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Wallpaper that heats homes among innovative projects trialled in Wales to tackle climate change and the cost of living crisis

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A social housing development in Wales is being heated by wallpaper as part of a trial exploring affordable alternatives to radiators and heat pumps to keep residents warm.

The graphene heat system, which looks and feels just like traditional wallpaper, can be plugged into a domestic socket, and is packaged with solar panels and a smart battery, meaning it cuts emissions while vastly lowering fuel costs.

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Installed on walls, ceilings or under floors, the technology is invisible to residents and provides an innovative method to warm individual rooms much more quickly, offering them the chance to manage their energy budgets more effectively.

NexGen’s Graphene Infrared Heating is one of a number of innovate trials being carried out by housing association Melin Homes thanks to funding through the Welsh Government’s Optimised RetroFit Programme.

On a visit to the project in Tredegar, Climate Change Minister Julie James said: “The decarbonisation of homes plays a big part in our journey to a Net Zero Wales by 2050.

“At a time when costs are rising, improving the energy efficiency of homes will not only help us to deal with the climate emergency but also help families through the cost of living crisis.

“Just a little over a year ago, the First Minister put the environment and climate change at the heart of the Welsh Government’s priorities and, as we work to build a stronger, greener and fairer Wales, I’m really excited by the prospect innovative products like these could offer in helping us achieve our ambition.”

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The system, which uses a combination of far infrared and convection heat takes just two to three days to install and is much more cost-effective when compared with a heat pump.

David Leabeater from NexGen showing the technology to Julie James, Minister for Climate Change

Melin Homes has collaborated with Swansea University who verified the performance of the technology. It is now in discussions with a range of other registered social landlords, and local authorities who have shown an interest in the trial of the radiant heat system.

The Welsh Government Department for Economy is also working with Torfaen County Borough Council and NexGen to explore opportunities for the firm to establish a manufacturing centre in the local area.

Paula Kennedy, Chief Executive of Melin Homes said: “Our residents are already feeling the impact of the cost of living crisis and climate emergency that’s why we have set an ambitious target to become a NetZero organisation before 2050.

“We know we have to act now, so we have teamed up with Nexgen and our housing association peers in a bid to find alternatives to heating our homes that will be greener and cheaper for people to use.

“We will continue to work with them and trial new technologies that will help our residents, and residents throughout Wales. We are also pleased to be a part of the inward investment in setting up a factory and look forward to seeing the opportunities that will bring to Wales.”

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Science

Welsh insulation company partners with Swansea University to explore capturing carbon emissions

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Brigend-based insulation company ROCKWOOL Ltd. has announced it is partnering with the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University to research the capture of carbon dioxide.

Researchers are aiming to develop new carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technologies that can assist Wales and the UK achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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Researchers at ESRI have been working on a process called Pressure Swing Adsorption to separate carbon dioxide from a mixture of gases. To date, this has been shown to work under laboratory conditions and so the next step is to investigate how it works in a real life industrial process.

Over the next 12 months, researchers will be experimenting with different adsorbent materials and operating conditions to determine the most effective method for removing carbon dioxide. Isolating carbon dioxide from a mixed gas stream is an important step in developing opportunities for use or long term storage.

Darryl Matthews, Managing Director of ROCKWOOL Ltd, said: “Alongside ROCKWOOL Ltd.’s membership of the South Wales Industrial Cluster, I am delighted we’re partnering with Swansea University to pilot new technology designed to capture CO2 emissions and are excited about its potential in supporting the drive to Net Zero.”

The demonstration unit is being developed as part of the £11.5m Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) project which has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and is aimed at the deployment of industrial scale demonstrations of new technology.

The carbon capture demonstration unit at Swansea University (Image: Swansea University)

Darryl continued: “Taking these important steps to understand how we can develop CCUS technology further is another important piece of the decarbonisation puzzle for us as a business. The ROCKWOOL Group has long been committed to operating sustainably and in December 2020, ROCKWOOL announced commitments to accelerate the decarbonisation of our business, with specific long-term targets verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.”

Professor Andrew Barron the Principal Investigator of the RICE project summarized the achievement, “with 2050 arriving fast, the time for research is over, it is imperative to get new technology onto industrial sites in order to demonstrate viability. Partners such as ROCKWOOL are vital in achieving this goal.”

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In 2020 the ROCKWOOL Group announced ambitious, science based global decarbonisation targets that have been verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The targets, which supplement existing sustainability goals, amount to an ambitious one third reduction of ROCKWOOL’s lifecycle (Scope 1, 2 and 3) greenhouse gas emissions by 2034 while at the same time continuing the reduce the carbon intensity of production.

These commitments build on ROCKWOOL’s existing status as a net carbon negative company, in that over the lifetime of its use, the building insulation ROCKWOOL sold in 2021 will save 100 times the carbon emitted in its production.

