Awards for university’s ‘ground-breaking’ research

Friday 28 February 2003

Two University of St Andrews scientists have been awarded funding by Scottish Enterprise for ‘ground-breaking’ research in the areas of renewable energy and optoelectronics.

Professor John Irvine and Professor Thomas Krauss have been awarded the funding through the Proof of Concept Fund, which supports leading-edge technologies in Scotland’s academic institutions, and aims to help export innovation from the lab into the global marketplace.

The awards, announced today (Friday 28th February, 2003) by Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning, Iain Gray, consist of a £5.6 million package which will be shared between14 universities and research institutions in Scotland.

The fund is aimed at early-stage ideas, which have typically reached patent level and could lead to the creation of new businesses or licensing innovative technologies. Successful bidders must demonstrate that their ideas have originality and true commercial potential.

Professor Irvine, of the University’s School of Chemistry, has been granted two awards ¿ one for a joint project with Robert Gordon University on ‘Combined Tidal stream technology’ and another for a project on ‘Efficient Hydrogen generation for transmission and storage of renewable energy’.

The innovative efficient hydrogen generation project has developed an alternative strategy for the distribution of electrical energy from renewable resources in remote locations.

Transferring wind and wave energy generated in remote locations has typically required expensive cabling and infrastructure, which has inevitably limited its appeal. But the St Andrews team has come up with new micro-electolyte technology which uses hydrogen to store and transport energy in the form of a chemical fuel.

“Scotland is well served with both wind and water; controlling over 25% of Europe’s wind and wave energy resource. Up until now however, there have been problems in translating this energy to where it is most needed.

“The team’s aim is to increase the practicality of energy gained from renewable sources by allowing “green” energy to be moved to more urban locations where it is more needed,” said Professor Irvine.

Their proposed hydrogen-based, energy rich fuel could also be used directly in transport applications, perhaps producing the first ever wave-powered car.

In his second project, in collaboration with the RGU, Professor Irvine’s renewable energy team is currently working on developing a more effective way of generating and storing power from tidal stream energy.

“Tidal power is an immense, renewable resource that is essentially untapped,” said Professor Irvine. “The potential Scottish resource is approximately 85 TW hr per annum. The Pentland Firth has been described as the Saudi Arabia of tidal current power, and it has been estimated that, given suitable technology, it could supply more than 15TW hrs per annum. This represents 50% of the electricity consumption for Scotland and in the long term could directly provide an estimated 6,000 jobs,” he said.

There is one major limitation of tidal power; electricity is generated in remote areas where energy consumption patterns differ from those of major centres of utilisation.

“We think that probably the most effective way to store energy generated from tidal power at sea is via the production of hydrogen. The hydrogen would be generated electrochemically from surplus capacity and stored within integral tanks of the tidal generation system. This hydrogen would be then be utilised for conversion to electricity for the grid or local demand when the tidal generation output was low.

The objective of this project is to achieve a tidal power generation system with stable output and good responsive capability.

Meanwhile, Professor Krauss, of the University’s School of Physics & Astronomy, has been awarded funding for his project ‘Next Generation of Photonic Microcircuit Technology’. Photonic microcircuits based on photonic crystals are seen as the next big step in photonic technology. They allow the control of light propagation on a wavelength scale, thus leading to electronic-style integration densities.

Present day photonic crystal components, however, cannot warrant serious consideration at industrial level because of excessive losses in photonic crystal waveguides. Profesor Krauss’s project addresses the issue of excessive losses and aims to develop low-loss photonic crystal waveguide components.

“Low loss is the key to realising the many exciting properties of photonic crystals and it will allow us to demonstrate photonic integrated microcircuits with a hitherto unknown complexity and integration density,” said Professor Krauss.

“Integrated circuits based on photonic crystals allow the creation of optical components with much higher functionality and packing density than hitherto possible. They are aimed at the telecommunications sector, especially at metro and local area network level, where optical circuitry is required to route and manage the data flow. By demonstrating low propagation losses, we will be able to transform the scientific curiosity that photonic crystals currently represent into an industrially viable technology,” he said.



For further information about the projects, please contact Professor John Irvine on telephone: 01334 463817 or email [email protected] or Professor Thomas Krauss on tel: 01334 463107 or email tfk@st-

About The Proof of Concept Fund

The Proof of Concept Fund supports leading-edge technologies in Scotland’s academic institutions, and aims to help export innovation from the lab into the global marketplace.

The £33m Fund launched in 1999 now supports 118 ground-breaking projects worth nearly £18million and has created 287 new jobs. It concentrates on early-stage ideas which have typically reached patent level and could lead to the creation of new businesses, or licensing innovative technologies.

Successful bidders must demonstrate that their ideas have originality and true commercial potential.

The projects supported via the Fund are high risk and will generally take several years to become commercially viable investments.

The objectives of the Fund are:

· To improve the level and quality of commercialisation through the provision of funding for early stage development activity within Scotland’s universities, research institutes and NHS trusts.

· To contribute to the development of Scotland’s clusters by facilitating the exploitation of enabling technologies from within the fundamental and strategic research base.

· To contribute to the longer-term development of a strong, knowledge-based economy in Scotland.

Further details on the PoC Fund, the projects that are currently supported and the application process can be found at:


About Scottish Enterprise

Scottish Enterprise is the main economic development agency for Scotland covering 93% of the population from Grampian to the Borders. The Scottish Enterprise Network consists of Scottish Enterprise and 12 Local Enterprise Companies. Working in partnership with the private and public sectors the Network aims to build more and better businesses, to develop the skills and knowledge of Scottish people, and to encourage innovation to make Scottish business internationally competitive.

A cluster is a group of related industries and organisations. They can be each other’s customers, competitors, partners, suppliers or research and development sources. Partners in a cluster continue to compete, but they also begin to share the benefits of innovative ideas and practices that each contributes. This makes them more competitive. An example of a successful cluster is the Biotechnology industry in Dundee.

The cluster approach in Scotland, pioneered by Scottish Enterprise, aims to ensure that Scotland’s small, open economy thrives in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email [email protected]

Ref: POC 2003 Awards release 280203

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