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WP3 Space Heating

Low temperature (space heating, hot water services) heating accounts for 40% or more of fossil fuel consumption and we must look forward to a time when no fuel is burnt directly for heat but heat pump systems (whether electrically or heat driven) are used exclusively. To drive the emissions down to 20% or less of today's levels will need a diverse range of energy conversion devices including advanced thermal storage to manage peak loads, improved efficiency and user friendly heat pump systems, etc.

The projects proposed for initial investigation are:



WP3.1 Compact chemical heat storage

Prof. Eames (Loughborough University)

Objectives: We will develop a proof of concept compact chemical thermal energy storage and delivery system with an energy density of at least five times that of a comparable water store able to deliver all of its heat at a temperature of 65˚C. The use of a reversible chemical reaction allows heat to be stored effectively for long periods of time with very little degradation and so, if space is available, heat storage to meet several days load will be possible.

Challenges: Challenges to be addressed relate to materials selection, reactor and system design, instantaneous operational effectiveness and long term system performance.


WP3.2 Compact latent heat energy storage

Prof. Eames (Loughborough University)

A nearer to market interim solution to the challenge outlined in WP3.1 is a phase change latent heat energy storage approach. The theoretical effective energy density is several times greater than a water store over a specified operating temperature range but is subject to parasitic heat loss over time.

This WP will address how storage system design affects charging and discharging at specified temperatures while maximising energy density and minimising parasitic heat loss. This project will design, develop and test a prototype system scalable to meet 2-4 hours of maximum winter space and water heating load. Such a storage system would enable significant peak electrical load management.


WP3.3 Advanced electric heat pumps

Prof. Hewitt (University of Ulster)

Rationale: Present electric heat pumps perform well below laboratory levels in real applications and can be improved by cycle modifications and advanced control.

Challenge: To design robust and flexible control algorithms and reliable but efficient hardware based on improved cycles.

Objectives / Deliverables: Demonstrate an air to water heat pump in the field that is consumer friendly and delivers a seasonal COP > 3.0.

Carbon reduction: A heat pump with a seasonal COP of 3.0 will save 15% of carbon emissions over a 90% efficient gas boiler when taking into account the CO2 emission differences between electricity from the network and natural gas combustion. With a 2 million/year boiler market in the UK and each 1% of the market adopting heat pumps leads to a saving of nearly 10,000 tonnes of CO2.


WP3.4 Next generation gas/heat powered heat pumps

Prof. Critoph (University of Warwick)

Rationale: Present gas heat pumps either marketed or under development are competitive or better than present electric heat pumps in terms of CO2 emissions within the present UK energy supply network and use 30% less fuel than condensing boilers. However, the fundamental thermodynamics implies that with new advanced cycles, novel materials and enhanced heat transfer it would be feasible to increase heating COPs (Heat out/Heat in for a heat driven system) by at least 50% (2.0 in typical application). Investigation of ad/absorption with multiple effect cycles, enhanced sorption and conductivity, chemical reaction based systems will reveal whether such concepts will be viable in the longer term.

Challenge: Achieving high efficiency combined with both compact size and realistic manufacturing methods/costs, all of which are necessary for consumer/market acceptance.

Objectives / Deliverables: Characterisation of new sorbents, sorption dynamics, cycle simulations, culminating in laboratory PoC tests. Market assessment, integration, Life Cycle Assessment and achievable CO2 reduction potential.

Carbon reduction potential: Present technology can deliver a 35% reduction in gas consumption compared to a condensing boiler and the next generation could offer at least a 50% reduction. The commercial target is the 1.5 million p.a. replacement boiler market, and initially the 450,000 p.a. non-combi market. At an average present consumption equivalent to 3tCO2 per year cumulative savings in the medium term will be well into the Mt range.

Other applications of fundamental technology: Waste heat or solar heat powered air conditioning, vehicle air conditioning (including electric vehicle heating and cooling).

Pathway to impact: Through partners such as British Gas, National Grid, a number of multinational gas boiler manufacturers, housing associations, IEA Annex on Thermally Driven Heat Pumps.

Latest progress

Click here to view the latest update of the work carried out by our research team presented in our last Advisory Board in April 2017 at the University of Warwick.

Applications for Cryogenic Cooling

On the 12th October STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) will be opening it's doors to the SIRACH Network. RAL is home to many of the UK’s most advanced research facilities and supports work in a range of areas including space science and astronomy, particle physics, nanotechnology and developing new materials.

Our SIRACH event will focus on applications for cryogenic cooling and delegates will hear presentations on leading edge technologies.

Click here for more information.