The University of Manchester is pioneering the energy systems of the future so that we can continue to heat our homes, light our buildings and travel.
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The energy that we depend upon travels a long way before it reaches your fingertips. We need to assess each stage of the energy journey if we’re to continue to meet demand.
In doing so we’ll be tackling some big questions. Are our energy sources sustainable? Do we transport energy efficiently? Can we meet demand while minimising the effects on our environment?
Can we make homes and cities smarter in how they use energy? Can we address the social inequalities that underpin energy use?
The University of Manchester has over 600 academics and researchers taking on these key challenges.
Research at each stage of the energy journey
Our expertise is enhancing the efficiency and viability of sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind, tidal and bioenergy. It’s supporting partners in the bridging fuel sectors, such as oil and gas, to continue to meet demand.
We’re helping to ensure energy gets to the point of need efficiently, providing UK network partners with the knowledge to deliver reliable and sustainable power. Renewable sources of generation tend to be more intermittent – so we’re working on systems that will help keep supply constant, and finding ways to persuade people to use energy at the best times.
We work closely with our local region on projects such as the UK’s largest ever trial of heat pumps. We’re finding out more about how today’s urban society uses energy, blending expertise from engineering and the social sciences to learn more about demand and how it can be met.
Find out more about the scale of energy research carried out at the University.
Visit the Manchester Energy website
Download an overview of our energy expertise (PDF document, 1.7MB).
Our experts are guiding the UK’s industrial strategy for the civil nuclear sector via our Dalton Nuclear Institute, the UK’s most advanced academic nuclear research capability. Here, we undertake research across the entire nuclear fuel cycle – from innovative manufacturing techniques to waste management.
A living laboratory
Leading facilities – from the 2MV high-voltage laboratory at our Manchester campus to our £20 million Dalton Cumbrian Facility – help both us and our industry partners develop these solutions. The University campus itself is a living laboratory, with our 339 buildings providing a test bed for tomorrow’s energy systems.
To get to tomorrow’s homes, energy will have to travel new routes, going further and faster, leaving no carbon footprint. At Manchester we’re making sure the systems are in place for this journey to happen across a mix of energy sources.
Energy: Research breakthroughs
Turning agricultural waste by-products into safe, green, clean energy.
Design innovations and new technologies that reduce the construction cost of nuclear reactors.
Global challenges, Manchester solutions
Globally, corrosion costs more than £1.5 trillion a year. Despite this large economic impact, the fundamental processes of corrosion are poorly understood and industry relies on field experience for its management.
Researchers led by Professor Robert Akid, at the BP International Centre for Advanced Materials based at The University of Manchester, are working collaboratively to understand the fundamental processes that initiate corrosion. This research will lead to the development of improved strategies to prevent corrosion, which will ultimately increase the reliability and lifespan of pipelines in the oil and gas industry.
Our Corrosion and Protection Centre is one of the world’s largest active research groups focused on understanding and controlling corrosion for applications across multiple industrial sectors.
Accident-tolerant nuclear fuel
The explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in 2011 highlighted a challenge with the zirconium alloy used to make fuel rods: at the high temperatures generated when coolant is lost, it reacts with steam to produce explosive hydrogen gas.
Researchers at our Dalton Nuclear Institute are developing fuel solutions, such as a composite silicon carbide cladding, as well as advanced fuel materials such as uranium silicide, that are much more tolerant of the prolonged excessive temperatures generated in a nuclear reactor after accidents involving a loss of coolant.
We are the academic host for the UK’s Nuclear Fuel Centre of Excellence, a partnership with National Nuclear Laboratory, with extensive capabilities for the manufacture, characterisation, and testing of uranium and thorium fuels. Fuels can be subjected to ion-beam and gamma irradiation at our Dalton Cumbrian Facility.
Harnessing the potential of biomass
Biomass could deliver sustainable bioenergy solutions while improving agro-forestry systems, supplying local energy sources, improving crop yields, generating economic activity and delivering social benefits.
Manchester has more than 80 researchers active in areas related to every step of the bioenergy chain, including biomass resource assessment, a whole range of conversion technologies and energy delivery. We have particular expertise in sustainability assessment of supply chains (including greenhouse gas balances and other environmental, social and economic impacts) from Europe, South America, Africa and Asia, and in characterisation of airborne emissions.
Manchester has the interdisciplinary breadth to cover all aspects of the bioenergy supply chain, combined with disciplinary excellence and experience of fieldwork all around the globe.
Storing energy until required
Renewables are a key source of low carbon energy, but intermittent power generation poses a challenge. Enhanced energy storage is pivotal in our efforts to decarbonise our energy system.
