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Energy

The interdisciplinary strengths of The Open University are well suited to the challenges of energy technology and policy. Activities in energy systems range from expertise in end-user concerns and the potential for consumers to become ‘prosumers’; through the design of regional energy systems; to national energy policy and global considerations. There is particular interest in low-carbon energy options and in the needs and interests of developing countries.

Recent initiatives have grown the OU’s involvement in matters relating to civil nuclear power and to greater engagement issues of future electricity transmission and distribution. Here the interests extend beyond the ‘physical layer’ of power flows, to include the ‘cyber layer’ of information technology and the ‘social layer’ of end-user behaviours.

Recent investments have boosted our capability in energy materials science involving, for instance, nano-structures, graphene, innovative solar photovoltaics, electricity storage (batteries), steel metallurgy for energy applications, nuclear materials and semi-conductor science.

We have growing interests in both fuel cells and hydrogen-based energy systems. Our interests range from fundamental science and engineering to issues of policy and technology strategy.

We also have ongoing interests relating to current and future nuclear fuels, including fuel claddings, spent nuclear fuel management, and advanced nuclear fuel properties (including thorium-based fuels).

In the School of Mathematics and Statistics, researcher interests span: deterministic and statistical modelling, theoretical physics, and dynamical and complex systems. These researchers have a growing interest in energy research including applications in smart grids, energy storage, and demand forecasting.

The Open University has recently joined the Doctoral Training Alliance – ENERGY of the University Alliance. We expect to associate new OU energy PhD students with DTA ENERGY from October 2016 onwards (except those affiliated to another inter-university doctoral training scheme such as the ICO-CDT). We are confident that DTA ENERGY will enrich the student research and training experience in energy at the OU. 

Key facts

  • As part of the recent increase in activity the OU has initiated a series of Energy conferences and events at the initiative of the OU’s School of Mathematics and Statistics. See our Energy Meeting website.
  • In the area of civil nuclear power the OU collaborates with Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge. In April 2014 we launched a nine-year EPSRC funded collaboration the ICO Centre for Doctoral Training.
  • The OU has strong links with Milton Keynes Council on matters relating to urban futures, sustainability and energy. As a leading modern city, Milton Keynes is an excellent environment in which to innovate and develop energy solutions.
  • In recent years the OU has led a major public and private research programme concerning the smart future. Known as ‘MK Smart’, the multi-million-pound programme has a major energy theme.
  • The OU advises and informs government and the European Union on a wide range of energy issues. We can draw upon strong links to industry both locally and globally.

Facilities

The OU has particularly strong experimental capabilities in energy-related materials engineering. Research focuses on the use of advanced metal alloys in demanding applications. Our laboratories include a residual stress facility for X-ray diffraction and contour method measurements, a high temperature facility for X-ray diffraction and contour method measurements, a High Temperature Facility for hot forming and creep testing, diffusion bonding equipment and a microscopy suite (optical, SEM, TEM, EBSD, FIB etc.). We have access to international facilities for neutron and synchrotron X-ray diffraction experiments and have strong industrial research links with Airbus, Rolls-Royce, British Energy, EDF, AREVA and TWI. 

The OU also possesses important experimental facilities for energy materials science including X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Raman scattering, and facilities for plasma-based materials processing.

The School of Computing and Communications at the OU maintains a high-performance computing cluster, enabling researchers to more quickly analyse, store and archive vast quantities of energy and transport data The cluster has been used, among other things, to analyse patterns in electricity consumption and generation as part of E.On’s Thinking Energy project and to analyse city-wide public transport data to understand people’s transport behaviour.

The OU has experimental capability in energy from waste and biomass conversion associated with its own internal needs in environmental waste management. More generally the OU seeks to achieve best practice in terms of its own energy use and management.

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Name:
William Nuttall, Professor of Energy
Email:
energyresearch@open.ac.uk
Phone:
+44 (0)1908 655113

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.