Midlands Universities receive £20m to deliver ‘cold power’ technologies

A group of six Midlands universities are developing the next generation of ‘cold power’ technologies to help save millions of pounds in carbon fuels every year.

Backed by £20m funding from the Government’s Thermal Energy Research Accelerator (T-ERA), the collective has already made advancements in delivering liquid nitrogen engines aimed for the world’s food and medical transporters and are now looking at ways where this solution can be used to replace inefficient air conditioning units.

Other research projects will involve examining the use of novel materials and methods for storage, efficient insulation materials and methods and developing advanced materials and manufacturing processes.

“Heating and cooling in our buildings, infrastructure and transport accounts for more than half of our total energy consumption and is set to grow dramatically over the next 15 years,” explained Professor Martin Freer from the University of Birmingham. “In order to meet our climate and energy goals, we must sharply reduce the energy we consume for thermal loads and specifically move away from the use of fossil fuels.”

One of the earliest success stories is Dearman, a technology business that has developed a piston engine that utilises the rapid expansion of liquid air/nitrogen to deliver zero-emission power and cooling.

The company is now working with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) to use a method called ‘Factory in a Box’ to deploy mini-factories that will help rapidly scale-up the manufacture of its cryogenic liquid air engines internationally.

T-ERA and the MTC believe this will reduce the expense of setting up stand-alone production facilities, while also giving UK companies the opportunity to establish manufacturing footprints in new markets.

Neil Rawlinson, strategic development director at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, said: “We have designed a method for deploying capacity in other countries very quickly, but managed remotely from the UK and capturing the added value and knowledge of our manufacturers. This know-how would be a British export and deliver new jobs.”

Toby Peters, chief executive of Dearman, added: “The days of establishing mega factories that churn out vast amounts of low value, volume product are rapidly coming to an end.

“Getting innovative, responsive new technologies into international markets quickly relies upon a new model for manufacturing, which can be established here in the UK, allowing us to export not just technology but also manufacturing know-how.”

He concluded: “At Dearman, we see this as a way to produce a game changing technology, at the right price, that can be tailored to local demands, while establishing international presence in fast growing economies.”