New ideas in renewable energy - launching the UK Solar Fuels Network


03 September 2013

Probably the biggest challenge facing the human race is how to meet the energy needs of our growing population while balancing economic growth, energy security and the environment. One of the great unknowns in facing this challenge is new technologies that could change the energy game. 

From today in Cambridge some of the brightest UK students and early career researchers will come together with the world's top energy researchers in the first event of its kind to discuss progress towards technologies that use sunlight to produce fuel.

The symposium marks the launch of the first network which brings together world-class UK researchers and our next generation of research leaders, all working towards a shared goal - harvesting solar energy and storing it in fuels, for transport, factories and even power generation. 

Prof James Durrant of Imperial College London is director of this new UK Solar Fuels Network, which is funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. He said: "Making fuel from nothing more than sunlight, water and carbon dioxide could transform the global economy and its impact upon the environment. I'm really excited about the progress being made by scientists and engineers across the UK towards making this reality."

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The symposium is being held in conjunction with the week-long Royal Society of Chemistry ISACS 12 conference on Challenges in Renewable Energy. 300 top researchers from around the world will discuss the latest ideas across a spectrum of renewable energy options, ranging from next-generation Lithium batteries and hydrogen transport to converting carbon dioxide into useful materials, as well as harnessing solar energy to produce electricity and fuels.   

The gathering is so distinguished that on Wednesday the BBC World Service will host a recording of their ideas discussion show The Forum which tackles the big questions of our age with some of the world's most eminent minds.  Dan Nocera from Harvard will discuss Artificial Photosynthesis, Clare Grey from Cambridge will explain the boundaries of current research on batteries and Carlos Henrique Brito Cruz from the Sao Paulo Research Foundation will talk about a new generation of bioenergy in Brazil.  

Dr Erwin Reisner, head of the Christian Doppler Laboratory at Cambridge University and conference co-chair said: "It is a wonderful opportunity to host the Challenges in Chemical Renewable Energy conference here and bring not only renowned world-leaders, but also the next generation tackling the grand challenges in Chemical Energy Conversion to Cambridge. I am also pleased to see that the UK recognises the enormous potential of renewable energy technology in 21st century industries and provides us with the required support to drive world-class research at British Universities."

Dr Deirdre Black, Science Manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry added: "As we wait for the first announcements from the 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  later this month, it is great to see the momentum and excitement in the scientific research community as scientists work towards both incremental and transformative advances in energy technologies. These could be a key element in a sustainable energy future."

Related Link

Link icon UK Solar Fuels Research Network
UK-based organisation, from academia and industry, who investigate routes to solar-driven fuels synthesis

Link icon The Forum (BBC World Service)
An ideas discussion show which tackles the big questions of our age with some of the world's most eminent minds

Link icon Erwin Reisner group
Designing artificial photosynthetic systems to produce solar fuel

Contact and Further Information

Edwin Silvester
Media Relations Executive
Thomas Graham House, Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge, CB4 0WF
Tel: +44 (0)1223 432294
Fax: +44 (0)1223 426594