The University of Manchester is pioneering the energy systems of the future so that we can continue to heat our homes, light our buildings and travel.

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General Academic Industry Policy

The energy that we depend upon travels a long way before it reaches your fingertips. We need to assess each stage of the energy journey if we’re to continue to meet demand.

In doing so we’ll be tackling some big questions. Are our energy sources sustainable? Do we transport energy efficiently? Can we meet demand while minimising the effects on our environment?

Can we make homes and cities smarter in how they use energy? Can we address the social inequalities that underpin energy use?

The University of Manchester has over 600 academics and researchers taking on these key challenges.


Research at each stage of the energy journey

Our expertise is enhancing the efficiency and viability of sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind, tidal and bioenergy. It’s supporting partners in the bridging fuel sectors, such as oil and gas, to continue to meet demand.

We’re helping to ensure energy gets to the point of need efficiently, providing UK network partners with the knowledge to deliver reliable and sustainable power. Renewable sources of generation tend to be more intermittent – so we’re working on systems that will help keep supply constant, and finding ways to persuade people to use energy at the best times.

We work closely with our local region on projects such as the UK’s largest ever trial of heat pumps. We’re finding out more about how today’s urban society uses energy, blending expertise from engineering and the social sciences to learn more about demand and how it can be met.

University of Manchester infographic: energy
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Innovative research institutes

Our interdisciplinary research spans science, engineering, social science, humanities and medicine to develop pathways to mitigate climate change while providing ways to accelerate the delivery of a green recovery, which will drive jobs, local prosperity, resilience and equality.

The University benefits from globally renowned research institutes that cover the full spectrum of energy investigation, including:

The award-winning work of these communities influences local authorities, industry and international partners to deliver real-world energy and environmental solutions.

A living laboratory

Leading facilities – from the 2MV high-voltage laboratory at our Manchester campus to our £20 million Dalton Cumbrian Facility – help both us and our industry partners develop these solutions. The University campus itself is a living laboratory, with our 339 buildings providing a test bed for tomorrow’s energy systems.

To get to tomorrow’s homes, energy will have to travel new routes, going further and faster, leaving no carbon footprint. At Manchester we’re making sure the systems are in place for this journey to happen across a mix of energy sources. 

Energy: Research breakthroughs

Global challenges, Manchester solutions

Reprocessing radioactive materials

Global challenge

Removing nuclear fuel and other waste products, whether from damaged nuclear power plants such as Fukushimi Daiichi or decaying storage ponds at Sellafield, is extremely difficult due to high levels of radioactivity.

Manchester solution

We’ve designed an amphibious, remotely operated vehicle that can fit through small access ports, typically found in nuclear facilities; carry neutron detection and navigation equipment, and withstand extremely radioactive environments.

At Fukushima Daiichi the vehicle will help identify fuel that is believed to have melted so that it can be safely removed, significantly reducing radiation levels, lowering risk and making the plant easier and cheaper to decommission.

Locking up radioactive wastes

Global challenge

Radioactive wastes contain long-lived radionuclides that will be around for millions of years. Understanding their behaviour in waste disposal systems is critical to ensuring safe, publicly acceptable disposal of these challenging
byproducts of nuclear energy generation.

Manchester solution

In collaboration with Diamond Light Source, our researchers investigated long-lived radionuclides using X-ray spectroscopy techniques. We found that radionuclides could be directly and irreversibly ‘locked up’ within the iron oxide mineral frameworks that are present in the waste, under a range of different conditions, thereby limiting their movement into the environment. The research is being used by Radioactive Waste Management and Sellafield Ltd.

Harnessing the potential of biomass

Global challenge

Biomass has potential to provide sustainable, low carbon energy. Rice farming in Asia produces about 550 million tonnes of straw residue annually; however, this potential fuel source is simply burnt in fields, resulting in emissions hazardous to humans and the ecosystem.

Manchester solution

Manchester researchers use a multidisciplinary approach to deliver the technology to turn rice straw residue into a clean energy source, factoring in the priorities and preferences of local communities and their energy demands.

Our academics have experience working across the globe to tackle logistical, technological and environmental issues.

Storing energy until required

Global challenge

Renewables are key for a growth in low carbon energy, but are inherently intermittent power generation sources. Enhancing how we store energy will therefore by pivotal to our efforts to decarbonise our energy system.

Manchester solution

Our research is transforming the processes that bring energy to our homes and finding ways to use existing systems more efficiently. Our involvement in the multidisciplinary MY-STORE project is bringing a new perspective on the wide-scale deployment of energy storage by exploring socioeconomic and environmental factors as well as public perceptions for future distributed multi-energy systems.

Combating energy poverty

Global challenge

Many people across the world cannot afford enough energy to meet their basic needs, which seriously impacts on their well-being.

Manchester solution

Researchers at our Centre for Urban Resilience and Energy are working to understand the complex causes of energy poverty. Our researchers are advocating an ambitious and strategic approach, backed by national government resources, which includes comprehensive energy efficiency improvements proactively targeted at areas of poor housing stock.

Wider measures should address rising energy prices and the structural causes of low incomes, such as unemployment. Manchester is also the lead institution for the European Energy Poverty Observatory.

Reducing the costs of nuclear power

Global challenge

Manufacturing high-integrity nuclear power station components is expensive. New approaches are needed to make this less costly, balanced with a detailed understanding of new manufacturing processes and the effect these have on component performance over design life.

Manchester solution

We’re building a capability to produce realistic manufacturing features, such as industry-standard welds, carrying out detailed materials analysis to determine performance at the micro and macro scale, and developing analytical models of long-term performance. We’ve also invested £8 million in our Manufacturing Technology Research Laboratory, dedicated to innovation in nuclear manufacturing.

Social research in nuclear power

Global challenge

The global transition to zero carbon energy will have a profound impact on society. New understandings of the social controversies around nuclear power will be vital if it is to play its part in this transition.

Manchester solution

Manchester is leading The Beam, a novel research network fostering engagement between the nuclear sciences and social research to open up new thinking and approaches for civil nuclear decision-makers. The network invites world-class researchers to bring their insight to bear on global nuclear challenges, encouraging an ethnographic approach and placing emphasis on those impacted by nuclear power.