Adsorption Cooling-energy Conversion with Encapsulated Sorbents (ACCESS)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


Cooling energy is a vital foundation of modern society for refrigeration and air conditioning processes of various kinds. Currently cooling consumes up to 14% of the UK's electricity, with an annual cost of more than £5 billion. Therefore only the use of solar thermal energy or low-grade waste heat instead of electricity to generate cold can lead to a sustainable way of cooling. However both present absorption refrigeration and adsorption refrigeration technologies are unsuitable for domestic application due to their complexity and inefficiency.

This project will develop a new adsorption approach that combines the advantages of absorption processes and adsorption processes by encapsulating the liquid sorbents. The encapsulated sorbents offer not only a much higher sorption quantity but also a much higher sorption rate, which in combination enables the adsorption refrigeration system to be more compact and efficient for domestic applications.

This project will address different levels of the scientific and technological challenges of such a new adsorption cooling technology. At a material level a two-step microencapsulation-coating approach will be developed to produce encapsulated sorbents. At the device level, the adsorption/desorption dynamics of a sorption bed based on encapsulated sorbents will be investigated both numerically and experimentally to achieve optimal designs. At a system level, an advanced system will be developed with encapsulated sorbents and related sorption beds. A lab-scale integrated system will also be constructed to investigate and demonstrate its performance for domestic applications.

Planned Impact

The impact of the research will be wide and varied. It is highly relevant to various sectors including: (i) Academics: The fundamental investigation on encapsulated sorbents will benefit the research in microencapsulation, new sorbents synthesis, heat and mass transfer process intensification, CO2 capture, gas separation etc.; (ii) Industry: Cooling equipment companies will be able to develop more efficient and compact products; Other cold related industries will also be able to integrate the technology to their existing systems for more efficient operation; (iii) Government and Society: Household electrical energy consumption will be reduced to decrease the electricity bill, which as a whole will contribute to UK's emissions reduction. Furthermore UK will be placed a leading position for even bigger international markets; (iv) the cross-boundary nature of the project will attract students' passion and excite students' creativity to this field.

The academic impact will be achieved by article publications and conferences/events. We will keep publishing our findings in a timely manner in top peer-reviewed journals and conferences. We will also report our outcomes to other relevant programmes such as i-Stute and SuperGen programme to attract attentions in this new area. The industrial and governmental impacts are achievable through direct knowledge transfer. The outcomes from the proposed work will be patentable, for which the existing exploitation mechanisms of the University of Birmingham will be used. Patents will be considered prior to any publications. We will then continue communicating results and engaging with not only the project partners, but also other potential industrial partners. Our outcomes will also be disseminated through various knowledge transfer networks as well as application-oriented magazines to maximize the impact.

We will put mechanisms in place to ensure that each member of the team benefit from the development of their career into new areas resulting in new publications, collaborations, exposure and skills. In particular, we shall pay specific attention to the training of PDRFs with a goal of their development into independent researchers. The project will also support the training and development of visiting scholars in the related aspects at the University of Birmingham.


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Description Competition: March 2018 sector competition: Open
Amount £594,178 (GBP)
Funding ID 14467 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2018 
End 11/2021
Description Industrial project
Amount £52,808 (GBP)
Organisation Guangzhou HY Energy Technology Limited Corp 
Sector Private
Country China
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2020
Description It is set for holding Ups related to cold storage, cold chain technologies, thermal energy storage, consulting. 
Year Established 2019 
Impact Just started, to be updated next year
Description BBC TV World News interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact It was about global cooling challenges
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description China-UK Workshop on Renewable Energy Systems in Zero Carbon Villages 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I was the mentor of this event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Joint UK-China prospective workshop on Building Energy Efficiency 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I was a mentor of this event held in Xi'an China
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017