innovation for renovation
The Politecnico di Torino has recently launched a long term cooperation with the team of Professor James Barber, researcher at the Imperial College of London who was awarded the Italgas prize in 2005 for having defined the Photosystem II enzyme providing an explanation for the mechanisms that govern the splitting of water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen in the presence of light in the vegetal world. At the Politecnico, Prof. Barber will head an advanced centre for energetic and biological research into energy conversion by vegetal organisms and its application/usage for energy generation purposes, including hydrogen formation or the synthesis of “artificial leaves”. Asja will play an active role at these special facilities (the so called Biosolar Lab) and in Barber’s team, allocating its own resources and investing in study grants / research fellows / post-doctoral students to be employed there full-time.
Asja is studying a system joining endothermic engines and small size organic cycle turbines, to recover the heat from endothermic engines whenever it is not possible to use it in the plant’s vicinity. With this already well established technologies in plants sized over 500kW thermal energy which would otherwise disperse into the atmosphere will be recovered, thus improving the overall system performance thanks to an additional 80-100 kW net power being produced.
Energy from solid biomass or waste can be generated through direct combustion and subsequent use in steam or organic fluid turbines. However, such processes are scarcely energy-efficient, plus, scale-related factors make their application to small sized plants (< 1MW) inadvisable. That is why research now goes in the direction of developing processes to produce fuel that can be used in high-yield power/heat cogeneration systems with endothermic engines. Namely, research is exploring the development of such processes for industrial applications.