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21 Projects

  • Canada
  • 2013-2022
  • UK Research and Innovation
  • OA Publications Mandate: No
  • 2011

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/I027282/1
    Funder Contribution: 612,995 GBP

    Methane is a powerful long-lived greenhouse gas that is second only to carbon dioxide in its radiative forcing potential. Understanding the Earth's methane cycle at regional scales is a necessary step for evaluating the effectiveness of methane emission reduction schemes, detecting changes in biological sources and sinks of methane that are influenced by climate, and predicting and perhaps mitigating future methane emissions. The growth rate of atmospheric methane has slowed since the 1990s but it continues to show considerable year-to-year variability that cannot be adequately explained. Some of the variability is caused by the influence of weather on systems in which methane is produced biologically. When an anomalous increase in atmospheric methane is detected in the northern hemisphere that links to warm weather conditions, typically wetlands and peatlands are thought to be the cause. However, small lakes and ponds commonly are overlooked as potential major sources of methane emissions. Lakes historically have been regarded as minor emitters of methane because diffusive fluxes during summer months are negligible. This notion has persisted until recently even though measurements beginning in the 1990s have consistently shown that significant amounts of methane are emitted from northern lakes during spring and autumn. In the winter time the ice cover isolates lake water from the atmosphere and the water column become poor in oxygen and stratified. Methane production increases in bottom sediment and the gas spreads through the water column with some methane-rich bubbles rising upwards and becoming trapped in the ice cover as it thickens downward in late winter. In spring when the ice melts the gas is released. Through changes in temperature and the influence of wind the lake water column mixes and deeper accumulations of methane are lost to the atmosphere. In summer the water column stratifies again and methane accumulates once more in the bottom sediments. When the water column become thermally unstable in the autumn and eventually overturns the deep methane is once again released although a greater proportion of it appears to be consumed by bacteria in the autumn. Lakes differ in the chemistry of their water as well as the geometry of their basins. Thus it is difficult to be certain that all lakes will behave in this way but for many it seems likely. The proposed study will measure the build-up of methane in lakes during spring and autumn across a range of ecological zones in North America. The focus will be on spring build-up and emissions because that gas is the least likely to be influenced by methane-consuming bacteria. However, detailed measurements of methane emissions will also be made in the autumn at a subset of lakes. The measurements will then be scaled to a regional level using remote sensing data providing a 'bottom-up' estimate of spring and autumn methane fluxes. Those results will be compared to a 'top-down' estimate determined using a Met Office dispersion model that back-calculates the path of air masses for which the concentration of atmospheric methane has been measured at global monitoring stations in order to determine how much methane had to be added to the air during its passage through a region. Comparing estimates by these two approaches will provide independent assessments of the potential impact of seasonal methane fluxes from northern lakes. In addition measurements of the light and heavy versions of carbon and hydrogen atoms in methane (C, H) and water (H) will be measured to evaluate their potential use as tracer for uniquely identifying methane released by lakes at different latitudes. If successful the proposed study has the potential to yield a step-change in our perception of the methane cycle by demonstrating conclusively that a second major weather-sensitive source of biological methane contributes to year-to-year shifts in the growth rate of atmospheric methane.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/I009906/1
    Funder Contribution: 625,765 GBP

