In spite of substantial ongoing efforts to clean up its energy habits, the world continues to struggle with environmental issues linked to pollutant fossil-fuel emissions. More than 85% of the world's energy is now supplied by fossil fuels, and fossil-fuel-based power plants are responsible for roughly 40% of total CO2 emissions.
At the Silesian University of Technology (SUT) in Gliwice, Poland, nearly 80 researchers, including 15 professors, are carrying out groundbreaking work in the field of energy research and education, eventually hoping to contribute to the more efficient and less detrimental exploitation of the world's fossil-fuel resources.
"We are particularly interested in technologies for low-carbon energy generation," says Professor Ryszard Bialecki, who chairs SUT's Institute of Thermal Technology (ITT),"especially oxycombustion and biomass utilisation, and CO2 separation and sequestration."
The university is located in the highly industrialised Upper Silesia region of Poland, where a significant and rapid transformation from heavy industry to a high-tech-based economy has been taking place.
The RECENT project, funded under the EU's FP7 Research Potential programme, is being carried out by ITT in collaboration with four partner institutions: the School of Process Environmental and Material Engineering, University of Leeds; the University of Zaragoza's Research Centre for Energy Resources and Consumptions; the Department of Energy Engineering at the University of Florence; and VTT-Finland's Technical Research Centre.
Specific research topics of interest include the in-depth economic analysis of large energy systems, technologies for low-carbon energy generation, and advanced computer-simulation techniques for the energy sector.
Support delivered by RECENT has gone towards new equipment, intensive bi-directional knowledge exchange, and networking with key research collaborators. It has also enabled longer secondments of ITT staff at partner institutions and the organisation of workshops, joint projects and twinning agreements.
"Another important result of the project," continues Professor Bialecki, "will be the organisation of three international conferences, each gathering about 100 participants, on different problems related to energy and environment." One conference, he says, was held in September 2011. "We had nearly 20 prominent keynote speakers from all over the world." The other two conferences are set to take place later in 2012.
And, acknowledges Professor Bialecki, it is working. "We believe all of this will help to enhance the research capacity of the Institute - by allowing us to reinforce links with our research contacts and with industry - and to understand and implement new management techniques. Working together with our strategic partners, we will be better integrated as a functioning research institute in the European Research Area," he explains.
Prof. Bialecki says collaboration with local and national administrations is also resulting in increased influence for ITT in the shaping of eco-energy policy. "All of this, we hope, will mean enhanced competitiveness for our group, increased international visibility, and a stronger hand in the promotion of high-tech solutions for the energy industry."