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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S037349/1
Title: Investigation of thermo-mechanical performance of PCM incorporated Geothermal Energy Pile (PCMinGEEP)
Principal Investigator: Singh, Dr R
Other Investigators:
Li, Professor Y
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
GI Energy Keller Ltd Lytag Ltd
Mike Wye Ltd PCM Products Limited Tarmac
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering
Organisation: University of Surrey
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 November 2019 Ends: 31 October 2022 Value (£): 214,354
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Civil Engineering Materials Ground Engineering
Structural Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
11 Jun 2019 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 11 and 12 June 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The latest report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 'Global warming of 1.5C' emphasises the need for 'rapid and far-reaching' actions now to curb carbon emission to limit global warming and climate change impact. Decarbonising heating is one of the actions which is going to play a key role in reducing carbon emission. The Committee on Climate Change states that insufficient progress has been made towards the low carbon heating homes target that requires immediate attention to meet our carbon budget.

It is well known fact that the ground is warmer compared to air in winter and cooler in summer. Therefore our ancestors build caves and homes underground to protect them against extreme cold/hot weather. Geothermal energy pile (GEEP) basically consists of a pile foundation, heat exchanging loops and a heat pump. Heat exchanging loops are usually made of high density polyethylene pipes and carry heat exchanging fluid (water and/or ethylene glycol). Loops are attached to a reinforcement cage and installed into the concrete pile foundations of a building to extract the shallow ground energy via a heat pump to heat the building during winter. The cycle is reversed during summer when heat is collected from the building and stored in the ground. GEEP can play an important role in decarbonising heating as it utilises the sustainable ground energy available under our feet.

High initial cost remains the main challenge in deploying heat pump technology. In the case of GEEP, the initial cost can be reduced, if the heat capacity of the concrete is improved and loop length can thus be decreased. This can be achieved by incorporating phase change material (PCM) in the concrete. PCM has a peculiar characteristic that it absorbs or releases large amount of energy during phase change (solid to liquid or liquid to solid).

This project aims to develop an innovative solution by combining two technologies GEEP and PCM to obtain more heat energy per unit loop length which would reduce the cost of GEEP significantly. PCM has never been used with GEEP in the past, therefore obvious research questions that come to the mind are (1) how to inject PCM in concrete (2) what would be the effect of PCM on concrete strength and workability (3) how PCM would affect load capacity of GEEP as primary objective of the GEEP is to support structure (4) how much heat energy would be available (5) what would happen to the ground temperature surrounding GEEP (6) how much it would cost (7) whether it would reduce carbon footprint of concrete.

We aim to answer all the above research questions by employing sustainable and environmental friendly PCM and impregnate it in light weight aggregates (LWAs) made with waste material (e.g. fly ash, slag, glass). There are three advantages of using LWAs made from waste: first LWAs will replace natural aggregate in concrete as natural aggregates are carbon intense, second LWAs are porous and light so they can absorb large amount of PCM and reduce the weight of concrete, third reuse the waste. Laboratory scale concrete GEEP will be made with PCM impregnated LWAs and tested under heating and cooling load to investigate thermal (heat transfer) and mechanical (load capacity) performance. Extensive experimental and numerical study will be carried out to design and develop novel PCM incorporated GEEP which can provide renewable ground energy for heating and cooling.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.surrey.ac.uk