    The vulnerability of extensive near-coastal habitation, infrastructure, and trade makes global sea-level rise a major global concern for society. The UK coastline, for example, has ~£150 billion of assets at risk from coastal flooding, of which with £75 billion in London alone. Consequently, most nations have developed/ implemented protection plans, which commonly use ranges of sea-level rise estimates from global warming scenarios such as those published by IPCC, supplemented by worst-case values from limited geological studies. UKCP09 provides the most up-to-date guidance on UK sea-level rise scenarios and includes a low probability, high impact range for maximum UK sea level rise for use in contingency planning and in considerations regarding the limits to potential adaptation (the H++ scenario). UKCP09 emphasises that the H++ scenario is unlikely for the next century, but it does introduce significant concerns when planning for longer-term future sea-level rise. Currently, the range for H++ is set to 0.9-1.9 m of rise by the end of the 21st century. This range of uncertainty is large (with vast planning and financial implications), and - more critically - it has no robust statistical basis. It is important, therefore, to better understand the processes controlling the maximum sea-level rise estimate for the future on these time-scales. This forms the overarching motivation for the consortium project proposed here. iGlass is a broad-ranging interdisciplinary project that will integrate field data and modelling, in order to study the response of ice volume/sea level to different climate states during the last five interglacials, which include times with significantly higher sea level than the present. This will identify the likelihood of reduced ice cover over Greenland and West Antarctica, an important constraint on future sea-level projections. A key outcome will be to place sound limits on the likely ice-volume contribution to maximum sea-level rise estimates for the future. Our project is guided by three key questions: Q1. What do palaeo-sea level positions reveal about the global ice-volume/sea-level changes during a range of different interglacial climate states? Q2. What were the rates of sea-level rise in past interglacials, and to what extent are these relevant for future change, given the different climate forcing? Q3. Under a range of given (IPCC) climate projection scenarios, what are the projected limits to maximum sea-level rise over the next few centuries when accounting for ice-sheet contributions? The research will directly inform decision-making processes regarding flood risk management in the UK and abroad. In this respect, the project benefits from the close co-operation with scientists and practitioners in the UK Environment Agency, UKCIP, the UK insurance industry, as well as the wider global academic and user communities.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H024301/1
    Funder Contribution: 716,274 GBP

    Relative sea level (RSL) change reflects the interplay between a large number of variables operating at scales from global to local. Changes in RSL around the British Isles (BI) since the height of the last glaciation (ca. 24 000 years ago), are dominated by two key variables (i) the rise of ocean levels caused by climate warming and the melting of land-based ice; and (ii) the vertical adjustment of the Earth's surface due to the redistribution of this mass (unloading of formerly glaciated regions and loading of the ocean basins and margins). As a consequence RSL histories vary considerably across the region once covered by the British-Irish Ice Sheet (BIIS). The variable RSL history means that the BI is a globally important location for studying the interactions between land, ice and the ocean during the profound and rapid changes that followed the last glacial maximum. The BI RSL record is an important yardstick for testing global models of land-ice-ocean interactions and this in turn is important for understanding future climate and sea level scenarios. At present, the observational record of RSL change in the British Isles is limited to shallow water areas because of accessibility and only the later part of the RSL curve is well studied. In Northern Britain, where the land has been rising most, RSL indicators are close to or above present sea level and the RSL record is most complete. In southern locations, where uplift has been less, sea level was below the present for long periods of time but there is very little data on RSL position. There are varying levels of agreement between models and existing field data and we cannot be certain of model projections of former low sea levels. Getting the models right is important for understanding the whole global pattern of land-ice-ocean interactions in the past and into the future. To gather the missing data and thus improve the utility of the British RSL curves for testing earth-ice-ocean models, we will employ a specialised, interdisciplinary approach that brings together a unique team of experts in a multidisciplinary team. We have carefully selected sites where there is evidence of former sea levels is definitely preserved and we will use existing seabed geological data in British and Irish archives to plan our investigations. The first step is marine geophysical profiling of submerged seabed sediments and mapping of surface geomorphological features on the seabed. These features include the (usually) erosional surface (unconformity) produced by the rise in sea level, and surface geomorphological features that indicate former shorelines (submerged beaches, barriers and deltas). These allow us to identify the position (but not the age) of lower than present sea levels. The second step is to use this stratigraphic and geomorphological information to identify sites where we will take cores to acquire sediments and organic material from low sea-level deposits. We will analyse the sediments and fossil content of the cores to find material that can be closely related to former sea levels and radiocarbon dated. The third step in our approach is to extend the observed RSL curves using our new data and compare this to model predictions of RSL. We can then modify the parameters in the model to obtain better agreement with observations and thus better understand the earth-ice-ocean interactions. These data are also important for understanding the palaeogeography of the British Isles. Our data will allow a first order reconstruction of former coastlines, based upon the modern bathymetry, for different time periods during the deglaciation. This is of particular importance to the presence or absence of potential landbridges that might have enabled immigration to Ireland of humans and animals. They will also allow us to identify former land surfaces on the seabed. The palaeogeography is crucial to understanding the evolving oceanographic circulation of the Irish Sea.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/I012915/1
    Funder Contribution: 401,388 GBP

