Current Innovation Projects Lead by our Students
At WGU students are encouraged to be innovative in their thinking. Projects are carried out each year as part of the curriculum. Below are examples of some of the excellent projects and research that are in process.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency feasibility study of an educational establishment - Educational establishments are usually large buildings that accommodate students and therefore have great potential for renewable energy to be installed on either the roofs or in the grounds. Modern day teaching has moved from pencil and papers to a more technological equipment such as tablets and computers to do work and therefore require energy to power them. The aim of this study is to see if it is feasible to improve a buildings energy efficiency to accommodate forms of renewable energy. Two key energy consumptions of the school, electricity and gas, where analysed for usage patterns. These patterns would help decide on what form renewable energies could be used. The availability of natural resources where compared to best match the school’s consumption. Before any renewable energy technology is considered the energy efficiency of the building must be improved to reduce the energy load. Energy efficiency could be improved by changing appliances and fixtures such as lights while also changing the habits of staff and students. It was determined that the building would be suitable for ground source heat pump in the field to supply hot water and space heating in the winter. Solar PV system would be installed on the roof to supply electrical power when available in winter months and provide an income during summer. An off-site wind turbine was considered to supply power to the school and the local community to compliment the solar PV system. The only downfall to installing these improvements and technology were financial restriction due to budget and initial cost of setting up. However, if securing funding for the improvements and technology could be achieved, it would be possible to make this educational establishment sustainable and energy secure for many years.
Vertical axis wind turbine for the 3rd world - The purpose of the project was to investigate different designs of vertical axis home built micro wind turbines as an alternative to the cumbersome but popular Savonius style turbines often built from modified metal drums. Once different designs were investigated using academic sources, video sharing platforms and commercial websites. These turbines would be designed for DIY construction and also used in remote third world areas with no electricity. The chosen design was created using Autodesk Inventor CAD software. Functional wind turbines were constructed from scrap materials and household items.
These were tested under controlled and real world conditions. The working models were based around bicycle hub dynamos, these were chosen for simplicity and relatively slow rotational speeds.
The core aims for the turbines being simplicity, ease of build, using inexpensive and readily available materials, durability, low maintenance and stability.
The investigation also included:
- The storage of the electricity generated.
- What it could be used to power.
- Its use in conjunction with other renewable energy technologies.
- Further improvements to increase efficiency.
The working models were shown to generate electricity from the wind and also demonstrated charging a battery and being used in parallel with a solar panel.
Different design configurations were tested. The chosen design met the core aims and produced enough power to charge mobile telephones or power low consumption applications, led light, radios etc. The study acknowledged the low efficiency of the design, the limitations of testing due to the emergency restrictions in place and recommendations for further study.
CFD analysis of an Archimedes Screw Turbine - The Archimedes Screw Turbine (AST) is an instrument that is effective at low head height sites, and this tool allows the harnessing of kinetic energy of water and converts it into mechanical energy. The Archimedes screw is a conventional tool previously used to pump water. And ever since this tool’s operation was reversed to generate electricity, it has seen a steady increase in utilisation around the world. The aim of this study is to numerically analyse the Archimedes screw turbine, by applying a three dimensional simulation to observe and analyse the water flow and flow losses around the screw, and take torque readings and apply power and efficiency calculations. Due to a number of difficulties faced while conducting this report, a new model was created to observe results that can aid in the understating of the AST system’s operation. However, the potential of the new model is limited and only little information was acquired. The tests were conducted at a constant flow rate of 5.28 (l/s), and three variable rotational velocities 15, 30 and 45 RPM. The results showed that the torque values were low for all three cases. It was observed that the majority of the water volume, was escaping through the gap between the trough and screw blades, which has reduced the pressure acting on the screw’s surface and resulted in a drop of the torque readings. And this was expected as the gap distance was larger than the maximum value that maintains the screw’s efficiency. After further investigation of the collected results, the efficiency seemed low and this was thought to be normal, due to the flow leakages occurring in the gap, but when the head height was observed in the contour figures, it seemed to be fluctuating depending on the rotational velocity. And it is predicted that these fluctuations has made the efficiency calculations inaccurate, and the efficiency is thought to be lower than the calculated values due to the difference in head height in each case.
For further information on any of these projects (and a lot more) or if you would like a student to research a problem/ solution for you please contact Dave Sprake email@example.com
Research into the latest energy storage technology - Research into the latest energy storage technology. Energy storage is a dynamic field with new products, ideas and improvements in performance being put forward on an almost weekly basis. This project looks into the future and analyses the most promising areas and likely technologies of significant interest. It also looks at the price threshold energy storage barriers that need to be achieved in order to make energy storage viable mainstream.
How the energy market works and how it will work in a renewable energy future - The whole way the UK energy market has been formulated is a very complex mix of schemes, markets and policies. This fragmented, mishmash of schemes and measures, multiple separate businesses and interests although well-meaning seems to be a fix to try to make an inadequate system in need of investment and rapid change “get by” with the illusion of competitiveness. This “could” be a relatively simple system which has been turned into a monster. This research looks into how the input of large amounts of variable and sometimes unpredictable renewable energy will have on the business of energy and how it can be structured fairly for the benefit of all.
