Advances Polymer material for Energy Security - POLYMAT

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Chemistry

Abstract

Two of the most critical global challenges currently being faced are energy security and climate change. In the UK, more than £100 bn of investment in new UK power stations and grid infrastructure is projected within the next decade, both to replace ageing plant and to allow for the incorporation of renewable sources. Such changes will involve a paradigm shift in the ways in which we generate and transmit electricity. Since a central element of all items of power plant is electrical insulation, meeting our future challenges through the deployment of new innovative plant, this will require the development and exploitation of new high performance insulation material systems.

Polymer nanocomposites have demonstrated clear potential, but the lack of detailed understanding of the underlying physics and chemistry is a major impediment to the technological realisation of this potential. In certain laboratory studies, nanodielectrics materials have out-performed unfilled and traditional micro-composite insulating materials. However, entirely contrary results have also been elsewhere. Undoubtedly, this variability in macroscopic behaviour comes about as a consequence of our inability to define and control the key factors that dictate the dielectric behaviour of nanocomposites. The overarching aim of this project is to resolve this issue such that the potential of dielectric nanocomposites - nanodielectrics - can be fully exploited. As such, the project is totally aligned with the EPSRC Materials for Energy theme in which it is accepted that "in the field of advanced materials it will be necessary to strengthen approaches to the rational design and characterisation of advanced materials and their integration into structures and systems". It also aligns with the Advanced Materials theme of the "Eight Great Technologies", it which it is accepted that "these materials are essential to 21st century manufacturing in a UK market worth £170 billion per annum and representing 15 per cent of GDP".

Our research hypothesis is that the macroscopic properties of nanodielectrics cannot be reliably controlled without understanding the processes that occur at the interfaces between the matrix material and the nanoparticles, because these regions directly affect two critical issues. First, interfacial interactions will affect the nanoparticle dispersion, which has a major bearing on many physical properties and, second, the nature of the interface determines the local density of states in the system, and thereby the material's overall electrical characteristics. To understand such local processes is challenging and we propose to do this through a combination of computation simulation and experiment, where both aspects are closely aligned, thereby allowing the simulation to direct experiment and the experimental result to refine the simulation. The work programme has been divided in 3 distinct themes, which will progressively move the work from fundamentals to exploitation. Theme 1 will therefore concentrate on model systems, where simulation and experiment can be most closely aligned. Theme 2 will then seek to deploy the key messages to the development of technologically relevant systems and processes. Throughout, Theme 3 will engage with a range of stakeholders that will range from key industry players (equipment manufacturer s, energy utilities, standards bodies) to the general public t maximise the reach and significance of its ultimate impact (economic, environmental, societal). We see the involvement of our Industrial Users Group as being particularly important, both in helping to guide the project and in terms of ensuring acceptance of the technologies that will ultimately arise.

Planned Impact

The delivery of impact from this project is embedded within the work programme, with Theme 3 being dedicated solely to this. Our impact strategy is based upon two elements: engaging with industry, for economic and environmental benefits; engaging with the public, to showcase the value of research, discuss the energy-related challenges that we face and to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists.

Technology transfer to industry is a primary aim and, consequently, the project's Industrial Users Group includes a major equipment manufacturer an energy utility and a range of commercial organisations with interests in advanced materials. In particular, the project addresses the rapidly developing global market for next generation power plant with enhanced performance and/or smaller footprint, for use where space is at a premium. Innovative, nanocomposite based electrical insulation materials will provide the level of performance required and so provide the potential to create new markets in nano-based insulation components via the emerging market for new HVDC systems as well as the HVAC replacement market. In Western Europe a total of 1.5 Mton p.a. of polymeric materials are used for electrical insulation, with an estimated value ~£2bn.

