EPSRC : Maximilian Yan : EP/L016818/1 Lithium-ion batteries are the battery of choice in power-hungry applications such as grid energy storage and electric cars. However, certain characteristics of this battery, including its energy density, limits the performance of the devices they are used in. For example, a full tank of petrol weighing 45 kg will give a range of 300 miles, whereas a battery will have to weigh more than 450 kg, which is why electric vehicles tend to have much lower mileage. Silicon is a material capable of storing more than ten times the energy of the currently used graphite, however, for any material to reach commercialisation it has to be manufactured at large scales. Hence, it is crucial that a material not only performs well, but can be produced in a cost-effective, sustainable manner that can easily be scaled up. By combining our material with the process developed in Dr Dasog's group in Canada, we will be able to better understand the reaction chemistry of the energy efficient, low-temperature magnesiothermic reduction process. This will allow us to make optimisations to improve its viability for scale-up. This project will also include a modelling aspect, whereby the results from experiments will be fed into a techno-economic model, which can be used as a tool for battery manufacturers to determine the best type of silica feedstock and reduction conditions for a chosen application. As the procedure for manufacturing porous silicon is the same, the techno-economic model can be expanded to include a cost analysis for photocatalytic applications. The cost of producing porous silicon for this application can be calculated based on a given performance metric and therefore its value, using data already collected from magnesiothermic reduction experiment.
The cells that make up every organism are delicate and intricate machines that must carry out many complex tasks to stay alive. The single celled fungus, the budding yeast, although modest in size, shares with our cells many of these intricate mechanisms. Yeast has the huge advantage over humans in scientific research: it is relatively easy and cheap to study. Many of the insights gained into how yeast cells work apply, in one form or another, to other organisms, including ourselves. Among the key tasks shared between yeast and human cells is the ability to grow bigger without bursting. Another is to survive changes in the immediate environment that threaten lysis (bursting), such as changes in temperature or nasty chemicals. Yeast possesses one main system that senses a variety of threats to the cell's integrity and responds so as to maintain that integrity (and thereby keep the cell alive) - the cell wall integrity (CWI) pathway. Many of the components of this system are shared with humans but some are not - these latter may be a fungus' Achilles' heel, to which drugs could be developed that cause fungal cells (many pathogenic) to blow up (die) leaving human cells undisturbed. The CWI pathway is worth understanding. In addition, the CWI pathway presents scientific puzzles that challenge our understanding of how living systems work. Multiple signals feed into this pathway, and the pathway can activate a variety of distinct responses: how can one pathway integrate many inputs and 'decide' to make a sensible response? Key regulators of the CWI pathway are proteins called GEFs. CWI-GEFs appear to come in two distinct flavours that appear to perform distinct roles in activating the pathway. In this proposal, we seek to better understand how these GEFs are regulated, how they differ from each other both structurally and functionally and how information is processed by these GEFs to affect CWI outputs in the appropriate way. We hope to better understand how the complex and important CWI pathway is regulated.
EPSRC : Thomas Kieran Redpath : EP/W522260/1 Catalysis is an essential way to speed up chemical reactions and to decrease the energy demands of those reactions (e.g. by decreasing reaction temperatures). Most homogenous catalysis, where the starting materials and catalyst are in the solution phase together, in the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries requires expensive, rare, and often toxic heavy transition metals such as palladium, platinum, iridium, and rhodium. Nickel is a cheap and abundant metal that can be used to achieve many of the same reactions that palladium and platinum can perform, allowing for more complex materials to be made with greater ease, at lower cost, and more sustainably. Currently, palladium (considered a rare and precious metal) is used to do this in molecules where the desired outcome is the coupling of carbon and phosphorous to form a new bond. Due to the similar reactivity of nickel and palladium in some circumstances, this is something that should be possible with nickel, but for which there are relatively few known examples. The aim of the project is to develop nickel-catalysed reactions that form bonds between carbon and phosphorus, using catalysts with nickel at the centre. The use of ligands, which are groups that attach to the metal catalyst, changes the properties and reactivity of the catalyst; our partners at Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia, Canada) are world experts in ligand design and development and will share their expertise to make our aims a reality. This will enable more cost-effective catalysis in the future for these kinds of chemical transformations.