In a world first, we aim to provide a comprehensive framework that can inform policymakers and the business community on the value and role of storage technology. The MY-STORE project will supplement current research and bring a new perspective by exploring socio-economic and environmental factors, including public perceptions of different technologies.
Our research is transforming the processes that bring energy to our homes, providing new ways of using existing systems more efficiently and maximising the potential of renewable sources.
Combating energy poverty
Many people across the world cannot afford enough energy to meet their basic needs, which seriously impacts on their well-being.
Researchers at our Centre for Urban Resilience and Energy (CURE) are working to understand the complex causes of energy poverty. We advocate a more ambitious and strategic approach, backed by national government resources, which includes comprehensive energy efficiency improvements proactively targeted at areas of poor housing stock. Wider measures should address rising energy prices and the structural causes of low incomes, such as unemployment.
Renowned for its specialism in this area, CURE has a long history of undertaking research into vulnerable households, and has established effective partnerships across the Manchester region.
Reprocessing radioactive materials
Removing fuel from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant or waste from decaying storage ponds at the Sellafield reprocessing facility in Cumbria is extremely difficult due to high levels of radioactivity.
We are designing an amphibious, remotely operated vehicle that can fit through the small access ports typically available in nuclear facilities, carry neutron detection and navigation equipment, and withstand extremely radioactive environments. At Fukushima Daiichi the vehicle will help identify fuel that is believed to have melted so that it can be safely removed, significantly reducing radiation levels, lowering risk and making the plant cheaper to decommission.
Our Dalton Nuclear Institute’s Cumbrian Facility has a Cobalt-60 gamma irradiator, which allows us to test small electronics in highly radioactive conditions. We work with leading research groups worldwide and businesses across the nuclear supply chain to solve industrially relevant challenges.
Locking up radioactive wastes
Radioactive wastes contain long-lived radionuclides that will be around for millions of years. Understanding their behaviour in waste disposal systems is critical to ensuring safe, publicly acceptable disposal of these challenging by-products of nuclear energy generation.
In collaboration with Diamond Light Source, our researchers investigated long-lived radionuclides using X-ray spectroscopy techniques. We found that radionuclides could be directly and irreversibly ‘locked up’ within the iron oxide mineral frameworks that are present in the waste, under a range of different conditions, which would limit their movement into the surrounding environment.
Our unique facilities and expertise enabled this research. We were the first group to analyse the transuranic element neptunium at Diamond Light Source. The work featured in a technical report to Radioactive Waste Management, the UK’s implementer of higher-activity radwaste disposal.
Propane, a major component of liquefied petroleum gas, is the world’s third most widely used motor fuel and provides heat and energy for an estimated 14 million homes. Reducing its environmental impact is crucial in tackling global climate change.
Researchers from our Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, in collaboration with Imperial College London and the University of Turku, have created a synthetic pathway for biosynthesis of propane gas. This cutting-edge process has the potential to revolutionise the production of biofuel, avoiding the environmental issues associated with extracting fuel from non-renewable sources and drastically reducing the transport costs and carbon emissions associated with production.
Our multidisciplinary approach to industrial biotechnology is transforming the traditional chemical and chemical-related sector to a more sustainable and competitive one, which uses biological resources for the production and processing of chemicals, energy and materials.
Key flaw in solar panels solved
Manchester scientists have discovered a previously unknown material defect causing solar panels to perform at only 20% efficiency.
University signs up to help Manchester go zero carbon and plastic free
The University will work to remove avoidable single-use plastics from catering, labs and stationery by 2022 and play a major role in the city’s zero carbon by 2038 target.
Russian businesses explore UK research opportunities
A Russian trade delegation visited the University to talk green construction, sustainable infrastructure and smart technologies.
Researchers develop flags that generate energy from wind and sun
Manchester scientists have created flags that can generate electrical energy using wind and solar power.
New link found between plant pollutants and man-made emissions
The international team’s breakthrough could lead to stronger, more accurate climate-related legislation and cleaner air.
Get an in-depth insight into some of our world-changing energy research.
Experts for media
Our energy experts can offer fresh perspectives and explain how we're advancing knowledge for a better world.
Dalton Nuclear Institute
Find out more about our nuclear research expertise.
Visit the Dalton Nuclear Institute website
We collaborate with some of the UK's largest energy providers. Find out how you can harness our knowledge and facilities.
Watch the video
Read expert analysis and commentary about the future of energy in a warming world in our On Energy publication.
Download On Energy
Manchester Policy Blogs: Energy and environment
Explore the key debates in our energy and environment policy blogs.