An array of research takes aim at climate change
There's no silver bullet to stop global warming. Getting climate change under control will require an array of energy systems and solutions. As COP21 wraps up, we take a look at some of the most interesting recent research at KTH that addresses global warming.
Here are 7 areas where KTH researchers are contributing to a future free of fossil fuels.
Oceans of energy
The search for scalable, efficient ways to harvest energy from the ocean continues with development of a novel gearbox for wave energy conversion buoys. KTH researcher Stefan Björklund has been involved in both areas. He helped to design a system that has earned Swedish company CorPower Ocean a USD100,000 award from MIT . It generates five times more energy per ton of device, at one third of the cost when compared to competing state-of-the art technologies. Energy output is three to four times higher than traditional wave power systems.
"Fly" a kite
Speaking of oceans, a 10 megawatt ocean current energy conversion plant is being developed off the coast of Wales with the largest-ever KIC InnoEnergy investment in ocean energy. And KTH researchers are contributing with analysis and testing for so-called underwater "kites", which are moored to the bottom of the ocean and "fly" in figure-eight patterns against the slow-moving, but stead ocean currents.
Tracking the melt
A major glacier is melting into the ocean off the northwest coast of Greenland. In order to assess what's happening, researchers need to get a time-lapse picture of the changes in water temperature that could be caused by warmer, saltier deep ocean currents. So, Jari Krützfeldt, a student at the Centre for Naval Architecture at KTH, and his research team developed a cost-effective, autonomous system for long-term measurements of conditions at the seabed, mainly in polar regions. In July he sailed aboard the Swedish icebreaker , Oden, for the icy waters at the mouth of the Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, and dropped 10 deep-water probes to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, barely 1,100 km from the North Pole.
Take a load off electric cars
Carbon fibre and wood pulp could the be electric car battery materials of the future. Battery weight has long vexed engineers designing electric cars for the mass market. Bigger batteries are needed to power a car for longer distances, but their weight in turn requires the car to expend more energy. But what if the body of the car itself was a battery? Researchers at KTH have found a promising solution with lightweight carbon fibre . And, in a separate project, researchers developed elastic high-capacity batteries from wood pulp , which could be used in transport and other applications. Using nanocellulose broken down from tree fibres, a team from KTH and Stanford University produced an elastic, foam-like battery material that can withstand shock and stress.
Fuel cells from waste
Thanks to researchers at KTH, an experimental system to create heat and power with waste from olive oil processing is up-and-running in Spain. The system currently produces around 1kW of power, and the project partners — which included PowerCell Sweden AB — are planning to apply for funding to scale the operation up to create 200kW, or enough to supply 50 percent of the processing plant's energy needs.
Step forward in solar
Drawing their inspiration from photosynthesis, dye-sensitized solar cells offer the promise of low-cost solar photovoltaics and – when coupled with catalysts – even the possibility of generating hydrogen and oxygen, just like plants. And thanks to research done at KTH, these photovoltaics can be improved. A research team developed a quasi-liquid, polymer-based electrolyte that increases a dye-sensitized solar cell’s voltage and current, and lowers resistance between its electrodes. The university also opened one of the world's few solar labs in 2015 . KTH's Solar Lab will primarily be used for research into solar power and solar receivers. However, the laboratory will also be used for basic research on one hand, high temperature material, as used in the construction of rocket engines or fusion reactors, and also to investigate chemical reactions under high light output.
By boat or shared, self-driving car
Boats and shared, self-driving cars could play critical roles in reducing urban gridlock, according to separate studies at KTH. A researcher at KTH's Department of Aeronautical and Vehicle Engineering was behind a study showing that water buses could reduce the load on land-based transit without doing harm to the environment. While in another study , researchers found that a fleet of shared self-driving cars in Stockholm could reduce rush hour traffic volumes by 14 cars for every shared vehicle. Meanwhile, the remaining automobile commuters would need only 20 percent of the metropolitan area's existing parking spaces.