Developing fuel cells and researching how to make rural living more sustainable are two challenges being tackled together by the UK and Indian Governments.
Bridging the Urban and Rural Divide (BURD) projects address the research challenges of making living rurally a sustainable option – a topic that was agreed to be of importance to both countries. The BURD panel held in London was chaired by Dr Rajagopala Chidambaram, Principal Science Advisor to the Government of India. Over £7m from Research Councils UK, with resources from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in India, will fund successful projects. Those recommended for funding are:
‘Rural Hybrid Energy Enterprise Systems’ Led by the University of Nottingham and IISc Bangalore. Research into small scale energy generation systems in rural areas that can be adapted for local needs in the UK and India to enable communities to tackle energy poverty, increase revenue generation, create new opportunities etc.
‘Development and Integration of Biomass and Concentrating Photovoltaic System for Rural and Urban Energy Bridge: BioCPV’ led by Heriot-Watt University and Visva-Bharati University. Developing an integrated system of solar fuel cell, biomass and waste power generation and hydrogen generation and storage to provide low-cost integrated renewable energy to rural areas.
‘Scaling the Rural Enterprise’ led by University of Nottingham and the Society for Economic and Social studies. Establishing the next generation of enterprise where mobile devices are used to empower rural communities and scale up the activities of rural businesses.
‘TRUMP: A Trusted Mobile Platform for the Self-Management of Chronic Illness in Rural Areas’ led by University of Aberdeen and IIM Ahmedabad. Exploring the potential of mobile technologies in the development of a platform to support chronic disease management in rural areas of the UK and India.
‘Distributing Industrial Optimization Tasks to Rural Workers’ led by University of Strathclyde and IIT Allahbad. Developing a ‘business model’ which demonstrates that a large number of industrial tasks can be outsourced to rural workers providing a sustainable source of skilled employment.
In addition, fuel cells have been identified by both India and the UK as an area of significance in providing solutions to the problem of meeting future energy needs. At least £3m from the Research Councils UK Energy Programme with resources from India through the DST has been committed to collaborative research projects addressing this area. The four projects recommended for funding under the India-UK Collaborative Research Initiative in Fuel Cells are:
‘Performance Opimization of IT-SOFCs by Inkjet printing on porous Metal Substrates (JETCELL)’ led by The University of Cambridge and the NonFerrous Materials Technology Development Centre in Hyderabad will focus on developing solid oxide fuel cells, using ink-jet printing technology, that operate at much lower temperatures than they currently do in order to address issues such as cost reduction, durability and reliability of the fuel cell.
‘"Mind the Gap" - jumping the hurdles limiting polymer fuel cell performance and commercialisation’ led by Imperial College London and the Centre for Fuel Cell Technology in Chennai will work to address issues limiting polymer fuel cell performance and commercialisation. . The team conduct research into reducing the necessary quality of fuel needed for the fuel cell, reducing the cost and robustness of the catalysts in the system and improving the overall efficiency of the fuel cell.
‘Advancing Biogas utilization through Fuel Flexible SOFC’ led by The University of St Andrews and the Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute in Kolkata will look to improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells electrodes for converting biogas into electricity thus generating energy from waste. The use of fuel cells in this way could potentially significantly increase the efficiency of this process compared to the process of thermal conversion currently employed.
‘Modelling Accelerated Ageing and Degradation of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (MAAD-SOFC)’led by Keele University and the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras will be modelling accelerated ageing and degradation of solid oxide fuel cells. A model validated with experimental evidences can serve as a useful tool to understand the degradation mechanism of SOFCs. The understanding gained on degradation from these experiments and the developed model can be utilized to develop materials which give improved performance or can perform at lower temperatures, reduced degradation and better tolerance to contaminants in the fuel.
The Government’s ongoing focus on India underlines the importance it places on the bilateral relationship across a wide range of policy areas. From security, defence, business and trade, to development, education, science and research these projects are an excellent example of working together to improve areas of mutual interest.
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Notes for editors
The agreement to collaborate on research funding was confirmed at Ministerial level in a meeting between the Indian and UK Science Ministers in July 2010. RCUK has committed at least £10M to the initiatives over a three-year period, with matched resources from DST. Both panels were held on the 15th March 2011 with the research projects, funded by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Government of India Department of Science and Technology (DST), due to commence in the following financial year.