A number of exciting sustainability research projects are currently underway at the University of Melbourne.
Biofuels from Microalgae
This project is working to develop technology to produce biodiesel and other valuable by-products from large-scale cultivations of microalgae. In this project researchers from the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering have partnered the Victor Smorgon Group’s Bio Fuels Pty Ltd to improve downstream processing methods that will bring biofuel production closer to commercial reality. Compared to using fossil fuels, the production of biofuel from microalgae is an essentially carbon neutral process, with the CO2 released during fuel combustion originating from the CO2 absorbed by the algae.
The University's first on-campus direct geothermal test facility was established behind the Beaurepaire Sports Centre on the Parkville campus in 2011. The facility has about a dozen different types of ground loops installed to depths of 30 metres and is running most days to obtain ground performance data for use in the design of direct geothermal systems for heating and cooling buildings.
A second direct geothermal system isnow operational at the Campus Sustainability Centre, with boreholes to be located beneath the garden bed on the northern side of the Walter Boas building. Instrumentation installed in the system will provide on-line information on performance.
Direct geothermal energy uses the ground within a few tens of metres of the surface as a heat source in winter and a sink in summer for heating and cooling buildings. Fluid is circulated through ground loops, which comprise pipes built into building foundations, or in specifically drilled boreholes or trenches, and back to the surface. In heating mode, heat contained in the circulating fluid is extracted by a ground source heat pump (GSHP) and used to heat the building. The cooled fluid is reinjected into the ground loops to heat up again to complete the cycle. In cooling mode, the system is reversed with heat taken out of the building transferred to the fluid which is injected underground to dump the extra heat to the ground. The cooled fluid then returns to the heat pump to receive more heat from the building.
For each kW of electrical power put into a direct geothermal system, about 4 kW of power is developed for heating and cooling. Therefore, outside the capital costs of the installation, 75% of the power is free. Further, as much of the electrical energy in Victoria is generated with brown coal, replacing 75% of the energy used with a clean renewable source, the greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to as little as about 25% of current practice. Capital costs can often be recovered in a few years.
How shallow geothermal bores can be used to regulate temperature.
Green Roof Research Centre
Te Burnley Green Roofs Project will determine the best plant species and soils to use on city roofs, demonstrate how green roofs can use storm water and reduce building energy use and showcase how beautiful and multi-functional green roofs can be.
Please see the below links for more information:
- MUSSE Article 'Sowing the seeds for greener cities'
- Video Visions video 'Green roofs growing research'
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