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The University of Southampton

Clean Combustion and Carbon Capture

Combustion supplies more than 90% of the energy we use for heat, power and propulsion, but it also produces more than 60% of our greenhouse gas emissions. The enormous technical challenge we face is to prevent emission of greenhouse gas and other air-pollutants, and to develop technology which enables us to transition from fossil fuel to low-carbon bio-derived fuels.

Combustion derived pollution – and its contribution to global climate change – is the greatest environmental problem facing today’s engineers.

Researchers at the University of Southampton are tackling the problem of carbon dioxide and pollutant emissions from two angles: First, by developing combustion technology and design tools which enable manufacturers to achieve the lowest possible consumption of our remaining fossil fuels and of emerging low-carbon fuels. Second, by providing the fundamental engineering capability needed to capture carbon dioxide from combustion systems, so that it can be prevented from entering the atmosphere.

Our ability to bring fundamental engineering science to bear on the greatest challenges in energy technology is seen in our contributions to the energy industry in collaborations with Rolls-Royce plc., EON, Ricardo UK, BMW, ESSO, and Scion Sprays Ltd.

Clean Combustion
Combustion technology has a long history, but the complexity of the underlying chemical and fluid dynamic processes means that current systems still fail to achieve the efficiency and emission standards we should expect. For the same reason, we also do not have the technology to release the full potential of emerging low-carbon fuels. Faced with this multi-disciplinary and seemingly intractable challenge, the University of Southampton is taking a focussed approach which draws together its world-class research on the fundamentals of turbulent reacting flow, multi-phase flow, and heat and mass transfer in reactive systems. The University has a notable track record of harnessing the power of some of the world’s largest supercomputers to gain new insight in these areas, in support of theoretical and applied developments. These developments also benefit from extensive optical diagnostic facilities in our multi-phase flow laboratory, expertise in measurement of surface reactions, and emission measurement facilities in our engines laboratory.

Carbon Capture
Continuing the current rate of fossil fuel consumption will lead to excessive CO2 levels in the atmosphere and adverse climate change. As we transition to new low-carbon energy sources, carbon capture technology could be used to avoid releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. At the University of Southampton, we are applying our expertise in multi-phase and reactive flows to address key challenges which currently prevent carbon capture technology from being exploited economically. We focus on developing high-quality simulation tools which can be used to enhance the performance of carbon capture systems, including post combustion, oxy-fuel combustion, chemical looping, and gasification technologies.

Our green rocket engine replaces traditional highly-toxic propellants with environmentally safe propellants
Green rocket technology
Thickness of CO2 absorption film. Multi-scale modelling developed to optimise absorber designs
CO2 absorption modelling
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