Advances in energy generation and storage are necessary to address the challenge of attaining cleaner and sustainable sources of energy.
Presently energy generation is to a large extent based upon fossil fuels which are harmful to the environment.
It is anticipated that the role of renewable energy (solar, geothermal etc) and nuclear energy will increase in the decades to come. Technological challenges remain for renewable energy sources as well as for nuclear energy. At the heart of these issues lies a need for research in Energy Materials. In the long-term nuclear fusion may provide clean energy combined with abundant fuel resources, but it that area, in particular, numerous materials challenges remain to be overcome.
At The Open University there are groups working on numerous energy materials including materials for nuclear power reactors, hydrogen technologies, high-performance batteries, supercapacitors, and solid oxide fuel cells. The focus is not only on conventional, but also alternative, technologies for power generation and storage. Research spans materials including metals and graphene and uses both experimental techniques and advanced computational modelling.
Nuclear Energy Materials - example of a residual stress map
The image shows a residual stress profile at the metal/oxide interface of a zirconium alloy used in nuclear fuel cladding (Zirlo 415°C at 660 days). Corrosion of the clad material is often the life-limiting factor for nuclear fuel pins, rather than the energy content of the fuel itself.