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6 ways we're improving the environment

6 ways we're improving the environment

You'll be surprised at the ways Newcastle University researchers are tackling climate change and protecting our world.

Protecting coral reefs

Coral reefs have survived for tens of millions of years and provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people. But these biologically diverse ecosystems are under threat from human activity. Now, a team led by Professor Alasdair Edwards is trialling new solutions. Rather than transplant coral to different places, as is currently common practice, they’re highlighting the resilience of reefs once human activity is under control. They’ve also developed innovative coral ‘plug-ins’ that can be used to rear healthy corals on a damaged reef.

Illustration representing fish on a coral reef.

Cleaning wastewater with bacteria

Three percent of all electricity generated in the UK is used to treat wastewater. Anaerobic digestion, where micro-organisms break down wastewater, is an energy-saving alternative, but it’s challenging in colder climates like Britain’s. Dr Jan Dolfing and his team are studying how bacteria from colder climates could be used for anaerobic digestion in the UK. They have collected samples from the Arctic and even travelled to the bottom of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva in a submarine to gather the organisms. The team is now working with water company Northumbrian Water on large-scale anaerobic digesters to clean up the region’s wastewater.

Icon to represent bacteria.

Managing energy with smart grids

Researchers from Newcastle University are exploring how smart electricity grids can reduce energy outages and disruption, balance intermittent energy supply from renewables and improve the efficiency of the energy network. A smart grid provides two-way communication between users and electricity transmission and supply. It combines digital technology, such as live computer sensors, with grid infrastructure. This allows operators to manage supply and demand and maintain an efficient, affordable and low-carbon flow of energy.

Icon which illustrates managing energy with smart grids.

Electric vehicle revolution

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology could make electric vehicles cheaper to run, and easier to charge. It allows vehicles to be integrated into the electricity grid and can improve the grid’s ability to handle renewable power, while making it more affordable. Newcastle University’s Myriam Neaimeh is leading the first large-scale trial of V2G. Vehicles are connected to the grid to charge during low-demand, cheap tariff periods. Later, any unused electricity stored in car batteries is fed back into the grid, generating revenue for the owner.

Icon representing electric vehicle.

Pioneering water infrastructure

Cities are facing mounting pressures including climate change, growing populations, resource scarcity, poverty and extreme weather events, such as flooding. Our infrastructure needs to evolve to cope. Newcastle University’s National Green Infrastructure Facility is researching green roof approaches, testing surface water management and surface water drainage, and looking at ways to manage water use more sustainably. Their work aims to make the cities of the future more resilient.

Icon representing water infrastructure.

Radical research in rural energy

Researchers across the Science, Agriculture and Engineering Faculty, together with industrial partners, are exploring cutting-edge energy research in a rural context. They’re identifying real energy problems that farmers and others in the countryside face and finding ways to deal with them. A series of projects is addressing: how to connect rural power grids, thermal and electrical farm microgrids, rural energy storage using second-life EV batteries, and portals consolidating all of the data from a farm in one place.

Icon representing electric vehicle.