    Future climate change is one of the most challenging issues facing humankind and an enormous research effort is directed at attempting to construct realistic projections of 21st century climate based on underlying assumptions about greenhouse gas emissions. Climate models now include many of the components of the earth system that influence climate over a range of timescales. Understanding and quantifying earth system processes is vital to projections of future climate change because many processes provide 'feedbacks' to climate change, either reinforcing upward trends in greenhouse gas concentrations and temperature (positive feedbacks) or sometimes damping them (negative feedbacks). One key feedback loop is formed by the global carbon cycle, part of which is the terrestrial carbon cycle. As carbon dioxide concentrations and temperatures rise, carbon sequestration by plants increases but at the same time, increasing temperatures lead to increased decay of dead plant material in soils. Carbon cycle models suggest that the balance between these two effects will lead to a strong positive feedback, but there is a very large uncertainty associated with this finding and this process represents one of the biggest unknowns in future climate change projections. In order to reduce these uncertainties, models need to be validated against data such as records for the past millennium. Furthermore, it is extremely important to make sure that the models are providing a realistic representation of the global carbon cycle and include all its major component parts. Current models exclude any consideration of the reaction of peatlands to climate change, even though these ecosystems contain almost as much carbon as the global atmosphere and are potentially sensitive to climate variability. On the one hand, increased warmth may increase respiration and decay of peat and on the other hand, even quite small increases in productivity may compensate for this or even exceed it in high latitude peatlands. A further complication is that peatlands emit quite large quantities of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas. Our proposed project aims to assess the contribution of peatlands to the global carbon cycle over the past 1000 years by linking together climate data and climate model output with models that simulate the distribution and growth of peatlands on a global scale. The models will also estimate changes in methane emissions from peatlands. In particular, we will test the hypotheses that warmth leads to lower rates of carbon accumulation and that this means that globally, peatlands will sequester less carbon in future than they do now. We will also test whether future climate changes lead to a positive or negative feedback from peatland methane emissions. To determine how well our models can simulate the peatland-climate links, we will test the model output for the last millennium against fossil data of peat growth rates and hydrological changes (related to methane emissions). To do this, we will assemble a large database of published information but also new data acquired in collaboration with partners from other research organisations around the world who are involved in collecting information and samples that we can make use of once we undertake some additional dating and analyses. Once the model has been evaluated against the last millennium data, we will make projections of the future changes in the global carbon cycle that may occur as a result of future climate change. This will provide a strong basis for making a decision on the need to incorporate peatland dynamics into the next generation of climate models. Ultimately we expect this to reduce uncertainty in future climate change predictions.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/J003247/1
    Funder Contribution: 359,554 GBP

