Newton Fund-Integrating water cooled concentrated photovoltaics with waste heat reuse

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


Highly concentrated photovoltaic (HCPV) systems exploit concentrated solar flux using cheap optical components in lieu of large area, expensive photovoltaic cells. However, HCPV chips - due to their higher energy flux - generate considerable amount of waste heat which lowers their energy conversion efficiency. Novel microscale water cooling systems (i.e. microfluidic chips) can effectively regulate the photovoltaics cell temperature, thereby enhancing the cell energy efficiency. Additionally, the heat extracted by the coolant can be reused in:
a. Food and Pharmaceutical stage: to run an absorption refrigeration unit (where evaporation of a working fluid causes cooling) for food preservation and storage of vaccines, that require considerable energy use.
b. Water: membrane based water desalination processes to make saline water suitable for domestic and agricultural use
c. Fuel: for efficient production biodiesel
Integrating water cooled HCPV systems with one or more of these waste heat recovery technologies can have major positive impact on water, energy, food, healthcare and environmental challenges faced by Brazil - this is very well-aligned with the 'Food energy water environment nexus' theme.

Planned Impact

The impact of our proposed international collaboration, we believe, is perfectly in synch with the proposal call, and can be summarised as follows.

ODA relevance: The proposed vision to integrate (combine) an efficient renewable energy system - water cooled HCPVs - with waste heat recovery technologies for food and pharmaceutical storage, fresh water production and efficient biodiesel production, will demonstrably contribute in solving the multi-prong food, energy, water and environment nexus problems. Thus, the project will facilitate unique scientific expertise - both for the UFRJ team and the Brazilian industrial partners to be engaged in at the project end. UK funds will help develop microscale diagnostics and thermofluidics expertise, vital to realize our vision. The integrated system will promote sustainable Brazilian growth, and be well-suited for communities with lack of electricity/water/fuel/conservation and/or remote locations without infrastructure for research/humanitarian/mining/extractive activities. It can also serve as an alternative self-contained system for future sustainable urban or rural housing/small buildings and/or emergency system kits in natural disaster affected areas. Thus, the work is very well aligned with the ODA objectives.

Global Impact: According to the UN, global energy and food demand are predicted to increase by around 50% by 2030 while that of water by 30%. The depleting earth resources and increasing demand due to projected rise in global population and its urbanization make it imperative to develop novel sustainable technologies. The proposed research on a combined system - harnessing electrical energy from high efficiency, water cooled HCPVs and using the resulting waste heat for food and pharmaceutical storage, water desalination and efficient biodiesel (fuel) production - offers a holistic approach to address the complex nexus challenges from humanities demand for food, water, energy and need for environmental care.

Impact on the UK and Brazil Economy and Society: Brazil is world's the 8th largest energy consumer and 10th largest producer (US EIA 2010). Wind and solar power are expected to account for 33% of its power generation in the next decade - this clearly makes the research on HCPV systems useful. 20% of the Brazil's GDP is agriculture based. Despite ready access to water, prolonged and recurring droughts are a threat to Brazil's energy security. UK has a target to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 and obtaining 15% of its energy from renewables by 2020, according to the 2012 UK Renewables Energy Roadmap. Thus, the nexus theme has direct relevance to both countries and there is clear need for developing a knowledge base on the topic - many government initiatives have recognized the need, for example, UK Energy programme, Food security programme etc. As a direct confirmation of its timeliness, the proposed vision is perfectly aligned with the EPSRC sandpit on water energy food nexus ( and, we believe, an excellent match to the nexus theme in current call, focused on Brazil's development.

Establishment of international collaboration: Given the truly global nature of problems pertaining to food, water, energy and environment nexus, they require a geographically informed approach to solutions that leverages the complementary experiences, skill-set and expertise of researchers from different countries. The current short term project will initiate a fruitful sharing of expertise between the UK (UCL) and Brazilian (UFRJ) team on this timely subject and lay the foundation for a longer term collaboration between the two partner institutions. The UFRJ team's expertise heat transfer modelling and renewable energy system is complementary to UCL team's strong expertise in diagnostics and nanotechnology - the complementarity will help capture the full scope of the proposed vision.
Description We developed microfluidic approaches to enhance heat and mass transfer. These can provide a means to miniaturise and intensify these processes and can be used for cooling, for biodiesel production and also for desalination. We also developed mathematical/numerical tools to optimise the design of reactors/heat exchangers based on the microsccale transport phenomena studied experimentally.
Exploitation Route The work has been disseminated through various conferences and a book chapter; we are currently working on various journal publications that will be made available to academic community.
Sectors Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport

Description Frontiers of Engineering
Amount £40,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Academy of Engineering 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2018
Description Leverhulme Visiting Professorship
Amount £73,200 (GBP)
Funding ID VP1-2017-028 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2017 
End 12/2018
Description Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) 
Organisation Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The project is about developing a long term collaboration with our partners in Brazil in order to tackle issues pertaining to the energy, water and environment nexus. Our contribution is on developing the experimental capability to study microscale heat and mass transfer processes to complement the numerical capability of our partners and in particular to take advantage of their inverse methods expertise to optimise transport processes.
Collaborator Contribution Theoretical methods, inverse design and basic experimentation on biodiesel production using microscale reactors.
Impact Two academic visits for knowledge transfer, development of new experimental tools to facilitate the research.
Start Year 2015
Description Visiting academic 
Organisation State University of Pará
PI Contribution AN academic visitor form University of Para has been hosted by myself and funded by CAPES a Brazilian funding agency working on various modelling tools implemented during the project.
Collaborator Contribution Modelling tools
Impact Two journal publications are currently in preparation; this collaboration is in engineering but it complements the expertise available in our lab.
Start Year 2018
Description Oral presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paper presented in 24th ABCM International Congress of Mechanical Engineering. December 3-8, 2017, Curitiba, PR, Brazil. This is the annual mechanical engineering conference in Brazil.Title of paper: VORTEX SHEDDING COMPUTATIONAL ANALYSIS FOR A PIN FIN CONFINED IN A MICROCHANNEL by Phillippe R. d'Egmont, Vinícius Z. Martins, Carolina P. N. Cotta, Fernando P. Duda, Renato M. Cotta, Manish K. Tiwari, Stavroula Balabani
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Oral presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Shigang Zhang, Manish K Tiwari * Stavroula Balabani
Carolina P. Naveira-Cotta, Renato M. Cotta
9th World Conference on Experimental Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics
12-15 June, 2017, Iguazu Falls, Brazil
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Abstract accepted, and paper submitted to 6th International Heat Transfer Conference, IHTC-16 August 10-15, 2018, Beijing, China. Title: VORTEX INDUCED TRANSPORT PHENOMENA IN FLOWS PAST MICROPINS, Shigang Zhang, Neil Cagney, Stavroula Balabani, Manish K Tiwari.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018