Our students

ERA's doctoral students are working on a diverse range of research projects, each working towards finding innovative solutions to energy problems across the spectrum of energy generation, storage, supply and use.

These are the profiles of our current student cohort:

Kassam Ahmed, Aston University

Metal/carbonTiO2 hybrid nanomaterials for photocatalytic water splitting

Kassam Ahmed

I started my PhD in October 2016, titled 'Metal/carbon/TiO2 hybrid nanomaterials for photocatalytic water splitting'. The research area combines material science, catalysis and solar energy to design next generation materials, which is vital for future sustainability of the planet. I have an interest in both synthesis and application of nanomaterials to progress research in feasible solar devices. I specifically work with TiO2 as a dominant photocatalyst, supported with structural tuning to further enhance its solar capabilities. A further element to my research includes hybridisation of TiO2 with carbon quantum dots, which enables new pathways to building a superior nanomaterial.

Argyrios Anagnostpoulos, University of Birmingham

Molecular based formulation for an enhanced solar thermal energy storage material

Argyrios Anagnostpoulos

My PhD Thesis entitled "Formulation of a novel material for thermal energy storage" combines studies of mechanical and thermal properties, as well as atomistic simulations (LAMMPS) to attempt to better comprehend the pairs of materials that could be best combined to create a new composite for thermal energy storage. A background of a 5–year Industrial Engineering Diploma in Greece, an MSc in Renewable Energy Engineering in the University of Surrey, combined with material level research, as well as a 6–month internship in a consulting company in Italy, provides a multi–scale understanding of the world of energy.

Tom Bryant, Aston University

Bi-functional catalysts for biodiesel production

Tom Bryant

I am currently a PhD researcher at the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University under the supervision of Dr Georgios Kyriakou. In 2016, I completed my integrated Masters in Chemistry at the University of Hull; where I researched palladium–indium intermetallic heterogeneous catalysts for selective hydrogenation reactions. My research interests lie in the design of bifunctional hierarchical porous solid catalysts for clean chemical synthesis, specifically the development of solid acid-base materials for sustainable biofuels production.

Joe Calverley, Loughborough University

Microbubble assisted direct contact evaporation for bioethanol recovery

Joe Calverley

It is now well accepted that using fossil fuels, whether it be for electricity generation or for fuel for transport, is damaging our environment. Therefore, unless more sustainable replacements are found this is set to continue. Focussing specifically on transport, bioethanol is a feasible alternative to petrol for use in cars. One of the issues associated with the production of bioethanol is that the process is slow, relying on producing it ‘batch-by-batch’. Moving away from this to a technology where bioethanol can be produced continuously would be significantly beneficial to the industry.

Unfortunately, as the fermentation process relies on a living organism, rigorous methods for removing the bioethanol from the reaction are not appropriate as they would kill the microorganism. I am working on using dense clouds of small and consistently sized bubbles of air to allow the ethanol to evaporate as it is produced so that the fermentation would not need to be terminated to process the fuel. The bubbles provide a gentle mixing which would not damage the organism. Eventually, this will reduce the cost and energy consumption of the production of the alternative fuel, which will make it a more feasible option over the course of the transition from combustion based fuels.

Barton (Yi-Ching) Chen, University of Birmingham

Wind powered thermal energy systems

Barton Chen

I am a PhD student of Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage, University of Birmingham. My research focuses on converting wind energy to thermal energy directly and store the energy in thermal energy storage devices for various applications, including electricity generation and domestic/industrial heating. I have 5–year experience as process support engineer in the Energy & Environmental Solution division of an international company, and 1–year research experience in the lab of Process Systems Engineering, in National Cheng Kung University. Research interests are renewable energy, system integration, modelling, and optimisation.

Daniel Gayton, Loughborough University

Developing next generation direct fuel cell using liquid fuels for building and automotive applications

Daniel Gayton

I started my PhD, entitled 'Developing next generation direct fuel cell using liquid fuels for building and automotive applications', at Loughborough University in the Chemical Engineering department in October 2016. My research involves the development and testing of palladium (Pd) nanoparticle catalysts using various supports and co-catalysts. The characterisation of said catalysts involves testing in a variety of alcohols such as ethanol, butanol and glycerol. Alcohols make an ideal liquid fuel due to their high energy output and stability. Most fuel cells with current technology use first generation fuels such as ethanol and methanol but investigations into second generation fuels such as butanol and glycerol are ongoing as they can offer a higher energy output.

Jamie Lowe, Loughborough University

Fabrication of solar cells from CZTS (Copper, Zinc, Tin, Selenium/Sulphur)

Jamie Lowe

I am a PhD student at Loughborough University, I recently obtained a MChem degree, which was also studied at Loughborough University. In my PhD I am studying copper zinc tin sulphide/selenide (CZTS) for use in solar cells, I aim to help make solar cells more affordable and efficient. As part of this aim I am attempting to produce CZTS solar cells from relatively non–toxic and inexpensive materials. I work in both the chemistry department and as part of the PV Materials and Devices Research Group in Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST).