Hydro turbine low flow CFD modelling - Here we designed a hydro turbine and simulated water flowing through it with the aide of Computational Fluid Dynamics. The power output and any problems can be analysed inside a computer without any actual physical experimentation.
Bladeless wind turbine CFD modelling - Computational Fluid Dynamics was used to model how wind flowed through a new design of bladeless wind turbine.
Design of a wood burning stove that also produces electricity for poor areas - In third world countries the use of wood burning stoves is common to heat water and cook. In this project, the student designed and built a more efficient, safer wood burning stove that also produced electricity to charge a smartphone with a thermoelectric cell.
Design of a smart grid - Smart grids are the future of energy distribution and this project looked at the design and optimisation of a new grid with efficiency’s being made with load shifting, smart appliances, variable renewable energy and energy storage.
Biodigester project (In collaboration with fre-energy) - This project looked at the design and build of a new system that made biomethane to be used as a transport fuel. The base gas was produced in a bio-digester from waste. This student won a prestigious prize with this project.
OTEC potential study. (Ocean thermal energy conversion) - This project looked into the possibilities of using the difference in temperature of the deep ocean and the surface to produce electricity through a Rankin cycle engine.
Electric vehicle vs. internal combustion engine vehicles- a comparison of lifetime carbon emissions - There is a debate raging about the legitimacy of “green” electric vehicles. Here the embodied energy of electric and fossil fuel vehicles were analysed together with where the electricity to charge comes from and the pollution burning fossil fuels produce both producing electricity and in a car engine.
Converting a remote Scout hut to be powered by renewables off grid - We were approached by Cornel scout hut about turning there Snowdonia faculty “off grid”. This project looked at the possibilities of wind, solar and hydropower in this location and also how efficiencies could be made in reducing the overall energy load for the project.
Cooling of photovoltaic panels to improve efficiencies - When solar PV panels get hot their efficiency reduces. This project looked at cost-effective methods of how panels could be cooled, the effect it would have on energy production and payback times.
Perspective of education regarding renewable energies and sustainable Issues - In an age of fake news, miss information and political spin, there is still some denial about climate change and sustainability issues. This project looks at how educators can better inform students of all ages as well as the general public about such issues and looks into the techniques used by sceptics to mislead.
Analysis of national grid substations energy losses and the possibilities of installing renewable energy to them - The 10,000s of substations around the UK use electricity to function. This project looks at how renewables (wind and solar) could be installed on substation sites to reduce these electrical losses.
Students also design a renewable energy scheme at level 5 and innovate a sustainable product at MSc level.
Architectural Design Technology students involved in design improvements of local properties - Improvement work on an estate will include installing external wall insulation on the outside walls and elevations of around 400 steel-framed ‘Cubbitt’ properties houses on the estate. This is designed to improve insulation on the properties, making them more efficient to heat, as well as improve their external appearance.
Summer Students Debate Global Climate Change - The cohort of Glyndŵr University summer students argued from varying perspectives for different nations, including the United States, China, India and Iraq, as part of an assessment on Energy Systems and Sustainable Environment.
Among the viewpoints they gave were that of a farmer, a city trader, green activists and a politician.
Senior lecturer David Sprake praised the students for engaging in the contest, held at the University’s Wrexham campus.
Read more here
Attracting Owls to Campus - The Owl Trust, based in Llandudno visited our students to talk about owl conservation and rehabilitation. Joining Jenni Morgan was a barn owl, a little owl and a long-eared owl, all being cared for at the centre as a result of injury. Jenni described how the birds are brought to them after being found at the sides of roads, caught in barbed wire or as unwanted pets and provided with medical care, time and space to recover. Students from the Animal Studies course have recently redesigned the enclosures at the Trust’s headquarters to increase enrichment and allow birds to fly. Jenni explained that most are successfully released back into the wild.
After the visit Students teamed up with WGU Northop’s site manager Dennis Powell who organised for an owl box (handmade and gifted to WGU by Dennis Powell Senior) to be installed at WGU’s Northop Campus on the border of our prey-rich grassland, an area that supports a whole range of biodiversity.
Renewable Engineering Student Has Paper Published - Our MSc Renewable Engineering and Sustainable Energy student Alexandre Oudin from Réunion Island, France has published a research conference paper in the IEEEXplore Digital Library. Titled "A geographical information system approach for analysis of surface areas in the context of renewable energy resources”
Read it here
Spider and Arachnids Survey - Carl Payne one of our 3rd Year Wildlife & Plant Biology students teamed up with the North Wales Wildlife Trust and Cofnod to organise a survey of spiders and other arachnids on the Northop campus site. It was conducted by Richard Gallon - arachnologist and biological data officer from Cofnod a local environmental recording agency from Llandudno, on the 27th May 2017. The session was open to WGU students and the public. Richards’s session included spider ID, general techniques, an arachnid survey around campus and then running through some microscopy identification to record at a species level.
Recording techniques and volunteering opportunities were discussed and a request for a Bio-blitz was made to the local branch of the North Wales Wildlife Trust - Clywydian branch committee that organises local events.
The link between the University and other organisations involved in conservation activities is exciting. It will raise the potential for students within Wildlife & Plant Biology and Ecology, Geography and Conservation to volunteer, learn new skills, network and understand the ecosystems within the area.