    Connectedness, as in "can we get there from here", is a fundamental concept, both in actual space and in various abstract spaces. Consider a long ladder in a right-angled corridor: can it get round the corner? Calling it a corridor implies that it is connected in actual three-dimensional space. But if we consider the space of configurations of the ladder, this is determined by the position and orientation of the ladder, and the `corridor' is now the requirement that no part of the ladder run into the walls - it is not sufficient that the ends of the ladder be clear of the walls. If the ladder is too long, it may have two feasible positions, one in each arm of the corridor, but there may be no possible way to get from one to the other. In this case we say that the configuration space of the ladder is not connected: we can't get the ladder there from here, even though we can get each end (taken separately, which is physically impossible) from here to there. Connectedness in configuration space is therefore the key to motion planning. These are problems human beings (especially furniture movers, or people trying to park cars in confined spaces) solve intuitively, but find very hard to explain. Note that the ladder is rigid and three-dimensional, hence its position is determined by the coordinates of three points on it, so configuration space is nine-dimensional. Connectedness in mathematical spaces is also important. The square root of 4 can be either 2 or -2: we have to decide which. Similarly, the square root of 9 can be 3 or -3. But, if 4 is connected to 9 in our problem space (whatever that is), we can't make these choices independently: our choice has to be consistent along the path from 4 to 9. When it is impossible to make such decisions totally consistently, we have what mathematicians call a `branch cut' - the classic example being the International Date Line, because it is impossible to assign `day' consistently round a globe. In previous work, we have shown that several mathematical paradoxes reduce to connectedness questions in an appropriate space divided by the relevant branch cuts. This is an area of mathematics which is notoriously difficult to get right by hand, and mathematicians, and software packages, often have internal inconsistencies when it comes to branch cuts. The standard computational approach to connectedness, which has been suggested in motion planning since the early 1980s, is via a technique called cylindrical algebraic decomposition. This has historically been computed via a "bottom-up" approach: we first analyse one direction, say the x-axis, decomposing it into all the critical points and intermediate regions necessary, then we take each (x,y)-cylinder above each critical point or region, and decompose it, then each (x,y,z) above each of these regions, and so on. Not only does this sound tedious, but it is inevitably tedious - the investigators and others have shown that the problem is extremely difficult (doubly exponential in the number of dimensions). Much of the time, notably in motion planning, we are not actually interested in the lower-dimensional components, since they would correspond to a motion with no degrees of freedom, rather like tightrope-walking. Recent Canadian developments have shown an alternative way of computing such decompositions via so-called triangular decompositions, and a 2010 paper (Moreno Maza in Canada + Davenport) has shown that the highest-dimensional components of a triangular decomposition can be computed in singly-exponential time. This therefore opens up the prospect, which we propose to investigate, of computing the highest-dimensional components of a cylindrical decomposition in singly-exponential time, which would be a major breakthrough in computational geometry.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/I031170/1
    Funder Contribution: 536,960 GBP

    Current computer graphics techniques allow us to render almost any object at near photo-realistic quality. However, the standard approach necessitates that the user painstakingly specifies all aspects of the geometric and material properties of the object. This is time-consuming and needs skilled human operators. It is hard to edit the resulting models at anything other than the low level of geometry and materials at which they are specified. Moreover, we cannot edit real photographs without reverse engineering the underlying model and this is very difficult.In this proposal we investigate a radically different pipeline for computer graphics that will allow non-experts to rapidly create and edit photo-realistic two dimensional images of objects. The crux of our approach is to provide the computer with a deeper understanding of the class of objects under consideration. This knowledge (which takes the form of a statistical model) is then leveraged to help the user achieve their goals more easily. The impact of this project is potentially enormous. Such a technology could become a standard tool installed on every home and business computer. Some of the many potential applications are:- Conceptual design. Manufacturing industries often need to sketch new product ideas and refine existing designs. Our system could help a fashion designer produce and manipulate photo-realistic images of new garments.- Clipart objects. Stock images are required for on-line and real-world publishing and these are often sought via search engines (e.g. Google Images). However, the returned results are often not ideal and may be subject to copyright. Our approach will allow the user to design bespoke images to exactly their specifications.- Photo and movie editing. Digital editing of images and movies is commonplace, but requires considerable skill. Our techniques could be used to modify facial expressions in portrait photography or apply digital cosmetics in movie post-production.- Content for virtual worlds. The trend towards larger 'sandbox' environments in video games has created an explosive demand for graphical content. Our system could allow automated or semi-automated creation of photorealistic building facades for a large virtual environment.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/J00538X/1
    Funder Contribution: 289,002 GBP