Ryan Middlemiss, Loughborough University

Development of fast charge/discharge rate materials and testing in supercapacitors

Ryan Middlemiss

I’m currently a PhD researcher working between the Energy Research Laboratory and Design School of Loughborough University following a Master’s degree in Chemistry. My current research is aimed at exploring the potential of printable electronics for energy storage and other solutions. The focus is to look at how conducting inks can be functionalised further to suit their prospective applications and in doing so make them desirable over traditional electronics. Flexible, long–life, printable supercapacitors that can be stacked in order to achieve the desired voltage requirements have potential to displace traditional energy storage in various applications and could provide further benefits in cost, safety, environmental impact, and disposal.

Jorge Lopez Ordovas, Aston University

Industrial-scale waste pyrolysis in a novel pyrolysis reactor

Jorge Ordovas

I am a Spanish student and studied Chemical Engineering at University of Zaragoza where I successfully completed my studies and project "Catalyst characterization by non–steady reaction techniques for methane dry reforming" in March 2015. Before finishing my studies, I spent one academic year at University of Oulu as an Erasmus student and completed an internship in Enagas in the R&D department in the summer during the season 2012/2013. After graduating, I have been in several companies with different internships, companies such as SAICA (R&D department), CIRCE foundation (Internationalization and Promotion Unit) and DHL (Quality and Environment Department), the latest internship was done at the same time as I undertook a Master in Project Management in Kühnel Business School. As a PhD student at Aston University, I am carrying out the project "Industrial–scale waste pyrolysis in a novel pyrolysis reactor" within the H2020 European Project GreenCarbon. My project consists of pyrolysis studies. I will help with the designing and commissioning of a plant and also conduct several experiments on fast and slow pyrolysis with different feedstocks, temperatures, heating rates and reactors. I have a wide experience in industry and broad knowledge about chemical engineering in several fields, from gas and oil, to pulp and paper industry, European funding programmes and project management and logistics.

Anabel Palacios, University of Birmingham

Engineered nanosalts for solar thermal power generation

Anabel Palacios

I am a PhD student at Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage (BCES) at University of Birmingham. My research interests includes formulation, development and scale–up of novel thermal energy storage materials for high and medium temperature applications. My PhD aims to integrate the thermochemical and latent heat storage technologies using phase change materials and thermochemical materials. The eventual goal is to maximise system level energy density while maintaining the controllability of the charge / discharge processes and enhancing the efficiency at the system level. I received my B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Materials Engineering and Renewable Energy and Sustainability in 2015 and 2016, respectively, both at University of Barcelona, Spain. My master's thesis was based on the study of solid particle materials solar absorptivity used as thermal energy storage (TES) at high temperature on different aging stages for concentrating solar applications. I was granted with various fellowship at GREA research centre (two years) and DIOPMA research centre (six months), working with Dr Luisa F. Cabeza, Dr Ana Inés Fernández and Dr Camila Barreneche. At that time, my research concerned the properties enhancement and evaluation of several materials used in thermal energy storage systems for building applications and concentrating solar power systems. I have participated on industrial projects, founded by Abengoa, and European projects such as Merits, InPath–TES and Innostorage. This preliminary learning process and study on TES materials, carried out during my master and bachelor degree, formed part of the basis of my PhD.

Filipe Rego, Aston University

Intermediate pyrolysis of biomass in a pilot scale continuous screw reactor

Filipe Rego

I took my bachelor and master’s degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Lisbon, finishing in December of 2015. My Master thesis was about the thermal degradation of poplar wood chips through TGA and its behaviour in pyrolysis. During my academic formation I also participated in some courses in the area of bioenergy, for example on biorefineries and biochar, in Lisbon and in Madrid respectively. I am now undertaking a PhD at Aston University under the supervision of Dr Jiawei Wang and Dr Anthony Bridgwater. The title of the PhD is "Intermediate pyrolysis of biomass in a pilot scale continuous screw reactor" and it is part of a European project called GreenCarbon.

Roel Tersteeg, Loughborough University

Hygrothermal performance of walls

Roel Tersteeg

I am currently a PhD-student at the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering at Loughborough University. My research concerns the risks and uncertainties of wind driven rain on building fabrics, in particular solid–brick walls. Combined with internal insulation there are risks with moisture accumulation in the fabric and possible health problems, thus limiting the application of insulation. My research involves the use of the new hygrothermal test facility at Loughborough to perform physical experiments on full size walls. On the walls a series of dynamic indoor and weather conditions, including rain, will be placed. Furthermore, these results will be expanded upon via hygrothermal computer simulations. The third part of the project involves creating a statistical model to estimate the amount of wind driven rain that will hit a building. I will then combine the information into a risk model to allow for a better estimation of the risks concerning the application of interior insulation. I hold a BSc and MSc in Civil Engineering from the Delft University of Technology. During my MSc I have focussed on building physics and materials. Between my MSc and the start of this PhD I have worked in industry for five years in the area of asset management, risk analysis and the investigation of accidents concerning civil engineering structures and buildings.

Yanqi Zhao, University of Birmingham

Thermal energy storage for enhanced battery thermal management

Yanqi Zhao

I am a PhD student at School of Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham. I also achieved a Master degree at Newcastle University (2016). My research focuses on thermal storage materials, especially phase change materials (PCM). PCM can store a significant amount of heat during its phase change. I am working on the development of a new approach to battery thermal management and cabin climate control based on PCM. PCM can manage the temperature of lithium–ion battery packs for electric vehicles in a proper range. In addition, a PCM tank can provide heat/cold for cabin climate control.