We carry out research in Concentrating Solar Power, Solar Thermal materials and applications, thermal energy storage, and thermal energy harvesting.

We house the only UK academic research team working exclusively on concentrating solar thermal and related technologies, with current projects including:

  • concentrating solar power for electrical power generation
  • solar collector characterisation and ageing evaluation
  • polymer films for solar power plant heliostats and line-focus solar collectors
  • linear Fresnel community scale CSP
  • heliostat design and manufacture
  • solar thermal heating and cooling
  • solar driven desalination and water purification
  • thermal storage
  • nanostructured thermo-electric devices for energy harvesting.

Current collaborations include work not only in the UK but also with Egypt, Italy, Spain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, USA, and French Guiana.

We are also the sole UK representative on the EERA-Joint Committee on CSP which steers EU research in CSP, and has been employed as a CSP consultant to the Carbon Trust on “Small-scale Concentrated Solar Power - A review of current activity and potential to accelerate deployment” in a study funded by the UK Government through the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for International Development (DFID).

About our research

Our expertise in solar thermal technology spans the range of energies and applications currently in manufacture or research. This includes domestic solar thermal for domestic hot water and space heating, domestic thermal storage, solar thermal for industrial process heat, concentrating solar thermal for power generation from kW scale up to large 100MW+ CSP plants, with applications ranging from domestic and community scale solar cookers for off-grid communities in Africa and Asia, through water purification and desalination, up to power generation for grid transmission. In all of these cases, appropriate thermal storage is also an area of expertise.

Since December 2014 the Global CSP Laboratory has been approved through the DECC Technical excellence Framework as a supplier of solar thermal research and manufacturing technology.

Our ability to consider the practical aspects of solar thermal design, manufacture, and applications is one of our greatest strengths. The Global CSP Laboratory is outward facing, and always carries out research that has a practical application. In addition to our proactive research and development work in the field of solar thermal and CSP we also provide consultancy to businesses who utilise our knowledge, experience, and excellent facilities to address process and equipment failures and component investigations. In this section we present examples of our practical experience and capabilities.

Our impact

Our work on domestic solar thermal and small scale CSP to date has been on the level of general consultancy (new product development and troubleshooting of new technology), mostly for UK companies. Two examples of this are:

• Materials analysis and selection, aiding a UK SME in the replacement of a faulty component in a new solar thermal system for domestic hot water
• Fresnel lens evaluation, evaluating the performance of a novel system emanating from a UK company. The application is the provision of process heat and ORC power generation, and our role is to evaluate the system as a whole and the solar collector design in detail.

Our research in this field also includes significant work on coatings, whether for anti-reflection (AR) at selected wavelengths or for solar radiation absorbers where high absorptance of the solar spectrum and low emittance at longer IR wavelengths are normally required. In this area we have excellent facilities for the deposition, selective patterning, and analysis of coatings. This includes technology for both PVD and sol gel deposition of coatings on glass, metals, and semiconductor materials. For domestic scale thermal storage we have started an investigation into long term (seasonal) storage. Following early work on sodium decahydrate we are now evaluating the potential of phase change and thermochemical materials. For whole system modelling of domestic solar thermal installations we have use T*SOL software from The Solar Design Company.

Our capabilities on the theme of providing industrial process heat using solar thermal energy include the detailed manufacture of absorber and receiver tubes. This work is underpinned by the EU FP7 funded FRESH NRG project, which is tasked with the development of a 60% efficient linear Fresnel CSP system for industrial process heat at 250°C for demonstration at Mutah University in Jordan. Our expertise in optical coatings and the building of machines for large optics applications is being used on the FRESH NRG project to design and build a machine to sol gel coat 4 meter long steel absorber tubes with high absorptance (>95%)/low emittance (<7%) films and the accompanying outer glass receiver tubes with appropriate AR coatings (96% transmittance).