A proud history 

The University of Birmingham has been active in energy research for more than a century. Today our coal mining research has been replaced with carbon capture and storage; our Department of Oil Refining has evolved into an advanced School of Chemical Engineering, developing bioprocessing techniques and internationally leading hydrogen fuel cell research.

Significant events in the history of energy research and education at the University of Birmingham
1900 The University of Birmingham is established
1902 Safety Drill in Model Mine 1909The School of Mining established at the University, complete with a model mine beneath our Edgbaston campus. The department has strong links with local industrial figures and government. It teaches in underground colliery management and mine safety.
1904 Research is being done at this time into petrol engines.
1915 The University undertakes work and research for the Aircraft Establishment and the Petroleum Executive as part of War Effort. The physics labs are transformed to conduct work improving the quality and quantity of fuel and motor spirit from crude oil and fatigue testing is done on aircraft alloys.
1919 Undergraduate degree in oil engineering established. It is the first to be offered in Britain and proves very popular with industry with great graduate employment rates. Handbook advertises it with the catch line, “Put your lad into oil!”
1920s An advisory board for oil engineering is established, drawing in the big layers in industry to Birmingham to shape research and the curriculum.
1922 Chair in Petrol Mining established, as separate to that in Coal Mining. Neville Moss becomes head of mining, and his most important work is into physiological effects of working underground in high temperatures.
1926 Centre of Research into Oil Engineering and Refining established with new building opened, with three full scale oil rigs on campus.Oil Rigs on Campus
1933 Arthur Vick graduates, later to become both a Knight and the head of UK Atomic Energy Authority.
1937 Marcus OliphantThe University decides to invest in Nuclear Power, and goes to Cambridge to try to attract a “name, and spend whatever was necessary to bring nuclear physics to Birmingham in a big way”. Consequently, Marcus Oliphant joins the University. Lord Nuffield donates £60000 for the Nuffield building, to house a cyclotron, and a fellow. It is completed post war.
1939 German physicists Rudolf Peirels and Otto Frisch join Birmingham, to escape Nazism. They later write the Frisch-Peirels Memorandum which leads to the Manhattan Project.
1940 The School of Mining contributes research to the wartime Fuel Efficiency Committee.
1956 The Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors MSc is established, in the same year as the world’s first nuclear power station opens. The course still runs today.
1972 Railways group set up at Birmingham, with focus on traction and energy use.Birmingham academics help design the Hong Kong metro system.