PhD Studentship: An Integrated Thermal to Electrical Energy Conversion System

University of Birmingham - School of Chemical Engineering

Supervisor details

Lead Academic Supervisor: Dr Hui Cao
2nd Academic Supervisor: Prof. Yulong Ding

Project Brief

This PhD project aims to develop a novel hybrid system that can store all source of heat (e.g. heat generated by renewable energy, fossil fuels, off-peak electricity, and industrial waste heat), convert thermal energy to electro-chemical energy, and eventually generate electricity for centralised/decentralised power systems.

With the global population swelling and industrialisation on the rise in developing nations, our demand for energy has reached unprecedented level. Electricity from fossil fuel energy domains more than 50% of the market even it raises serious environmental concerns and endures low efficiency. Controversially, huge amount of electricity generated by renewable energy cannot be used by consumers due to its variability and the high costs to compensate that. A revolutionary step is to develop a highly efficient integrated system combining electrochemical storage with thermal energy storage (TES), whilst different source of heat can be store in TES as thermal energy and convert to electricity in demand.

The proposed PhD project aims to develop such an integrated system. The system comprises TES modules and a thermal-electro converter (TEC). TES modules store heat at different temperatures. The heat can be from different sources including renewables (solar, wind, tidal and biomass etc), clean fossil fuels, industrial waste heat, and heat generated from off-peak electricity either directly or via heat pumps. TES modules provide heat for TEC which thermally charge batteries using perovskite material through chemical looping. Batteries generate electricity and provide to end user.

The primary objective of the PhD project is to assess the integration of the system, from heat source to the TES, then to TEC. The PhD project will address different levels of scientific and technological challenges of such a novel energy conversion system. Both simulation and experiment will be carried out to study the integration between different components. A series of parameters will be assessed such as round trip efficiency, thermal to electrical converting efficiency, overall energy conversion efficiency etc. In particular, the PhD will focus on the thermal charge unit in the TEC. It could be a chemical reactor e.g. a packed bed or a fluidized bed reactor. CFD simulation will be used to design the reactor with assessment of reacting temperature, pressure, heat, and mass transfer between different phases (gas, solid) etc. and also to optimise the chemical reaction rate.

To undertake this research, a motivated candidate is required with a first class degree or upper second or a combination of qualification and professional experience equivalent to that level, in chemical engineering or other related science and engineering disciplines. Candidate with some knowledge and research experience in energy conversion system or bed reactor design will be preferred.

The PhD student will be hosted in Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage (BCES). BCES consists thermal energy storage centre and cryogenic energy storage centre. It has developed worldwide reputation on energy conversion systems with research expertise from across the University and state-of-the-art equipment/facilities for materials, energy, processes and system research. It will provide an excellent environment for hosting the PhD student. 

Contact details for enquires

Full name: Hui Cao
Telephone: 0121 4145080

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Midlands of England