Welsh Government Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “These are the partnerships that will drive a stronger, greener Welsh economy. Putting world class expertise into practice is critical to our journey to net zero and this work means Bridgend will play a leading role in these exciting developments. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support the project through the European Regional Development Fund.”

(Lead image: ROCKWOOL)

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Museums

University’s Egypt Centre in running for top museum award

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Swansea University’s Egypt Centre has been shortlisted for the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award, it was announced today.

Charity Kids in Museums has run a prestigious annual award for 16 years, recognising the most family friendly heritage sites in the UK. It is the only museum award to be judged by families.

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From late March to early June, families across the UK voted for their favourite heritage attraction on the Kids in Museums website. A panel of experts then whittled down hundreds of nominations to a shortlist of 16 heritage attractions.

The Egypt Centre is vying against four other museums in the Best Small Museum category.

Curator Dr Ken Griffin said: “We are thrilled to have been nominated. Since the museum opened its doors to the public in 1998, we have had a strong focus on families and young people. This includes family activities such as mummifying our dummy mummy, handling of real Egyptian antiquities, and playing the ancient board game Senet.

“To be in the running for this award recognises all the hard work undertaken by staff and our wonderful volunteers!”

The Egypt Centre is Wales’ only museum dedicated to Egyptian antiquities and houses around 6,000 objects in its collection. With a small team of staff and more than 100 enthusiastic volunteers, including Young Volunteers who run the Museum every Saturday, it boasts a popular schools programme and a variety of events, including workshops, talks and family activities.

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Over the summer holidays, the museum will be visited by undercover family judges who will assess the shortlisted museums against the Kids in Museums Manifesto. Their experiences will decide a winner for each award category and an overall winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award 2022.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in October.

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Food & Drink

Swansea to host major international conference on sustainable approach to food pest control

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Feeding a growing population while reducing the environmental impact is an urgent challenge, but a major international conference at Swansea University will help by bringing together experts in integrated pest management.

They will discuss new approaches to managing insect pests which will cut reliance on harmful chemical insecticides.

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Pests destroy up to 40 per cent of global crops and cost $220 billion in losses, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. Climate change increases the threat further as it makes it more likely that invasive pests can move into new territory.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is based on the principle that environmental issues and food production are inextricably linked.

It aims to encourage healthy crops with the least possible disruption to agricultural ecosystems. It focuses on natural pest control mechanisms and involves biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools being used together in a way that minimises economic, health and environmental risks.

To be effective, IPM also requires different sectors to work together, especially industry, academia and regulatory authorities.

Technology has transformed the field of pest control in recent years. Drones, electronic sensors, robotic crop inspectors and satellite imagery are becoming widely used to protect crops.

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Against this background, the Swansea event could not be more timely. The aim is to bring together everybody involved in the agribusiness chain, to present and discuss new innovations and how they are being implemented in crop protection.

Entitled “New IPM: A Modern and Multidisciplinary approach to Crop Protection”, the conference runs from 12-14 September. It is being hosted and organised by Swansea University in partnership with the International BioControl Manufacturers Association UK.

Amongst the topics that will feature are:

• Pest and disease monitoring
• Increasing plant growth and resilience
• Biopesticides – natural alternatives to chemical pesticides
• How different natural pest control measures can work together for greater impact
• Strains of microbes that have been identified but not yet fully assessed for their potential
• Networking and funding opportunities

The main conference programme runs on 12th and 13th September. This is followed on 14th by a networking event, organised by Swansea University’s Research and Innovation Services, which will be an opportunity for academics and businesses to forge links, with sessions on funding opportunities from UK and EU sources.

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Professor Tariq Butt of Swansea University, who is organising the event, said: “IPM is essential if we are to protect our food supply and our environment, which are two sides of the same coin.

“The problem is that too often IPM discussions focus on individual elements, such as the role of beneficial species or biopesticides, rather than the whole picture.

“At a practical level implementation of IPM relies on a whole set of accurate, timely and appropriate information, passed to a properly trained decision-maker who, ultimately, has access to a pest-management toolkit that is fit-for-purpose.

“To make all of this happen, it requires a combined effort and the collaboration of industry, academia and the regulatory authorities.

“This conference will provide an opportunity for representatives from all of these stakeholders to communicate and build productive relationships. This will help us develop a new approach to IPM, which is essential if we are to succeed in protecting our food and our environment.

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“We will also be revealing plans for the region’s first Natural Products BioHUB, a collaboration between industry and academia to develop new natural products and businesses, creating jobs and training opportunities.”

Dr Ian Baxter of the International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association UK (IBMA UK) said: “IBMA UK is delighted to be co-organising this event with Swansea University. The last two years have been particularly challenging for all of us, but this has not been reflected in a slow-down in the rate of technology adoption by growers – if anything, it has been expedited by the obvious pressures on resources.

“This is a perfect moment to get together and exchange information on the latest advances in New IPM.”

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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