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Broad perspectives and cross-border collaboration

Digital meeting, Energy Platform with the ITM School

Published Oct 07, 2020

The KTH Energy Platform's visit to the School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Department of Energy Technology, was conducted entirely digitally in response to the ongoing pandemic. During the visit, some 30 invitees heard the latest on current research and gained an insight into projects and activities.

The KTH Energy Platform Director, Lina Bertling Tjernberg, opened the meeting together with Deputy Director Christophe Duwig. They delivered a look back at the work of the KTH Energy Platform in 2019 and how its activities have been adapted in the wake of the pandemic in 2020.

The highlight of the year so far has been the live webinar, “The Energy Transition and the Way There”, which replaced participation in the Almedalen “political week”, ( watch the webinar here , or read the executive summary here ).

KTH Energy Dialogue 2020

The event provided a number of practical lessons for this year’s edition of KTH Energy Dialogue , which will be held on November 19th, between 1pm and 3pm and will also be broadcast live in a similar way to the energy transition webinar and this time from Tekniska Museet.

“The KTh Energy Dialogue is a yearly celebration of energy research at KTH” says Lina Bertling Tjernberg and continues to give some details about the event for this year.

The KTH Energy Dialogue 2020 will include, three invited speakers (the general director of the Swedish Energy Agency, the CEO of Vattenfall Distribution and the CEO of the Royal Academy of Science), individual lectures and panel discussions led by a moderator. In particular, two projects will be presented, that KTH leads, supported by the Strategic Research Foundation (SFS) for research centers that "will link to the UN's Agenda 2030 goals and make a contribution to solving some of the challenges facing humanity". More information about these can be found here . The program will also introduce various centers in energy research at KTH and in collaboration with other universities and industry. Furthermore, individual researchers will be invited to record a presentation in advance to include in an expanded program that participants are offered to continue listening to after the seminar, says Lina Bertling Tjernberg.

Special focus will be devoted to the various centres at KTH and collaborations with other universities and industries. Individual researchers are invited to record presentations in advance for inclusion in the programme. The program and registration are available from here 

Other topics for the presentation include new calls for projects in energy, including from the Swedish Energy Agency and the EU, (A European Green Deal). 

The Swedish Energy Agency’s initiative for new competence centres and the EU’s green grants will also be the subject of digital workshops during the autumn.

“Representatives from both organizations have been invited to reveal more about the initiatives and the conditions for applying for funding. Look out for an invitation to this event,” says Christophe Duwig.

IRIS works across borders

The school visit was then started by Andrew Martin, Professor at the Department of Energy Technology. Andrew Martin is one of two co-ordinators of the IRIS (Research Initiative on Sustainable Industry and Society) project, the other being senior lecturer Frauke Urban. IRIS aims to establish a sustainable society characterized by new product and service design, new materials, new business models, sustainable energy systems, recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing.

“We have several research groups in all these areas at the ITM School and the goal is to achieve more by combining them. Approaching technological shifts we are seeing include automation, electrification, and artificial intelligence. These are challenges we work with every day, together with representatives from the industry,” says Martin.

IRIS covers four strategic research areas: Industrial Transformation through Sustainable Digitization; Integrated Mechanics, Components and Materials Design, including additive manufacturing; Sustainable Energy Systems – Technology and Business Perspectives and Innovation Management, Innovation Eco-systems and Entrepreneurship.

Andrew Martin has a special responsibility for Sustainable Energy Systems which focuses on supporting new and existing research initiatives and infrastructure based on the sustainable development of technology, policies, and business models.

“We’ve identified three areas with extra potential: the transformation of the transport sector, battery technology and energy storage, and energy transition in the process industry and new business models,” says Andrew Martin.

A unique initiative of IRIS has been the joint recruitment of five postdocs who will specifically work across silos. All five are currently working on their own projects, each of which span several different departments. Selected researchers in each department have also been given funding to enable them to collaborate efficiently.

In addition, a survey has been carried out within the framework of IRIS on all energy research within the ITM School.

“We’re now working on organizing more workshops together with the City of Stockholm, and looking at how we can contribute to more publications and conference presentations,” says Andrew Martin.

Transformation of the energy system

Professor and department head, Björn Laumert, gave a brief presentation about the Energy Technology Department and its three specializations: Applied Thermodynamics and Refrigeration, Heat and Power Technology and Energy Systems. Six professors, seven associate professors, and four assistant professors work here, as well as many researchers and postdocs.

“Our vision is to provide research that makes it possible for a transformation of our energy system with a focus on sustainability and accessibility for all. We work in all areas of production, distribution, and demand,” says Björn Laumert, Professor in Energy Technology.

