Energy Innovation: Fully Funded KESS II MSc by Research Scholarship: Design study on increasing the efficiency of fridges through the application of carbon nanotubes
This scholarships is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for East Wales.
Start date: October 2021
Using carbon nanotube materials that were made via chemical recycling of waste plastic materials, the research will create devices to improve the capacity and efficiency of refrigeration devices. This proposal is about increasing energy efficiency of refrigeration devices. The devices will be based on the use of carbon nanotubes. Researchers at Swansea University’s Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) have developed protocols for making carbon nanotubes via a chemical recycling process. In particular, the process involves the use of waste plastics and mixed plastics as carbon source for the synthesis of carbon nanotubes, wherein the plastics are sourced from healthcare products. This work will use nanotubes made from healthcare plastic materials to test for improvements in the efficiency of fridges.
Carbon nanotubes are interesting materials due to their unique heat transfer properties. Refrigeration units work by changing the state of a material from a liquid to a vapour, and vice versa. The expansion and contraction of the material between the liquid and vapour state causes temperature changes and this temperature change is how fridges operate. The most efficient systems can accomplish this by using the least amount of energy and in an economic standpoint, by lasting the longest amount of time. Refrigeration requires two reversible physical processes to occur, i.e. condensation and evaporation. Firstly, materials condense on a surface and that process is improved by having materials with larger surface areas. Then, evaporation occurs to change the state back to vapour. This state change occurs when heat conducts from the surface of the heating element to the fluid material and this process is improved by using materials with high heat transfer coefficients. The efficiency of the device is also improved if the lifetime can be extended several years, this can be achieved by using a sturdy material such as carbon nanotubes.
This work will be done in two phases, firstly a full set of design parameters will be tested and calculated to determine the maximum efficiencies when using carbon nanotubes as the phase change medium in the various configurations. This work can be done as working from home if needed.
In the second phase, the student would create a refrigeration device and use carbon nanotubes that are created at ESRI to confirm initial values.
In conclusion, this work can prevent the build-up of material in landfill sites, thus decreasing environmental impact of plastic refuse in the environment. Moreover, this work will contribute a carbon neutral economy both by sinking carbon into a functional material, and by using that functional material to decrease energy demand via improved efficiencies.
Scholarships are collaborative awards with external partners including SMEs and micro companies, as well as public and third sector organisations. The scholarship provides 1 year funding with a 3 month period to complete the thesis. The achievement of a postgraduate skills development award, PSDA, is compulsory for each KESS II scholar and is based on a 40 credit award.