaving no carbon footprint. At Manchester we’re making sure the systems are in place for this journey to happen across a mix of energy sources.
Energy: Research breakthroughs
Turning agricultural waste by-products into safe, green, clean energy.
Design innovations and new technologies that reduce the construction cost of nuclear reactors.
Global challenges, Manchester solutions
Reprocessing radioactive materials
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.
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
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.
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
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 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
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.
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
Many people across the world cannot afford enough energy to meet their basic needs, which seriously impacts on their well-being.
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
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.
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
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 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.
University commits to 100% renewable energy from 2021
This major milestone is part of Manchester’s plan to move towards sustainable energy consumption and completely decarbonise campus.
International Universities Climate Alliance urge G20 leaders to prioritise net zero emissions
The alliance’s first declaration implores world leaders to use the post-COVID recovery to implement measures to counteract climate change.
Manchester secures £1.5 million funding to revolutionise plastic waste streams
The ‘one bin to rule them all’ project aims to simplify plastic recycling for consumers so that more usable recycled plastics can enter the circular economy.
Manchester academic joins the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority board
Francis Livens is Professor of Radiochemistry and Director of The University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute.
Manchester research finds unintended methane release from fracking site
The discovery shows that atmospheric monitoring of shale gas activity is crucial to assess any role that the industry may have in the UK’s future energy mix.
Get an in-depth insight into some of our world-changing energy research.
Experts for media
Our energy experts can offer fresh perspectives and explain how we're advancing knowledge for a better world.
Dalton Nuclear Institute
Find out more about our nuclear research expertise.
Visit the Dalton Nuclear Institute website
We collaborate with some of the UK's largest energy providers. Find out how you can harness our knowledge and facilities.
Watch the video
Read expert analysis and commentary about the future of energy in a warming world in our On Energy publication.
Download On Energy
Manchester Policy Blogs: Energy and environment
Explore the key debates in our energy and environment policy blogs.