Yulong Ding, director of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Energy Storage, UK, says that Chinese corporations are eager to collaborate with international teams to cultivate fresh technologies.
His research on the subject of energy storage was initiated about two decades ago, when China was a fledgling in this field. Now the nation’s experience and achievements in this area equate those of the US and Europe.
Ding arrived in the UK in 1994 to complete his PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Birmingham, after completing his undergraduate and master’s degrees in thermal energy engineering at the University of Science and Technology, Beijing. He achieved six years of teaching and research at this locale.
His collaborative efforts with China are primarily in the areas of thermal and liquid air energy storage. His team is comprised of postdoctoral and PhD students from China, and Chinese professors visit.
Although China is a world leader in its power to generate solar and wind energy, Ding points out that approximately two-thirds of China’s power is drawn from electricity—thus presenting genuine clean-energy challenges.
In 2016, the centre joined Beijing’s State Grid Corporation of China to begin an energy-storage research laboratory, which oversees the nation’s electric network. The collaboration has produced a half dozen research projects concerning energy conversion and storage—one endeavour, for example, involved the development of materials to be used in the storage of energy that morphs from solid to liquid, then from liquid to solid, to release power.
Another project involved a collab with China’s largest train manufacturer, CRRC, to cultivate more efficient air-conditioning systems that can be put to work on speedy and metro trains.
The team has designed a prototype air-conditioning machine that delivers sufficient cooling to meet typical needs, which is supplemented by a phase-change-material system as demand intensifies; and, with an alternate branch of CRRC, to cultivate an increasingly sustainable and cost-efficient method of transporting goods at a low temperature for lengthy trips, called cold-chain transportation. These containers can maintain the interior temperature between 5 °C and 12 °C for up to 120 hours.
At the core of these projects and the successful teamwork behind them, Ding reveals, lie a solid academic repute, the ability to deliver goods on time, and an evident sense of what needs to be achieved.