    Climate science demands on data management are growing rapidly as climate models grow in the precision with which they depict spatial structures and in the completeness with which they describe a vast range of physical processes. For the Climate Model Inter-comparison Project 5 (CMIP5), a distributed archive is being constructed to provide access to what is expected to be in excess of 10 Peta-bytes of global climate change projections. The data will be held at 30 or more computing centres and data archives around the world, but for users it will appear as a single archive described by one catalogue. In addition, the usability of the data will be enhanced by a three-step validation process and the publication of Digital Object Identifiers (doi) for all the data. For many users the spatial resolution provided by the global climate models (around 150km) is inadequate: the CORDEX project will provide data scaled down to around 10km. Evaluation of climate impacts often revolves around extremes and complex impact factors, requiring high volumes of data to be stored. At the same time, uncertainty about the optimal configuration of the models imposes the requirement that each scenario be explored with multiple models. This project will explore the challenges of developing a software management infrastructure which will scale to the multi-exabyte archives of climate data which are likely to be crucial to major policy decisions in by the end of the decade. Support for automated processing of the archived data and metadata will be essential. In the short term goal, strategies will be evaluated by applying them to the CORDEX project data.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H021868/1
    Funder Contribution: 569,600 GBP

    The Cretaceous, 146-66 million years ago, experienced high levels of atmospheric CO2, and the warmest climates and highest global sea-levels in the last 300 Ma. On several occasions, the oceans became abruptly depleted in oxygen, so-called oceanic anoxic events (OAEs), when organic matter accumulated in the oceans, producing widespread black shales that now act as oil source rocks. However, the mechanisms that caused these events remain hotly debated. This proposal aims to use a new multi-dynamic approach to better understand the mechanisms that caused the onset, duration and cessation of global carbon burial events during the Late Cretaceous. Burial of organic matter leads to the preferential removal of isotopically light carbon from the oceans, increasing the 13C/12C ratio of seawater and, via the atmospheric CO2 reservoir, the entire Earth surface system. Weathering releases 12C back to the surface carbon cycle. Carbonates and organic matter in rocks preserve changes in C-isotope ratios through time, providing a basis for C-isotope stratigraphy. Major changes are synchronous and global in extent, and we have proposed that C-isotope variation in the Late Cretaceous may be used as a proxy for global sea-level change; this remains to be tested. Osmium, a platinum group element with a short ocean residence time of <40 kyr, also shows isotopic variation in seawater through time, being controlled predominantly by two end-member components: weathering of crust and input from volcanic activity (mantle). These have drastically different ratios, so Os isotopes potentially may provide high-resolution stratigraphic control during times of palaeoenvironmental change, such as episodes of increased weathering or volcanic input. The modern oceans display a uniform Os-isotope ratio, but our new data for Os isotopes through an OAE at ~94 Ma indicate that the Atlantic displayed diachronous shifts in Os isotopes. This offers an exciting potential new tool for studying palaeocean-mixing. However, this OAE may be a unique event with regard to oceanic Os; further regions and OAEs need to be tested. This project will use C-isotope stratigraphy from organic matter to correlate global successions from diverse environments, palaeolatitudes and oceanic settings. The time interval to be investigated, 101 - 83 Ma, was characterized by two OAEs and other significant changes in the carbon cycle. We aim to answer the following: (1) Are secular C- and Os-isotope curves related to sea-level change? (2) Can Os-isotope stratigraphy be used for chemostratigraphy: is it synchronous or diachronous? (3) Do OAEs coincide with Os-isotope excursions, and what was the steady state of the oceans? (4) What are the relationships between sea-level change, climate and ocean anoxia; can we finally identify the key forcing mechanism for widespread ocean stagnation? Sites in Canada, France, Czech Republic, Far East Russia, Ecuador, South Atlantic, and offshore Australia will be studied. The relative sea-level histories for each basin, correlated using C-isotopes, will be used to test relationships between C-isotope stratigraphy and sea-level change. Key stratigraphic time intervals will be characterised for Os isotopes and trace-metals to: establish the evolution of Os isotopes in the Late Cretaceous oceans; evaluate possible regional variation in the Os-isotope composition of seawater; establish levels of seawater oxygenation in the associated water masses; and identify the causes of widespread ocean stagnation. Results from our Cretaceous extreme-greenhouse study will provide unique constraints for modelling interactions between, and the impacts of, sea-level and climate change, and perturbations of the global carbon cycle for an icecap-free Earth; the increasingly likely near-future for our planet. The proposed research will aid in understanding whether periods of ocean stagnation are a likely future consequence of present-day global warming.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/I006672/1
    Funder Contribution: 807,791 GBP