The department has approximately 1,500 square metres of lab space that includes a wind tunnel, an well-equipped lab for cooling and heat pump technology, a climate lab, and one of the most powerful solar labs in the world.

The school receives large numbers of applications for its seven Master’s degree programmes and three university degree programmes. The department also offers a Sustainable Energy Engineering Master’s programme, which some 1,000 students 

have graduated from since 1996.

Biomass as a fuel source

Next up, a presentation by Weihong Yang whose research aims to increase the use of biomass for the production of various forms of biofuel.

Increased use of biomass as a fuel source is set to offer considerable opportunities for Sweden and Swedish industry due to Sweden’s large reserves of the necessary natural resources. The research group is developing and testing new methods and techniques for pyrolysis using a combination of catalysts both during and after the pyrolysis process itself.

The goal is to maximize the yield of hydrocarbons that can be used for blending into petrol and diesel. Key focus areas include how to improve the process as a whole to get the desired results, and which parts of the catalytic process should be changed with the help of, among other things, material selection, pressure and temperature.

In support of their efforts, they collaborate with other research groups at KTH and benefit from excellent infrastructure in the form of two test facilities. One of the most fruitful collaborations is with the Materials Science and Engineering department.

A broad systems perspective

Viktoria Martin is Professor of Energy Technology and head of the Energy Systems division. The division was recently established through a merger of the Energy and Climate Studies and Energy Systems Analysis departments. During its first year, the division has therefore developed new forms of collaboration where its approximately 25 staff work together on several different projects and areas.

The name Energy Systems reflects the division’s broad systems perspective where energy technology, innovation, and policy are linked to sustainable development. The division develops quantitative models for optimizing energy systems and investigations for strategic decisions on investments and instruments. It also performs qualitative analyses of the impact of policies designed to support the conversion to a sustainable society.

The division’s combined approach to climate, land, energy and water systems is unique in the field.

Among issues that researchers at the division explore are how we should meet the energy needs of the world’s poorest people? What role does innovation have in energy transition? And what role does systems innovation play compared to individual technological advances? In this area, the Energy Systems division focuses on cities and transport systems in particular.

How is a circular economy implemented with sustainable energy systems and recycling; and which business models and methodologies are relevant? How are the UN’s global sustainability goals interlinked and how does the energy supply affect the chances of achieving the respective goals?

Strong international impact

The research has had considerable international impact. There are examples of projects involving the modernization of the biomass production from sugar cane in Nepal, to the optimization of the entire bioenergy supply chain in Brazil and Indonesia.

The division has also developed the very widely used optimization and planning tool OnSSET. The tool can be used to give a region or country an insight into how to best electrify an area in the most effective and economical way. OnSSET has repeatedly attracted the attention of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook in recent years.

Researchers have also developed the OSeMOSYS open-source model that supports the integrated evaluation and development of energy-water-land use. The model is used by, for example, the UN Economic Commission for Europe to co-ordinate the development of hydroelectric power along the Drina river.

CO2 offers considerable potential as a refrigerant

Finally, Samer Sawalha, Assistant Professor of Energy Technology, gave an overview of the Division of Applied Thermodynamics and Refrigeration - one of the world's leading research institutes in the field of cooling and heat pump technology.

Specifically, Samer talked about his research into energy systems for supermarkets using CO2 as a refrigerant. A medium that is currently used to a very small extent, but which has considerable potential due to its minimal climate impact, low cost, and high degree of safety.

Historically, CO2 has been an important refrigerant but was outcompeted by alternatives due to its low level of efficiency. Today, researchers are finding better ways to use CO2, among other things by adapting environmental factors such as pressure. It is particularly promising in countries with lower outdoor temperatures where it works as well or better than conventional refrigerants.

Among other things, the researchers have investigated how CO2 cooling systems can be implemented in larger supermarkets by optimizing them and integrating them with other energy systems. This approach offers several benefits in terms of environmental impact and by reducing energy consumption at larger stores, which today are among the most energy-intensive operations in society. When the CO2 system is integrated with thermal energy storage, large-scale systems can also contribute to district heating and cooling to surrounding buildings.

Research methods include modeling, experimental work, and field measurements and analysis.

During the following Q&A session, the need for more internal, multidisciplinary workshops at issue level was raised. As was the necessity of influencing today’s research funders to see the benefit of also providing funding for internal projects at KTH, and not always choosing to invest in the projects that include several different universities.

The KTH Energy Platform was represented by the Director Lina Bertling Tjernberg, Deputy Director Christophe Duwig, and member’s of the Platform’s reference group.

You can read more about the composition of the KTH Energy Platform here .

The next school visit for the KTH Energy platform will be on October 22 at the ABE School.

Text: Magnus Trogen Pahlén