Energy and Environment Engineering

Delivering materials, methods, processes and technologies in support of a sustainable future

EEE research overview

Theme overview and objectives

The Energy and Environmental Engineering research theme is a comprehensive and highly multidisciplinary theme. It is the largest research theme in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, with more than 20 research group leaders, more than 50 postdoctoral researchers and more than 150 PhD and Masters students.

Its aim is to deliver materials, methods, processes, technologies and systems in support of a highly efficient and sustainable future. This is being done by a broad combination of underpinning and overarching knowledge, covering:

  • the application of fundamental principles of thermodynamics, fluid flows (including multiphase and reacting flows), transport phenomena (including heat and mass transfer), interfacial and molecular interaction phenomena, reactive and catalytic processes;
  • a fundamental understanding of the thermophysical properties and phase behaviour of complex fluids and other substances, materials design, synthesis, characterisation, transformation and use (e.g., membranes, adsorbents, catalysts, fluids);

with a view towards addressing important global challenges, such as energy and emissions management, energy and fuel provision, storage, recovery, transportation and conversion, environmentally and economically sustainable energy provision, clean water production and purification, and waste resource management and utilisation.

Specific research activities include: clean fossil-fuel technologies, carbon capture and sub-surface processing of hydrocarbons, recovery of non-conventional oil and gas, technologies and systems for (waste) heat recovery/harvesting, conventional and renewable (e.g. solar) power, heating and cooling, energy integration and storage, as well as improved, high-performance components for enhanced process operation.

Methods and capabilities

The theme’s research activities require the development and employment of advanced (e.g., optical, spectroscopic) measurement tools, techniques and methods; the formulation and manufacture of novel materials; the fabrication, assembly and practical testing of innovative concepts at various scales; and the development of integrated models, numerical methodologies and tools to predict and exploit complex, multi-scaled physical processes in engineering, environmental and industrial systems. These methods are applied to achieve advances in each of the individual research activities highlighted above, but also are combined in cross-cutting activities in order to resolve cross/multidisciplinary and whole-system aspects related to the theme’s aims.

 These activities are supported by a number of facilities and capabilities, and particularly:

  • Materials/products synthesis, design and testing facilities (e.g. wet chemistry labs, sub- and super-critical gas adsorption testing rigs);
  • Materials (solid and fluid) characterisation, property determination and transport process measurement facilities, including: advanced analytical tools for the measurement of thermophysical properties and the phase behaviour of fluids (also under extreme conditions), high-resolution non-invasive imaging and spectroscopic techniques for the detailed inspection of materials and/or accurate measurement of transport processes across scales (e.g., X-ray Computed Tomography, Positron Emission Tomography, and a suite of advanced laser-based optical diagnostic techniques and methods);
  • Computational cluster with >200 nodes for high-performance computing and a wide range of engineering prediction, design and optimization software;

and a broad range of continuously updated experiential (practical-testing, measurement) facilities and multi-scale/multi-physics/reaction process computational tools and codes covering all of the research activities covered by the theme’s groups.

QCCSRC Rock-Fluid Imaging Laboratory
QCCSRC Rock-Fluid Imaging Laboratory

Highlights

Biofflex
The BioFlex process is a technology that allows the effective separation of the main components in wood, lignin and cellulose, under mild conditions.

QCCSRC
Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Capture Research Centre: 10-year $70M programme funded by Qatar Petroleum, Shell and Qatar Science and Technology Park. Outputs include new regimes for multiphase fluid flow in unreactive and reactive flow in carbonate rocks; unique data and new predictive molecular-based models for the thermodynamic and transport properties of CO2-hydrocarbon-brine systems at high temperatures and pressures.

Uniheat
Theme member Sandro Macchietto explains the unique collaborative research model pioneered by the UNIHEAT project, and the resulting innovations in refinery energy efficiency. TCE: Nov. 2015.

DFID grant pic
Royal Society – Department for International Development Africa Capacity Building Initiative Programme Grant: 5-year £1.1M project aimed at ‘Harnessing Unsteady Phase-Change Heat Exchange in High-Performance Concentrated Solar Power Systems.

Photofuel
PhotoFuel (www.en.syn-com.com/projects/photofuel.php): €6M consortium aiming to re-engineer cyanobacteria to produce sustainable, low-carbon and cost-effective fuels.

Solar collectors used as part of a small-scale solar combined heat and power system for distributed power generation (doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.04.041); infrared thermal image of a no-moving parts (pumpless and fanless) thermally driven diffusion-absorption cooling device; 3-D computational fluid-dynamic (CFD) simulation of a melting salt in a thermal-energy storage tank (doi:10.1615/.2014011117).
Left-to-right: Solar collectors used as part of a small-scale solar combined heat and power system for distributed power generation (doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.04.041); infrared thermal image of a no-moving parts (pumpless and fanless) thermally driven diffusion-absorption cooling device; 3-D computational fluid-dynamic (CFD) simulation of a melting salt in a thermal-energy storage tank (doi:10.1615/.2014011117).

Figure
Notable paper: Synergetic Enhancement of Organic Solar Cell Thermal Stability by Wire Bar Coating and Light Processing J. Mater. Chem. C 3, 9551-9558 (2015) [link]. Image shows figure 1 from the paper, a schematic representation of processing PCDTBT:PC60BM blend with different coating techniques (SC and WBC) and light treatment.

CH3NH3PbI3 crystal structure and CH3NH3 rotational modes
Notable paper: The dynamics of methyl ammonium ions in hybrid organic-inorganic perovskite solar cells Nature Comm. 6, 7124 (2015) [link]. Image shows figure 1 from the paper: CH3NH3PbI3 crystal structure and CH3NH3 rotational modes.



