Air Separation Unit with Energy Storage and Generation System 

University of Science and Technology Beijing (USTB) has developed a novel air separation unit with energy storage and generation (ASU-ESG) system which integrates air separation (AS), liquid air energy storage (LAES), and energy-releasing & generation (ERG) subsystem by combining liquid air energy storage technology with air separation technology. In the ASU-ESG system, there is no need for cold and heat regenerators like conventional liquid-air energy storage systems. The liquid air is gasified in the main heat exchanger of ASU, and the cold energy is directly used by ASU for air separation.

The ASU-ESG system can balance the power grid, improve the energy convection efficiency, as well as provide cold energy for the manufacture and building in the factory. After the implementation of the ASU-ESG system, the annual reduction rate of the average peak-valley ratio (25.98%) in China is 1.29-1.47%.

Blueprint to Vaccinate Bangladesh and Beyond 

Our Scientists will work in Bangladesh to create a blueprint to help ensure that medics can get a COVID-19 vaccine to everyone who needs it across the Global South.

Universal vaccine access is already a major challenge in low-income countries, due to the lack of robust refrigerated cooling networks especially to remote communities. Mass vaccination for COVID-19 will need to deliver vaccines to people globally at scale and speed never before considered.

Supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), an international team of researchers led by scientists at the University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University will assess the capacity and preparedness of Bangladesh’s cold-chain framework – creating a roadmap and model for global COVID-19 vaccination.

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Boosting the Transition of  the Coal Chemical Industry Towards Low Carbon Energy Systems

The Coal chemical industries face a huge challenge in terms of the energy transition. The penetration of renewables (especially variable renewable resources) can solve the challenges surrounding electricity generation from a coal source but in some countries (e.g. China and India) there is a growing demand for substitutes in the coal chemical sector. The aim of this project is to design a hybrid system that can consume excess energy from renewables and use the coal as the feedstock to produce chemicals including ammonia, hydrogen, methane, and methanol. Thermodynamics analysis, technical-economic analysis and multi-scale modelling will be implemented in this project and this project is expected to be completed by 2022.

Centres of Excellence

UK-India Centres of Agricultural Excellence in Post-Harvest Management and Cold-Chain

In partnership with the British High Commission in India and the Agri-Tech team at the Dept for International Trade (DIT), members of the Centre for Sustainable Cooling have been asked to develop and design a feasibility study for a localisable Model Post-Harvest Management (PHM) and Logistics Hub with an objective of making this a ‘Centre of Excellence’ to support roll-out at scale in India. Led by the University of Birmingham, the team includes Cranfield University, London South Bank University and the National Resources Institute, University of Greenwich plus industry experts.

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Supporting African farmers and rural communities in Rwanda:

Partners from the Centre for Sustainable Cooling are part of a new African Centre of Excellence for sustainable cooling. Based in Rwanda, the new Centre – which is operational and already conducting feasibility studies – aims to link the country’s farmers, logistics providers and agri-food businesses with a range of experts and investors. Ultimately, the work of this centre will help get farmers’ produce to market quickly and efficiently – reducing food waste, boosting profits and creating jobs.

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Visit the Rwanda Environment Management Authority website.  

Community Cooling Hubs

Community Cooling Hubs  integrate food cold chains with other cold-dependent services such as community health facilities, social facilities such as creches and even emergency services.

Using appropriate technology and business models, Comunuity Cooling Hubs will help to remove barriers that stop subsistence farmers from using temperature-controlled logistics. These Hubs can also be deployed to provide the local Community access to other refrigeration dependant services.

Ultimately, these community hubs will help farming communities in India reduce food waste, increase their income and meet rural communities’ cooling needs in an affordable and sustainable way.

Cooling for All

The Cooling for All Needs Assessment help governments, non-governmental organisations and development institutions to accurately size the market for cooling demands based on comfort, safety, nutrition and health needs.  

Developed by Heriot-Watt University and SEforALL, the assessment looks to develop, for the first time, a methodology aligned to the United Nation (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to better provide demand data to develop country-specific cooling action plan delivering access to cooling for the benefit of all who need it.

Needs Assessment June 2020


Cooling for Life in Africa

A team of researchers from Aston University and collaborating with Professor Stephanie Decker from the University of Bristol, department of management to develop sustainable cooling packages and business models that aim to secure the food cold chain in sub-Saharan Africa. Solar and biomass are our major sources of energy to drive a wide range of cooling technologies.

