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Solar Energy Engineering: Solar Thermal Heating systems with Integrated Storage

School of Engineering

About the Project

Domestic heating systems account for 80% of all of the energy consumed in UK homes and contribute significantly to carbon emissions. If we are to meet the government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050 then we need to rethink how we heat our homes.
Solar energy systems have huge potential as a sustainable source of energy and already have an installed capacity of 13GW in the UK. However, their use in domestic heating is currently limited. This is largely because solar radiation is inherently intermittent, and the availability of energy from solar thermal systems is out of phase with the demand for domestic heat in the UK. The key to successfully implementing solar heating systems will be efficient and low-cost diurnal and inter-seasonal thermal energy storage. With the right design, materials, and operational parameters, heat from solar thermal collectors could be stored underground for long periods of time, before being extracted by a ground source heat pump and transferred into a home. Storage would not only alter when heat energy is available, it will also improve the rate at which heat can be supplied on demand.
The aim of this PhD is to experimentally and numerically investigate the use of ground based thermal storage in solar powered heat pumps systems for UK homes. The goal is to determine if thermal energy can be effectively stored and retrieved from a ground-based reservoir in a way to meet the heating demands of a domestic home. This project will involve development of a detailed model, which will be used to characterise thermal losses throughout the system and calculate efficiencies. Fabrication and testing of a bench top prototype thermal energy store. Is also required, the experimental results from which will allow for validation of the model.
The PhD will provide the candidate with a wide range of skills that will strategically position them for a career in energy engineering. The student will have the opportunity to attend University-run courses in relevant subject areas, as well as to interact with students and postdoctoral researchers from a wide range of scientific backgrounds. Applicants should have a good bachelor’s degree (first or upper second-class honours degree) or a MSc degree in Mechanical Engineering or a related subject.

Keywords: Solar, Energy, Thermal, Energy storage, Heat transfer

For any enquiries please contact Dr Amanda Hughes on

To apply for this opportunity, please visit:

Funding Notes

This is a self funded opportunity.

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