I currently have the following PhD project available. Please contact me for further details.

Reducing GHGs from the heat system – Implementation of buried infrastructure as a heat source

The UK Government has a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. While the last five years has seen a 50% reduction in carbon density of the electricity grid, the target is unlikely to be met without also tackling the gas network.

This is because gas, principally used to provide space heating delivers over twice the energy of the electricity grid. With an ever decreasing carbon intensity of electricity, one of the best routes to decarbonise heating is through use of ground thermal energy storage coupled with ground source heat pump systems. However, heat pump systems retain high investments costs, mainly due to the expense of drilling dedicated ground heat exchangers (GHE).

Efforts to reduce these up-front costs include using dual purpose buried civil engineering structures as GHE and for structure support. This technique has been successful for foundation piles, but is now being developed for other infrastructure such as metro systems, underground carparks, and water and wastewater infrastructure.

One of the challenges with these new types of GHE is that the heat user is not the same as the infrastructure owner meaning there are additional barriers to implementation. Depending on the number and nature of the heat users it may also require adoption of district heating networks (DHN) which adds an additional complexity.

This PhD project will make the first academic study of how infrastructure sourced ground thermal energy can be integrated with adjacent heat users, including via district heating.

The project will make use of a range of interdisciplinary methodological approaches including quantitative appraisal off technical systems, as well as qualitative policy assessment to:

  • determine the number, range and types of users most suitable to different types of infrastructure GHE using DHN models; this will depend on the nature of the underground space and whether there is an embedded heat source such as train breaking.
  • ascertain the nature of the financial and non-technical barriers to implementation of these solutions using a combination of financial and agent based modelling.
  • make recommendations about measure to incentivise change and increase uptake of infrastructure based GHE in support of national climate targets.

The project will span engineering and environmental disciplines and will include aspects of civil and mechanical engineering, economics, social science, and policy to provide a holistic approach to the problem in the context of both construction industry practices and energy policy and practice.

This project is currently unfunded. Please contact me if interested.

Thermal performance datasets for energy piles using laboratory and field testing

In the European Union and North America space heating and cooling represents approximately half of total energy consumption.  If both energy use reduction and carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets are to be met then the space heating problem must be addressed.  Energy piles are an innovative way to access thermal energy storage beneath and adjacent to buildings. They allow the foundations to buildings and other structures to act as ground heat exchangers. When ground heat exchangers are connected to heat pump systems for inter-seasonal heat storage they offer the potential for energy savings of in excess of 75%.

However, despite recent construction of energy piles, there remains an absence of validated design methods. This is in part due to the lack of suitable data for validation of analytical and other methods for use in the design process.  This project will focus on the collection and interpretation of thermal performance data for energy piles, permitting validation of promising design approaches.  Collection of data will involve design, construction and implementation of large scale laboratory heat transfer tests.  The experiments will consider different arrangements of heat transfer pipes as these will influence short term storage of thermal energy within the pile.  The results from the experiments will be used to both consider the energy efficiency of the tested scenarios as well as validate numerical simulation approaches.  Using both the laboratory test results and additional pre-existing field data, the project will then explore different analytical methods for energy pile thermal design by comparing the outputs from the field and laboratory data to both analytical and numerical simulation results.

This project is currently unfunded. Please contact me if interested.

Thermal Energy from Rail and Sewer Tunnels

The provision of renewable heat is a key strategic priority for meeting our binding renewable energy and carbon dioxide reduction targets. Ground energy systems, where heat stored in the ground is extracted using a ground source heat pump will therefore play a key role in future energy provision. Recently, innovations in foundation engineering have allowed various geo-structures to be equipped with heat transfer pipes to enable them to act heat exchangers as part of ground energy systems. Railway or metro tunnels and sewer tunnels in urban areas offer a particular advantage for use with ground energy systems. They both offer an additional source of heat within the ground, as well as important nearby end-users for the heat energy that can be extracted.

In the next two decades London could see the construction of over 150km of new rail and sewer tunnels beneath the capital. This offers an unparalleled opportunity to offer sustainable heating to parts of the city by using the lining of these tunnels as heat exchangers. As well as extracting useable heating energy this will have the additional benefit of cooling the rail tunnels. However, while small trial sections of so called “energy tunnels” have been constructed in Europe, there is no full scale operational experience and no experience at all within the UK.

This project will investigate the energy potential of London’s future tunnels. It will involve exploration of the heat available from train breaking and sewerage, laboratory scale experiments to determine appropriate thermal boundary conditions for the tunnel lining and subsequent numerical simulation of tunnel linings and the surrounding ground under thermal load. The project will be run in collaboration with industry to ensure buildability is taken into account as well as to consider construction costs and payback periods.

This project is currently unfunded. Please contact me if interested.


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