Aston University and the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi have secured a £3m grant to build bio-energy power plants, which will tackle energy poverty in rural India and promote renewable energy in the United Kingdom.
The Research Councils UK Science Bridges funding award will allow the creation of two decentralised energy systems, based in West Bengal, India and Birmingham, UK.
These combined heat and power plants will be powered by waste products derived from sewage, agricultural and municipal waste, and crops grown on marginal land. The fuel sources will be converted into bio-energy through the process of combustion and pyrolysis and have been carefully chosen to overcome the difficulties of competition with food resources, inherent in many existing biomass energy chains.
The three year project, co-funded by Research Council UK and the Indian Government, combines the expertise of Aston’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) based at Aston University and Aston Business School.
In India, the Aston University team will be working alongside the Indian Institute of Technology to tackle the problem of unreliable energy supplies through the creation of a ‘mini’ plant, which will be fuelled by local renewable and waste sources and solar-thermal energy. This will provide steam and refrigeration for food processing factories and with it create regular and reliable job opportunities for around 100 people.
In Birmingham, UK, a plant will contribute to the European Bioenergy Research Institute’s own heat and power supply. Based at Aston University, it will use biomass and waste products, such as wood, garden wastes and sewage sludge sourced from regional companies. The move will help the city of Birmingham meet its 2025 targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent.
In both cases, Aston Business School (ABS) academics will be creating a viable economic blueprint to ensure the long-term security of the projects.
Dr Philip Davies, Senior Lecturer at the School of Engineering and Applied Science, who is already investigating alternative energy use in water scarce areas of India, said, ‘If we can bring renewable and sustainable energy supplies to areas of rural India we can help people escape from a cycle of poverty. Most India farmers are small holders with limited technology for processing and preserving food. Reliable energy systems are needed to power such technologies and at the same time create employment. We’re also keen to show the UK market how we can provide modern energy services which reduce waste and significantly reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.’
Professor of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at Aston and Head of EBRI, Andreas Hornung, said, ‘ Working with the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi we aim to implement bioenergy systems that are efficient and low-emission over the whole life cycle, not just at the point of use. To achieve these goals we will be focusing on a range of potential fuel sources, based on the resources and waste products unique to each particular region. These have been carefully chosen to overcome the difficulties of competition with food resources, inherent in many existing biomass energy chains.
‘Our systems will use direct combustion or converted fuels, to take advantage of the unique pyrolysis technology developed at Aston and the experience in steam and solar-thermal systems developed by the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.’
Dr Prasanta Day, Reader at ABS comments, ‘This project will help to develop a holistic business model for effective management of projects and operations across the bio-energy industry. It will create a wealth of ecological and economic benefits along the entire bio-mass chain, and will offer valuable new research in an evolving industry.
Professor Pawan Budhwar also from ABS adds, ‘In India, in particular, we believe creating sustainable rural development and encouraging entrepreneurialism will be key benefits of the project.’
The team aims to provide a technological and business blueprint for renewably powered combined heat and power boilers, which can be replicated throughout the UK and India.
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Notes to editors:
Photograph of the Aston research team from back (L) Prof Pawan Budhwar; Dr Andreas Apfelbacher; Researcher Sudhakar Sagi;
Front (L) Dr Philip Davies; Prof Andreas Hornung; Dr Abul Hossain; Dr Prasanta Dey
For further information or to arrange an interview with a member of the Science Bridges research team at Aston University please contact Alex Earnshaw on 0121 204 4549 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Background to the awards
The first Science Bridges was funded by UK Government in 2006 to support existing collaborations between the UK and USA by taking research results towards commercialisation and undertaking proof of concept studies. They have now been extended to include the emerging super-economies of China and India.
This set of awards has been made to UK institutions with extant research links with the US, China and India to accelerate the deployment of research knowledge, deepen and strengthen current research links, enable the acquisition of new skills and encourage wealth creation through improving the transfer of research and expertise from the research base to businesses and other users by building science and innovation bridges with world-class universities and high-tech businesses.
The RCUK funding is being boosted with some additional funding coming from the three partner countries involved. Each country can receive awards up to a total value of £4 million over three years. Four UK-China, three UK-India and three UK-US collaborations have been awarded funding this time.
The Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST) is actively partnering Research Councils UK in supporting Science Bridge partnerships and will provide the financial resource (up to £4million matching the support to UK Institutions) to the partner Indian Institutions of the successful applications.
Research Councils UK
The seven Research Councils are independent non-departmental public bodies, funded by the Science and Research Budget through the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). They are incorporated by Royal Charter and together manage a research budget of around £3 billion a year.
Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the partnership between the UK's seven Research Councils. Through RCUK, the Research Councils work together to champion the research, training and innovation they support.
The seven UK Research Councils are:
• Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC);
• Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC);
• Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC);
• Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC);
• Medical Research Council (MRC);
• Natural Environment Research Council (NERC);
• Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).