CCS figure
Notable paper: Carbon Capture and storage update Energy Environ. Sci. 7(1), 130-189 (2014) [link]. Image shows figure 1 from the paper: an example of a second generation, optimised process for CO2 capture by amine scrubbing using 8 molal (m) piperazine (PZ).

An Overview of CO2 Capture Technologies’ Energy Environ. Sci. 3(11), 1645-1669 (2010) [link]
Notable paper: An Overview of CO2 Capture Technologies Energy Environ. Sci. 3(11), 1645-1669 (2010) [link]. Image shows figure 1 from the paper: Schematic of a basic chemical absorption process for amine based CO2 capture.

Highlight videos

Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre

Carbon Capture and Storage is a vital technology for deployment in our efforts to keep global warming near to the much discussed 2˚C threshold.

Imperial College London has a history of expertise in CCS – because of this Qatar Petroleum, Shell and the Qatar Science and Technology Park began funding the Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre at Imperial College – a ten year project, finishing at the end of 2018, with $70 million (USD) in funding.

To make CCS globally commercial viable requires a detailed understanding of the character of the rocks in question; an understanding of the interaction between rocks and fluids at multiple scales; and the behaviour of fluids in a wide range of conditions.

The Centre brings together over 80 researchers and PhD students from nearly 30 different countries to provide expertise in all these areas. Nearly 50 PhD theses will have been completed by the end of the programme. The programme includes fieldwork in Oman, UAE, Spain and the UK to help better understand the reservoir geology in the Middle East supplemented with laboratory work including the first application of clumped isotopes to reservoir descriptions. There are also numerous researchers working on how fluids (e.g., carbon dioxide) flow through rocks of varying porosity and heterogeneity and we have built a dedicated imaging laboratory using X-Ray computer-aided tomography (CT) to observe the properties of carbon dioxide at reservoir conditions in an area of technology now known as “digital rocks”.

Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre

Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre

The Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre at Imperial College London

Carbon Capture and Storage is a vital technology for deployment in our efforts to keep global warming near to the much discussed 2˚C threshold.

Imperial College London has a history of expertise in CCS – because of this Qatar Petroleum, Shell and the Qatar Science and Technology Park began funding the Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre at Imperial College – a ten year project, finishing at the end of 2018, with $70 million (USD) in funding.

To make CCS globally commercial viable requires a detailed understanding of the character of the rocks in question; an understanding of the interaction between rocks and fluids at multiple scales; and the behaviour of fluids in a wide range of conditions.

The Centre brings together over 80 researchers and PhD students from nearly 30 different countries to provide expertise in all these areas. Nearly 50 PhD theses will have been completed by the end of the programme. The programme includes fieldwork in Oman, UAE, Spain and the UK to help better understand the reservoir geology in the Middle East supplemented with laboratory work including the first application of clumped isotopes to reservoir descriptions. There are also numerous researchers working on how fluids (e.g., carbon dioxide) flow through rocks of varying porosity and heterogeneity and we have built a dedicated imaging laboratory using X-Ray computer-aided tomography (CT) to observe the properties of carbon dioxide at reservoir conditions in an area of technology now known as “digital rocks”.

Can technology unlock 'unburnable carbon'?

Can technology unlock 'unburnable carbon'?

Dr Adam Hawkes gives a glimpse into some of the findings from a new review from the SGI

Dr Adam Hawkes gives a glimpse into some of the findings from a new review from the Sustainable Gas Institute. The review examines and quantitatively defines the potential role of Carbon Capture & Storage in unlocking unburnable carbon over the next century

ESD and Energy SmartsOps

ESD and Energy SmartsOps

A video on the collaboration between Imperial and ESD Simulation Training

A video on the collaboration between Imperial College and ESD Simulation Training as part of the Energy SmartOps project which is dedicated to finding more efficient ways of using compressors. Featuring interviews with Professor Nina Thornhill and Dr Sara Budinis from the Department. Posted online 16 January 2015.

Greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production

Greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production

What is our current understanding of greenhouse gas emissions released during the production of gas?

What is our current understanding of greenhouse gas emissions released during the production of natural gas? How can we reduce these emissions? Dr Paul Balcombe discusses the context for the Sustainable Gas Institute's first White Paper.

Imperial College London | Fully Charged

Imperial College London | Fully Charged

Robert Llewellyn visits Imperial College London to learn about the future of energy.

Introducing a new energy systems model - Renewables

Introducing a new energy systems model - Renewables

PhD researcher, Jonathan Bosch introduces his work on how renewables will fit into a new model

At the Sustainable Gas Institute Imperial College London, we are building a new Energy Systems model. PhD researcher, Jonathan Bosch introduces his work on how #renewables will fit into the model. If you want to find out more about the upcoming model, please email us at SGI@imperial.ac.uk.

Professor Paul Fennell speaking at COP18 on CCS

Professor Paul Fennell speaking at COP18 on CCS

Carbon capture and storage will play an important role if the world is to cut carbon emissions.

COP18 (27/11/12) -- Professor Paul Fennell, Imperial College London talks about the process of carbon capture and storage and the important role it will play if the world continues to emit greenhouse gas emissions. He explains the process of carbon capture and storage and says that while we have gone a long way to improving the efficiency of industrial processes and have cut down the CO2 emitted per kWh of electricity or per tonne of cement, it is still early days for CCS technologies. He warns that with China increasing their fossil fuel capacity and countries like the EU still having a significant amount, countries will have to seriously think about CCS if they want to abate their carbon emissions.

Can technology unlock 'unburnable carbon'?

Can technology unlock 'unburnable carbon'? with Sara Budinis

A new review from the Sustainable Gas Institute attempt to provide clarity

A new review from the Sustainable Gas Institute attempt to provide clarity by quantitatively defining the potential role of Carbon Capture & Storage in unlocking the unburnable carbon over the next century.