The Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI) was honoured to welcome Dr. Bachir Ismaël Ouédraogo, Energy Minister for the West African nation of Burkina Faso on to campus last week (3 August). The minister took a tour of our laboratories, learnt about our world leading research and explored how Burkina Faso and the University of Birmingham might collaborate.
Dr David Boardman, Deputy Director for BEI and Dr Karl Dearn, Reader in Mechanical Engineering, led the tour which started in our Chemical Engineering building. David started by providing a brief history of BEI, explaining that it was established to enhance the translation and application of our research to the significant global challenges in the way we deliver, consume and think about energy.
With the Burkina Faso agricultural labour force averaging around 80% of the entire labour force, the minister and his associates were keen to learn more about our work in the development of cold chains and the potential for the decarbonisation of cooling.
This led to discussions about the international work led by Professor Toby Peters on the Cold Economy and the technological opportunities brought about by Professor Yulong Ding’s research into phase change materials and cryogenic energy storage, both of which could have applications in Burkina Faso. Phase change materials can store and release large amounts of thermal energy to provide both heating and cooling whereas cryogenic energy storage could take advantage of the vast amount of solar power available in Burkina Faso, storing it for when it is needed, after the sun sets.
The tour then led on to explore the novel zero emission Dearman Engine and its use in transport refrigeration systems. This engine could be used in zero-emission refrigerated trucks that transport harvested produce, keeping the produce cooler for longer, reducing waste and consequently increasing farmer’s income. With Sustainable Energy for All reporting that only 49% of the urban and only 1% of the rural population in Burkina Faso are connected to electricity, Dr Dearn and the minister also discussed what other possible applications the mobile Dearman Engine could offer.
The visit concluded with a meeting to discuss how one of the world’s least electrified countries with a rapidly growing population could develop solutions to their challenges to store energy and develop cold chains, perhaps using some of the innovative knowhow and solutions seen at the BEI. BEI Director, Professor Martin Freer led the meeting to identify future collaborative opportunities between the minister and the university.