    PAGODA will focus on the global dimensions of changes in the water cycle in the atmosphere, land, and oceans. The overarching aim is to increase confidence in projections of the changing water cycle on global-to-regional scales through a process-based detection, attribution and prediction. The scientific scope prioritises themes 2,1,3,4 in the AO, adopting a focus on climate processes to extend our understanding of the causes of water source/sink uncertainty at the regional scale, which is where GCMs show huge variations concerning projected changes in precipitation, evaporation, and other water related variables. This model uncertainty is closely linked to shifts in large-scale circulation patterns and surface feedback processes, which differ between models. Furthermore, even where models agree with each other (for example, the suggested trend towards wetter winters and drier summers in Europe, connected to storm tracks and land surface processes), consistency with the real world cannot be taken for granted. The importance of quantitative comparisons between models and observations cannot be overstated: there is opportunity and urgent need for research to understand the processes that are driving changes in the water cycle, on spatial scales that range from global to microscopic, and to establish whether apparent discrepancies are attributable to observational uncertainties, to errors in the specification of forcings, or to model limitations. PAGODA will achieve its scientific objectives by confronting models with observations and reconciling observations, which possess inherent uncertainty and heterogeneity, with robust chains of physical mechanisms - employing model analysis and experiments in an integral way. Detection and attribution is applied throughout, in an iterative fashion, to merge the understanding from observations and models consistently, in order to isolate processes and identify causality. PAGODA is designed to focus specifically on the processes that govern global-to-regional scale changes in the water cycle, particularly on decadal timescales (the timescale of anthropogenic climate change). It addresses processes in the atmosphere, land and oceans, and brings together experts in climate observations, climate models, and detection and attribution. It seeks to exploit important new opportunities for research progress, including new observational data sets (e.g. ocean salinity reanalysis, TRMM and SSMIS satellite products, long precipitation records), new models (HadGEM3 & new capabilities for high resolution simulations), and the new CMIP5 model inter-comparison and to develop new methodologies for process-based detection, attribution and prediction.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/I019278/1
    Funder Contribution: 5,012,100 GBP

    In the UK there are more than four billion square metres of roofs and facades forming the building envelope. Most of this could potentially be used for harvesting solar energy and yet it covers less than 1.8 % of the UK land area. The shared vision for SPECIFIC is develop affordable large area solar collectors which can replace standard roofs and generate over one third of the UK's total target renewable energy by 2020 (10.8 GW peak and 19 TWh) reducing CO2 output by 6 million tonnes per year. This will be achieved with an annual production of 20 million m2 by 2020 equating to less than 0.5% of the available roof and wall area. SPECIFIC will realise this by quickly developing practical functional coated materials on metals and glass that can be manufactured by industry in large volumes to produce, store and release energy at point of use. These products will be suitable for fitting on both new and existing buildings which is important since 50% of the UKs current CO2 emissions come from the built environment.The key focus for SPECIFIC will be to accelerate the commercialisation of IP, knowledge and expertise held between the University partners (Swansea, ICL, Bath, Glyndwr, and Bangor) and UK based industry in three key areas of electricity generation from solar energy (photovoltaics), heat generation (solar thermal) and storage/controlled release. The combination of functionality will be achieved through applying functional coatings to metal and glass surfaces. Critical to this success is the active involvement in the Centre of the steel giant Corus/Tata and the glass manufacturer Pilkington. These two materials dominate the facings of the building stock and are surfaces which can be engineered. In addition major chemical companies (BASF and Akzo Nobel as two examples) and specialist suppliers to the emerging PV industry (e.g. Dyesol) are involved in the project giving it both academic depth and industrial relevance. To maximise open innovation colleagues from industry will be based SPECIFIC some permanently and some part time. SPECIFIC Technologists will also have secondments to partner University and Industry research and development facilities.SPECIFIC will combine three thriving research groups at Swansea with an equipment armoury of some 3.9m into one shared facility. SPECIFIC has also been supported with an equipment grant of 1.2 million from the Welsh Assembly Government. This will be used to build a dedicated modular roll to roll coating facility with a variety of coating and curing functions which can be used to scale up and trial successful technology at the pre-industrial scale. This facility will be run and operated by three experienced line technicians on secondment from industry. The modular coating line compliments equipment at Glyndwr for scaling up conducting oxide deposition, at CPi for barrier film development and at Pilkington for continuous application of materials to float glass giving the grouping unrivalled capability in functional coating. SPECIFIC is a unique business opportunity bridging a technology gap, delivering affordable novel macro-scale micro-generation, making a major contribution to UK renewable energy targets and creating a new export opportunity for off grid power in the developing world. It will ultimately generate thousands high technology jobs within a green manufacturing sector, creating a sustainable international centre of excellence in functional coatings where multi-sector applications are developed for next generation manufacturing.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/I027282/1
    Funder Contribution: 612,995 GBP

