60 seconds on the trigeneration system

Materials World magazine
1 Sep 2014

What is it?
A generator fuelled by raw plant oils that is capable of a 6–9kW electricity rating for off-grid homes and businesses and ideally tailored to suit developing countries.

Who is involved?
Developed by Newcastle University and funded by the EPSRC, contributors include the University of Leeds, University of Ulster, and three Chinese universities – Academy of Sciences, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Guangxi University of Technology.

How is it novel?
The system combines cooling, heat and power systems to provide dependable electricity for homes. It incorporates batteries and supercapacitors combined with an innovative system control to provide energy when it is needed. Waste heat is captured and stored in hot water tanks, while cooling for refrigeration and air conditioning takes place via an absorption chiller that can be run on waste heat.

What inspired the work?

Researchers created the trigeneration system to provide a heating and power system away from the power grid. The team logged energy use in households, which can reach up to 7kW or more in a matter of seconds at peak times, and created a system to perform up to this level of electrical demand. By using oils from crops and plants, the researchers were able to avoid using highly processed fuels from other raw materials, ideal for use in areas of poverty in developing countries.

What could the device replace?

A number of existing generators use diesel to power an entire home. The trigeneration system replaces this fuel by using raw plant oils, well-suited for providing fuel in developing countries as it would not adversely affect food production. This generator aims to match competing and varying demands of heat and electricity while running at high efficiency.

For more information, email Professor Tony Roskilly, Director for Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research, Newcastle University.