Renewable energy resources that are investigated at the UT are biomass, solar, wind and waste heat. Bioenergy is the single largest renewable energy source today, providing 10% of world primary energy supply.
Further support for advanced biofuel research, development and demonstration is still needed to improve conversion efficiencies and reduce costs. We have put a large effort in the development of thermochemical conversion processes such as gasification and flash pyrolysis for the production of advanced biofuels. Experimental research is carried out on catalytic pyrolysis, pre-treatment of biomass by washing, separation and upgrading of the pyrolysis products, etc. Also the application of biofuels in gas turbines, engines, boilers is investigated by studying both the atomization and combustion processes.
Wind energy is playing a crucial role in the transition from fossil energy sources to sustainable renewable energy resources. The major aspects in the current developments are the continuous upscaling of wind turbines to generate more power leading to larger blade sizes where aerodynamic and mechanical design becomes a challenge, as well as the prediction of the interaction between turbines in wind parks and optimal positioning accounting for the wake effects. This requires advanced predictive tools and extensive validation. We develop fast and efficient multilevel panel methods for analysis in the early design phase combining good accuracy to low computational cost. In addition to this medium fidelity method we develop high performance and highly scalable numerical schemes for efficient modeling in the later design stages of modern wind turbines.
Waste heat is a by-product of an industrial process or from the built environment. This in general low-temperature heat can be reused via heat pumps or heat engines producing heat, cold or electricity. In Science Based Engineering (SBE) at the UT, research is carried out on thermo-acoustic and magneto-caloric heat pumps. We are focusing on 1) the development of numerical models for the design of this new generation heat pumps, and 2) the application of new materials and configuration to enhance the heat transfer. This research is closely connected to our research on Urban Energy focusing on the optimization of the energy systems in the built environment. The research is concentrated on the whole value chain from proof-of-principle to technology development.
Solar research at SBE aims at achieving a better performance and better integration of solar energy technologies in photovoltaic (PV) modules, PV systems, products, buildings and local infrastructures such as smart grids. This requires a design-driven approach which is strongly embedded in the disciplines of mechanical engineering, industrial design engineering, electrical engineering and physics. Research comprises among others outdoor test facilities for PV modules and PV systems, data processing, simulation tools in the context of virtual reality and design and prototyping activities. Building integrated PV, product integrated PV, solar charging of vehicles and PV in smart grids are research topics that are connected to the research agenda on sustainable urban innovations and can be supplied by specialty photovoltaic materials, developed at the UT.
One of the key issues in the (sustainable) energy field is the storage of energy because of the fluctuating supply and demand of energy in time and distance. The complexity is not only caused by the fluctuations but also by the demand of different forms of energy such as heat, electricity, fuels, etc. The field of energy storage is multi-disciplinary and requires knowledge and expertise in thermal, thermo-mechanical, thermochemical, and electrochemical processes and materials for these processes. Our research on heat storage is focused on developing new systems using advanced phase change materials (PCM) such as nano-encapsulated PCM’s. Another research line is on the energy storage in the form of liquid fuels as these fuels have by far the highest energy density compared to e.g. batteries. Examples are biofuels and solar fuels (e.g. methanol, ammonia, etc).