We anticipate that the technology that results from this work will significantly support global sales of UK manufactured power plant and will protect UK technology-based jobs. Sales of equipment outside the UK would grow employment and immediately provide UK export earnings. This assertion is supported by recent reports published by organisations such as DECC and IEA. According to the 2013 "UK Renewable Energy Roadmap", between January 2010 and September 2013, DECC recorded announcements worth £31bn of private sector investment in renewable electricity generation, with the potential to support over 35,000 jobs. Similarly, the April 2014 DECC "Energy Investment Report" indicated that, at £218bn, the energy sector has the largest pipeline of infrastructure investment projects in the UK. It also reported that the UK renewables sector is generating thousands of supply-chain jobs across the country. Globally, the 2014 "IEA Renewables Report" indicated that global investment in new renewable power capacity was around $250bn in 2014 alone. In addition, the UK's energy infrastructure is ageing and the 2014 HM Treasury "Investing in UK Infrastructure" report estimated that the pipeline of investment in energy is up to £100bn to 2020.

The availability of new high-performance plant will also support the provision of affordable and reliable green energy to the UK. Improved technology will accelerate the UK deployment of major wind farms (up to 39 GW by 2030 the 2013 "UK Renewable Energy Roadmap"), international sub-sea HVDC transmission links and the 2 GW Eastern Link HVDC project. Growth of the wind industry will create further employment opportunities in rural areas, while improved HVDC technologies will accelerate the growth of large renewables schemes, with dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions.

Energy is topical, due to news items on the risks of infrastructure failure, the impact of climate change and the need to reduce carbon production and, thus, this project is timely in the opportunity it offers for engaging the public with research. A public lecture 'Please don't buy an electric car' will be delivered at adult events such as cafes scientifiques, WI meetings and U3A meetings as a prelude to a debate on the issues that the research seeks to address. A school level version offered to A-level general studies groups will not only engender debate but also serve to raise aspirations to work to solve these problems. A supporting website will be developed both to provide more detailed information and, through viewing statistics, a measure of the significance of our public engagement activities.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have discovered that many of the property enhancements reported for polymer nanocomposites are due to solvent/water retention for some classes of nanocomposites. WE have found that in DFT the best representation of the properties of the excess electron is the LUMO of the uncharged system. Novel experimental and theoretical studies of the electrical conductivity of high-purity dodecane, paraffin wax, and lowdensity polyethylene (PE) are reported herein. The role of the charge density, water content, and phase changes in determining conductivity as the temperature increases from 25 to 65 C, a temperature range relevant to applications of insulating materials, is determined.
Low levels of absorbed water determine the measured conductivity for T < 50 C and this can be explained by taking account of the charge carriers produced by the autoionization of water. In comparison to commercial PE and lubricating oils, the temperature dependence of the conductivity of dry n-dodecane is anomalously high.
Exploitation Route new experiment protocols: dry the samples, remove solvents, measure over long periods and repeat several times
theory: a wealth of data on excess electron trapping behaviour , an understanding of the dominant role of residual water.
in general: nanocomposites are unlikely to be the futrue in improved insulators however chmeical modifies polymers show great promise - without the complication of residual solvents
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy

 
Description i believe the findings have influenced cable research in industry as they have been discussed with represetatives of many manufacturers but there is no external evidence as it would be commercially sensitive
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

 
Description From Tesla to Hydrogen: IEEE student chapter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Lecture followed by debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description From Tesla to Hydrogen: Imperial College Students Energy Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Lecture followed by debate
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Public Engagement Talk: Hardenhuish School A level students 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 18/1/16: lecture followed by a debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Public Engagement Talk: University of Southampton IEEE Student Chapter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 7/12/15: lecture followed by interactive debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Talk: Alfresford 'Hampshire Science Group' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 25/1/16: lecture followed by debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Talk: Chichester U3A 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Lecture followed by debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Talk: Hardenhuish School Wiltshire 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Lecture followed by debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Talk: Havant Science Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Lecture followed by debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Talk: Reading University Pre-sessional Masters Course 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Lecture followed by debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Talk: Southampton University Teachers CPD Course 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Dialogue with teachers used for surveying their needs for the website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Talk: Tadley U3A 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 18/2/16: Lecture followed by debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Talk: Testwood School Gifted and Talented Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 1/2/16: lecture followed by debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Talk: Wokingham U3A 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Lecture followed by debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Please Don't Buy an Electric Car Talk: Worthing U3A 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A presentation followed by discussion session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017