Our Energy programmes allow you to specialise in areas such as bio-energy, novel geo-energy, sustainable power, fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, power electronics, drives and machines, and the sustainable development and use of key resources.
We can supervise MPhil and PhD projects in topics that relate to our main areas of research, which are:
Our research spans the whole supply chain:
- growing novel feedstocks (various biomass crops, algae etc)
- processing feedstocks in novel ways
- converting feedstocks into fuels and chemical feedstocks
- developing new engines to use the products
Cockle Park Farm has an innovative anaerobic digestion facility. Work at the farm will develop, integrate and exploit technologies associated with the generation and efficient utilisation of renewable energy from land-based resources, including biomass, biofuel and agricultural residues.
We also develop novel technologies for gasification and pyrolysis. This large multidisciplinary project brings together expertise in agronomy, land use and social science with process technologists and engineers and is complemented by molecular studies on the biology of non-edible oilseeds as sources for production of biodiesel.
New ways of obtaining clean energy from the geosphere is a vital area of research, particularly given current concerns over the limited remaining resources of fossil fuels.
Newcastle University has been awarded a Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher Education for its world-renowned Hydrogeochemical Engineering Research and Outreach (HERO) programme. Building on this record of excellence, the Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research seeks to place the North East at the forefront of research in ground-source heat pump systems, and other larger-scale sources of essentially carbon-free geothermal energy, and developing more responsible modes of fossil fuel use.
Our fossil fuel research encompasses both the use of a novel microbial process, recently patented by Newcastle University, to convert heavy oil (and, by extension, coal) to methane, and the coupling of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to underground coal gasification (UCG) using directionally drilled boreholes. This hybrid technology (UCG-CCS) is exceptionally well suited to early development in the North East, which still has 75% of its total coal resources in place.
We undertake fundamental and applied research into various aspects of power generation and energy systems, including:
- the application of alternative fuels such as hydrogen and biofuels to engines and dual fuel engines
- domestic combined heat and power (CHP) and combined cooling, heating and power (trigeneration) systems using waste vegetable oil and/or raw inedible oils
- biowaste methanisation
- biomass and biowaste combustion, gasification
- biomass co-combustion with coal in thermal power plants
- CO2 capture and storage for thermal power systems
- trigeneration with novel energy storage systems (including the storage of electrical energy, heat and cooling energy)
- engine and power plant emissions monitoring and reduction technology
- novel engine configurations such as free-piston engines and the reciprocating Joule cycle engine
Fuel cell and hydrogen technologies
We are recognised as world leaders in hydrogen storage research. Our work covers the entire range of fuel cell technologies, from high-temperature hydrogen cells to low-temperature microbial fuel cells, and addresses some of the complex challenges which are slowing the uptake and impact of fuel cell technology.
Key areas of research include:
- liquid organic hydrides
- adsorption onto solid phase, nano-porous metallo-carbon complexes
Sustainable development and use of key resources
Our research in this area has resulted in the development and commercialisation of novel gasifier technology for hydrogen production and subsequent energy generation.
We have developed ways to produce alternative fuels, in particular a novel biodiesel pilot plant that has attracted an Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) AspenTech Innovative Business Practice Award.
Major funding has been awarded for the development of fuel cells for commercial application and this has led to both patent activity and highly-cited research. Newcastle is a key member of the SUPERGEN Fuel Cell Consortium. Significant developments have been made in fuel cell modelling, membrane technology, anode development and catalyst and fuel cell performance improvements.
Find out more about staff specialisms and our current research projects.
As a postgraduate student you will be based in the Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research. Depending on your chosen area of study, you may also work with one or more of our partner schools, providing you with a unique and personally designed training and supervision programme.
You have access to:
- a modern open-plan office environment
- a full range of chemical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and marine engineering laboratories
- dedicated desk and PC facilities for each student within the research centre or partner schools