Cooling for life in Africa (CL-Africa) is a GCRF funded project in collaboration with the University of Rwanda. The project focus is on energy-poor smallholder farms in Rwanda, which cannot expand their geographic markets due the lack of affordable cooling chain solutions. In CL-Africa the team are developing off-grid cooling packages using sorption cooling technologies (Adsorption & Absorption) driven by bio and solar energies to preserve post harvesting perishable foodstuff and dairy products in typical Rwandan farms. The project team will investigate different ways of utilising banana agro-waste to generate the thermal energy required for sorption cooling units as well as supporting the circular economy in smallholder farming communities.

Why banana agro-waste? Banana is a major crop in Rwanda and in numbers, each hectare yields 80 Tons of banana agro-waste every year, which can provide 4-10 kW 24/7 cooling in average. Each 2 kW of cooling is sufficient to store 10 Ton of a wide range of key crops (e.g. banana, potatoes, tomatoes, avocados) at loading capacity of 0.5 Ton per day.

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The CryoHub innovation project is investigating and extending the potential of large-scale Cryogenic Energy Storage (CES) using the stored energy for both cooling and energy generation. By employing Renewable Energy Sources to liquefy and store cryogens, CryoHub will balance the electricity grid, while meeting the cooling demand of a refrigerated food warehouse and recovering the waste heat from its equipment and components.

The prime objective of the CryoHub project is to investigate the potential of large-scale liquid air energy storage (LAES) at refrigerated warehouses and food factories and to use the stored energy for providing both cooling on site and electrical energy generation during peak demand periods

Demand Response Using Off-peak Power for Liquefied air Energy storage Technologies (DROPLET)

DROPLET is a UK-South Korea Smart Energy Innovation Collaboration. DROPLET is an innovative liquid air production and storage system that uses existing spare air compressor capacity and off-peak power to produce and store liquefied air, which has a significantly higher specific energy density relative to existing methods.

The stored liquid air is used in place of running air compressors at selected times, improving the efficiency of existing compression systems by up to 25%, allowing electricity consumption during ‘red-band’ demand periods to be shifted to cheaper ‘green-band’ rates and allowing the provision of demand-side response services to the grid.

DROPLET reduces energy costs, enables additional renewable energy penetration to the grid and provides security & continuity of operations through the large storage of compressed air, thereby meeting all aspects of the energy trilemma.

Joint UK-India Clean Energy Centre (JUICE)

This joint project delivers integration of photovoltaics and storage technologies into power networks for improving living standards. Both the UK and India have ambitious targets to deploy renewable energy including wind and solar power but the challenge of integrating these intermittent sources remains. JUICE brings together leading energy researchers from ten UK universities with their counterparts across India to share experiences and develop technologies critical to the future of sustainable energy systems.

Energy generation from photovoltaic devices is promising however they suffer from elevated PV surface temperature that considerably reduce their power generation, particularly in the hot weather regions such as India. Thermal regulation of PV devices using Phase Change Material (PCM) can control the PV temperature. The University of Birmingham and the IIT Kharagpur are mathematically and experimentally investigating the use of this technology to enhance the power generation of the India PV farms. To test this technology, a grid connected of a conventional PV system and a combined effect of PV/PCM configurations for efficiency enhancement with capacity of 1kWp each will be built at outdoor environment in Kharagpur, India.

Metallurgical Gas Storage and On-Peak Electricity Generation for the Iron and Steel Industry 

This work aims to reduce the on-peak electrical consumption by storing and dispatching the metallurgical gas, as the iron and steel industry accounts for 12% of total electricity consumption in China.

Different types of metallurgical gas are produced in the process, including coke oven gas, blast furnace gas, and converter gas. Metallurgical gas is usually used to generate electricity by self-provided power plant beside meet the need of the manufacturing process. In view of the steel production process and the power grid load, the self-provided power plant is controlled by gas storage to achieve power grid balance, energy saving, emission reduction, and cost-saving. 2.3% SO2 and 7.5% NOx emission in the iron & steel industry can be reduced after the application of this technology.

Off-peak Electricity Energy Storage and Combined Cold, Heat and Power System

Off-peak electricity energy (OPEE) storage & combined cold, heat and power (CCHP) system solves the problem of peak regulation for the electrical network and promote renewable energy (cold, heat, and electric) consumption.

