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


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 is a funded project, you can apply here.


Long Term Performance of Ground Source Heat Pump Systems

Ground source heat pump systems offer a sustainable way to reduce heating and cooling demand for buildings through the use of the ground as a seasonal thermal store.  Access to the thermal store is made via ground heat exchangers, which are then connected to a heat pump and the building heating and cooling delivery system.  Well performing ground source heat pump systems should offer efficiencies of around four or more, meaning substantial energy savings.  However, studies of post installation performance by government agencies and other researchers suggest that this degree of energy efficiency is not being realised in many cases.  This underperformance may be due to a number of reasons including, problems with design or specification, inappropriate control systems, or final building use incompatibility to design stage assumptions.  These issues can all be compounded by the difficulty of accurately determining the thermal demand of buildings before their occupancy.

Historically, ground source heat pump systems in the UK have been installed without any due regard to following up monitoring. This has meant that valuable lessons about design and operation have not been learnt.  GI Energy Ltd and the University of Leeds have been gathering performance data for a number of installed ground source heat pump systems.  This offers an unrivalled opportunity to assess the appropriateness of current design and control systems in routine use, compare operational conditions to those assumed during design and to make recommendations for better practice in the future.

The PhD project will interpret the energy performance of a number of operating ground source heat pump systems in the UK and determine the factors involved with successful schemes.  Analysis of datasets from the buildings will also allow systematic validation of design approaches based on real performance, something currently lacking in the industry.

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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