Magnetics and Materials Research Group
There is an increasing demand across the globe for more flexible and efficient energy generation and distribution.
The Cardiff Thermoelectric and Photovoltaic Laboratory was established in 1967 by Professor David Mike Rowe to undertake characterisation of thermoelectric materials for the UK Atomic Energy Authority in developing a thermoelectric pacemaker. The group is one of only 3 groups in the world that have sustained continuous research activities in thermoelectrics since the 1960s (the other 2 being at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA and the Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute, Russia).Fine-grain SiGe developed by Professor Rowe pioneered nano-engineering of phonon scattering to improve the thermoelectric coefficient of performance ZT and led to successful deployment of the material by NASA for space power systems. The waste heat recovery programme supported by Japanese NEDO (£2.2M, 1994-2002) was the first landmark project in thermoelectric waste heat recovery that signposted the recent resurgence of interest in thermoelectric energy harvesting. The Cardiff group is also credited for proposing thermoelectric micro-generators and micro-coolers based on IC and MEMS technology.
Magnetics technology can have a major impact in areas such as renewable energy, electrical supply and energy efficiency. Research in the Wolfson Centre for Magnetics focuses on several areas related to the production, characterisation and application of magnetic materials. The Centre has an established international track record in research on aspects of soft magnetic materials and research and consultancy projects are carried out for organisations ranging from world leading multinationals to local small companies.
The Thermoelectric and Photovoltaic Laboratory
This research activity relates to thermoelectric materials and devices such as energy harvesting from waste heat recovery from automotive exhaust processes and Peltier cooling for various applications, including water desalination systems. In 2012 new research lines based on various photovoltaic technologies and thermomagnetic generators and their application with thermoelectric modules were established. Further research includes the deposition of functional thin-film materials by Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) and screen printing for application in dye-sensitised solar cells (DSC). This research relates to the preparation, characterisation and optimisation of semiconducting oxide thin films. The PLD system is an advanced facility which enables the preparation of a wide range of thin films in a highly controlled manner. The deposited materials range from multicomponent semiconductors, via alloys, to pure metals. The apparatus can be used for R&D, pilot production, and full production capabilities for a variety of applications depending on demand and productivity.
Further research includes the computer simulation of thermoelectrics (TE) including finite element modelling of TE modules. This work is conducted in parallel with experimental data acquisition to develop a rigorous understanding of the transport properties of semiconductors, device physics, fabrication and characterisation. The AC response of TE elements for impedance spectroscopy has also been calculated which can provide rapid measurement of material properties.
Energy and power magnetics
Research in the Wolfson Centre for Magnetics focuses on several areas related to the production, characterisation and application of magnetic materials.
The Centre has an established international track record in research on aspects of soft magnetic materials and research and consultancy projects are carried out for organisations ranging from world leading multinationals to local small companies.
Energy losses associated with power magnetic systems account for as much as 10% of electricity generated in the UK, and just a 3% saving on magnetic losses is equivalent to 3-4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per annum.
The group participates in the following projects:
The FP7 GLOBASOL project which aims to integrate thermoelectrics with solar cells, splitting the incoming radiation by wavelength, so that short wavelengths are converted by the solar cell and long wavelengths by the TE generator. The fabrication and characterisation of nanostructured and bulk thermoelectric material (Bi2Te3) are also being investigated for room temperature operation. The Globasol project has partners in UNIPMN (Italy) who are leading the project, the Fraunhofer Institute (Germany), TUD (Germany), EPFL (France), UAM (Spain) and EXEGER (Sweden).
The EPSRC Supergen SUNTRAP project with primary objectives to reduce costs and increase the performance and lifetime of photovoltaic renewable energy generation systems. This is designed by utilising optical concentration and integrating thermoelectric with Photovoltaic technologies. This research project is run in collaboration with Glasgow University (PI), Exeter and Manchester Universities. Research outputs are regularly discussed with the extensive Industrial Advisory group.
The European project, THERELEXPRO, deals with thermoelectric heat recovery from low temperature exhausts of steel processes. The research undertaken is in collaboration with leading steel manufacturers - CSM (Italy), BFI (Germany), Ferriere Nord (Italy) and AcelorMittal (Spain).
Collaboration with Dana Canada Corporation involves the integration of thermoelectric modules with heat exchangers. Optimisation through computer modelling and precise module assembly to maximise the performance of the thermoelectric modules and heat exchangers to ultimately improve the fuel efficiency of automotive engines. Johnson Matthey, Caterpillar Inc and Ricardo Group are partners in this project.
THERELEXPRO involves characterisation of thermoelectric modules and design, construction and evaluation of thermoelectric systems for industrial partners. Thermoelectric generator prototypes are tested for optimum performance at the university facilities. The prototypes are then installed at the industrial partner’s chosen location for testing under actual operating conditions. Scientific knowhow of thermoelectric technology is shared with the industrial partners on a regular basis.
A Ser Cymru National Research Network grant in Advanced Engineering and Materials is also active in the area of enhanced solar energy harvesting. Collaboration exists between Swansea University, IQE plc and Bangor University.
Other collaborators are European Thermodynamics Limited, and Exeger, who are the industrial partners in the Globasol project which is looking at the commercialisation of solar cells and related technologies.
To meet the challenges associated with energy and power magnetics, the Wolfson Centre for Magnetics is involved in a number of research projects. These include:
- Study of the magnetic behaviour of electrical steels
- Improving efficiency and noise in transformer cores
- On-line production monitoring and process control
- Modelling and prediction of magnetic properties
- Characterisation of magnetic materials under wide-ranging physical and electrical conditions
- Application of magnetic materials in power magnetic devices
Senior Lecturer - Teaching and Research
- +44 (0)29 2087 5564
Head of School, Engineering
- +44 (0)29 2087 6876
Lecturer - Teaching and Research
- +44 (0)29 2087 5933
Lecturer - Teaching and Research
- +44 (0)29 2087 4071
The Wolfson Centre for Magnetics has a wide range of facilities, including:
- Bulk Material Characterisation - Facilities for the analysis of the DC and AC properties of bulk magnetic materials
- Micro/Nano-Scale Characterisation - Systems for the characterisation of magnetic films, wires and materials
- Magnetic Imaging - Facilities for the analysis of the structure and properties of materials utilising the Kerr Magneto-Optic Effect
- Modelling and Simulation - Software and facilities for electromagnetic design and analysis
- Performance - Laboratories for analysis of the performance of a range of electromagnetic devices
- Fabrication of Magnetic Materials - Facilities for the fabrication of a range of thin films, nanowire arrays and microwires