The cheap OPEE is converted into heat energy for storage in the evening, and the heat energy can be extracted on demand. CCHP can supply cooling, thermal, and electrical energy during daytime peak or flat electricity periods.

The project of off-peak electricity energy (OPEE) storage & combined cold and heat (CCH) system has been applied in Tongzhou district, Beijing, and supported by the Beijing Municipal Commission of science and technology. The system supplied cold energy and heat for an over 1000 m2 building on-demand based on storing the cheap OPEE in the evening. The energy consumption cost was saved by 77.6% in comparison with traditional central heating and cooling after this system has been run for three complete heating seasons.

Optimal Refrigeration and Thermal Energy Storage Integration for Flexibility Services

This project focuses on storage enabled refrigeration equipment with active management. To support this project, researchers from the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage are responsible for the formulation, selection and manufacture of phase change materials (PCM). The research team are also providing integration advice on the novel PCM refrigeration systems.

The research team are currently in the process of integrating the PCM tank with a Hubbard refrigeration system and carrying out underling system testing at Hubbard ltd.

Peak Reduction by Integrated Storage and Management of Air (PRISMA)

The PRISMA project utilises an innovative Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) plant that stores energy in liquid air form to provide on-site compressed air, allowing inefficient partially-loaded variable-demand compressors to be turned off, thus improving the total system efficiency by up to 65%.

The PRISMA system fills latent energy cold storage tank with a phase change materials (PCM) to store thermal energy and combines this with a number of other off-the-shelf components to form a system that will work with aggregate industries existing compressed air network.

The Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage (BCES) initiated the project by developing a characterised and novel cryogenic PCM. A compact test rig with a latent and sensible heat cold storage was designed, manufactured and built at the University of Birmingham. This project has currently successfully completed the lab-scale system testing and results have proven the feasibility of the PRISMA technology.

Thermal Energy Storage-based Transport Air Conditioning System

This project aims to develop novel thermal energy storage based air-conditioning technology for next-generation underground trains. The specific objectives of the project are to reduce the weight and volume of underground train air-conditioning systems by 20%, increase energy efficiency by 25% and reduce noise level due to frequent on-and-off and load variation operations of the air conditioning systems, and increase the extent of thermal comfort of rail passengers by decreasing temperature fluctuations.

This project covers the following aspects:

  • Whole system design based on the requirements of underground trains, taking into account real operation data, the establishment of predictive models for the system for dynamic modelling and optimisation;
  • Materials screening based on the whole system design above, design and fabrication of materials modules and components, and characterisation and measurements of the materials and components;
  • Design and fabrication of thermal energy storage heat exchange devices, and dynamic performance modelling and experiments of the devices;
  • Lab scale thermal energy storage based air-conditioning unit assembly and experiments;
  • Design of a prototype and fabrication of the prototype;
  • Prototype demonstration in testing trains and performance assessments.


Vaccine Delivery

Our scientists are launching key studies to help African and Indian nations prepare for the sustainable distribution of an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. Mass, rapid COVID-19 vaccination will be an immense challenge in sub-Saharan Africa countries and India as they have significant rural populations. Across Africa and India the existing cold-chain infrastructures will need to be significantly improved if a vaccine is to reach the people who need it.

Working with the United Nations Environment Program – United for Efficiency team, researchers from the University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, are undertaking a fast-track study in Rwanda to explore how the cold-chain is currently used to distribute vaccines in the country.

The study will also define gaps in infrastructure and develop strategies for sustainable COVID-19 vaccine delivery. Findings will help governments, vaccine development agencies, pharma and logistics companies begin to plan for the future.

The programme will run alongside the work of experts from Birmingham and Heriot-Watt in India, where they are joining forces with non-profit, commercial and academic partners to begin investigating the scale of challenge involved in distributing a potentially temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccine.

World-first cold storage road/rail container

Using phase change material (PCM), Birmingham scientists and their counterparts at CRRC Shijiazhuang have developed a ‘refrigerated’ truck-to-train container that is easier and more efficient to operate than conventional equipment.

Once ‘charged’, PCM inside the container – which can be transferred from train to truck and vice versa – can keep the inside temperature between 5-12 ˚C for up to 120 hours.