"EPSRC : Elisangela Jesus D'Oliveira : EP/S023836/1" - Research council that the student is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). - The student's name: Elisangela Jesus D'Oliveira - Training Grant Reference Number: EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (ReNU), EP/S023836/1 Heat represents almost half of the use of energy in the UK, and around 80% of domestic heat is supplied by natural gas. Therefore, we must reduce the heating demand by increasing the efficiency and decarbonisation of the space and hot water heating systems. The adoption of low-carbon domestic heating technologies is one of the biggest challenges in the decarbonisation of the UK's energy system because 80% of the homes are already built. The retrofitting of households is one of the most cost-effective routes to reduce carbon emissions. The use of LHTES has the potential to reduce the space heating energy use by storing excess energy and bridge the gap between supply/demand mismatch characteristic of renewable energy sources or electricity peak-load. The efficiency of domestic or residential radiator could be increased using a compact LHTES, and it could be implemented as a retrofit measurement to reduce energy consumption. There are some studies of LHTES in domestic heating. Campos-Celador et al. (2014) designed a finned plate LHTES system for domestic applications using water-paraffin, allowing a volume reduction of more than 50%, comparing to a conventional hot water storage tank. Dechesne et al. (2014) studied the coupling of an air-fatty acids heat exchanger in a building ventilation system; the module could be used either for space heating or cooling. Bondareva et al. (2018) studied a finned copper radiator numerically with paraffin enhancing with Al2O3 nanoparticles, and their results demonstrated that the addition of fins and nanoparticles increases the melting rate. Sardari et al. (2020) investigated the application of combined metal foam and paraffin for domestic space heating by introducing a novel energy storage heater; their results showed that the solidification time was reduced by 45% and the heat recovery was enhanced by 73%. Many studies have been conducted to investigate the enhancement of the thermal conductivity of the PCMs with the incorporation of high conductive nanomaterials, as they increase the heat transfer rate of the PCM to tailor the application charging and discharging rates. However, a study evaluating the feasibility of the nano-enhanced PCMs (NEPCMs) applications on domestic radiators to improve the efficiency and energy-savings through heat recovery has not been conducted. Therefore, a dedicated investigation was planned with the focus on deepening the knowledge and understanding of such a technology. The lack of proper design guidelines, cost and the rate problem have delayed the deployment of LHTES devices. Therefore, this study will build and experimentally evaluate the performance of the LHTES system proposed contributing to the development of the design guidelines. References Bondareva, N. S., Gibanov, N. S., & Sheremet, M. A. (2018, November). Melting of nano-enhanced PCM inside finned radiator. In Journal of Physics: Conference Series (Vol. 1105, No. 1, p. 012023). IOP Publishing. Campos-Celador, A., Diarce, G., Zubiaga, J. T. V., Garcia-Romero, A.M., Lopez, L. & Sala, J. M. 2014. Design of a finned plate latent heat thermal energy storage system for domestic for domestic applications. Energy Procedia, 48, 300-308. Dechesne, B., Gendebien, S., Martens, J., & Lemort, V. (2014). Designing and testing an air-PCM heat exchanger for building ventilation application coupled to energy storage. Sardari, P. T., Babaei-Mahani, R., Giddings, D., Yasseri, S., Moghimi, M. A., & Bahai, H. (2020). Energy recovery from domestic radiators using a compact composite metal Foam/PCM latent heat storage. Journal of Cleaner Production, 257, 120504.
The origin of eukaryotes from their prokaryotic progenitors was one of the most formative transitions in the history of life, catalysing the blossoming of eukaryotic biodiversity into the astonishing range of forms we see today, from the largest organisms on our planet - blue whales, giant sequoias, fungal networks extending for miles underground - to microscopic plankton that jostle with bacteria in the world's oceans. Explaining the leap in cellular complexity during the prokaryote-to-eukaryote transition is one of the outstanding challenges in 21st-century biology. The common structure of all eukaryotic cells testifies to their shared ancestry, but our understanding of the kind of cell that ancestral eukaryote was - where it lived, what it ate, the kinds of biochemical reactions it could perform - is in disarray. Whole-genome data have enabled us to resolve the more recent divergences in eukaryotic evolution, but we still have a very poor understanding of the deeper relationships between the main groups at the base of the evolutionary tree. In particular, the root of the tree - the starting point of the eukaryotic radiation - remains mired in controversy and debate. The problem is that traditional rooting methods rely on the use of an outgroup: to find the root of the tree of mammals, for example, we might include birds in the analysis, and then use our a priori knowledge to place the root on the branch between the two groups. This approach breaks down when applied to the eukaryotic radiation: including our closest prokaryotic relatives greatly reduces the proportion of the eukaryotic genome that can be analysed, and the enormous evolutionary distance to the prokaryotic outgroup obscures the relationships among the different eukaryotic lineages. As a result, recent analyses of the eukaryotic root disagree strongly on its position, despite using similar datasets and analytical approaches. In this project, we will tackle these difficulties head-on to definitively resolve the root of the eukaryotic tree by applying new outgroup-free rooting approaches, including some pioneered by members of the project team, to the most up-to-date, representative sampling of eukaryotic genomic diversity yet assembled. We will use the resulting phylogenomic framework to map the points in evolutionary history at which the unique cellular and genomic traits of modern eukaryotes first evolved, establishing a timescale for the evolution of key eukaryotic innovations. By mapping these traits onto the tree, we will reconstruct a detailed cellular and genomic model of the ancestral eukaryote - an organism which may have lived up to two billion years ago - in order to establish its lifestyle, ecology, and metabolism, and to test hypotheses of how that founding lineage gave rise to the staggering diversity of eukaryotic life we see today. The work we are proposing is fundamental discovery science: the ultimate goal is to understand our own origins, to bring clarity to a poorly-understood period in the history of life vitally important for making sense of the biodiversity we see around us today, and in doing so to establish a new state-of-the-art for phylogenetic rooting with broad applicability to other major evolutionary transitions across the tree of life. But there is also real potential for broader socio-economic impact. Some of the groups that branch near the base of eukaryotic tree are parasitic, and so establishing how these evolved from their free-living ancestors will provide new, much-needed insights into the adaptation of eukaryotic parasites such as Trypanosoma (sleeping sickness) and Giardia to their hosts. As part of the research programme, we will host summer internships for motivated students on biohacking (DIY computational biology), providing a taste of scientific discovery and teaching the crucial computational, statistical and scientific skills needed to identify and nurture the next generation of scientific leaders.