    Methane is a powerful long-lived greenhouse gas that is second only to carbon dioxide in its radiative forcing potential. Understanding the Earth's methane cycle at regional scales is a necessary step for evaluating the effectiveness of methane emission reduction schemes, detecting changes in biological sources and sinks of methane that are influenced by climate, and predicting and perhaps mitigating future methane emissions. The growth rate of atmospheric methane has slowed since the 1990s but it continues to show considerable year-to-year variability that cannot be adequately explained. Some of the variability is caused by the influence of weather on systems in which methane is produced biologically. When an anomalous increase in atmospheric methane is detected in the northern hemisphere that links to warm weather conditions, typically wetlands and peatlands are thought to be the cause. However, small lakes and ponds commonly are overlooked as potential major sources of methane emissions. Lakes historically have been regarded as minor emitters of methane because diffusive fluxes during summer months are negligible. This notion has persisted until recently even though measurements beginning in the 1990s have consistently shown that significant amounts of methane are emitted from northern lakes during spring and autumn. In the winter time the ice cover isolates lake water from the atmosphere and the water column become poor in oxygen and stratified. Methane production increases in bottom sediment and the gas spreads through the water column with some methane-rich bubbles rising upwards and becoming trapped in the ice cover as it thickens downward in late winter. In spring when the ice melts the gas is released. Through changes in temperature and the influence of wind the lake water column mixes and deeper accumulations of methane are lost to the atmosphere. In summer the water column stratifies again and methane accumulates once more in the bottom sediments. When the water column become thermally unstable in the autumn and eventually overturns the deep methane is once again released although a greater proportion of it appears to be consumed by bacteria in the autumn. Lakes differ in the chemistry of their water as well as the geometry of their basins. Thus it is difficult to be certain that all lakes will behave in this way but for many it seems likely. The proposed study will measure the build-up of methane in lakes during spring and autumn across a range of ecological zones in North America. The focus will be on spring build-up and emissions because that gas is the least likely to be influenced by methane-consuming bacteria. However, detailed measurements of methane emissions will also be made in the autumn at a subset of lakes. The measurements will then be scaled to a regional level using remote sensing data providing a 'bottom-up' estimate of spring and autumn methane fluxes. Those results will be compared to a 'top-down' estimate determined using a Met Office dispersion model that back-calculates the path of air masses for which the concentration of atmospheric methane has been measured at global monitoring stations in order to determine how much methane had to be added to the air during its passage through a region. Comparing estimates by these two approaches will provide independent assessments of the potential impact of seasonal methane fluxes from northern lakes. In addition measurements of the light and heavy versions of carbon and hydrogen atoms in methane (C, H) and water (H) will be measured to evaluate their potential use as tracer for uniquely identifying methane released by lakes at different latitudes. If successful the proposed study has the potential to yield a step-change in our perception of the methane cycle by demonstrating conclusively that a second major weather-sensitive source of biological methane contributes to year-to-year shifts in the growth rate of atmospheric methane.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/I009906/1
    Funder Contribution: 625,765 GBP

    The vulnerability of extensive near-coastal habitation, infrastructure, and trade makes global sea-level rise a major global concern for society. The UK coastline, for example, has ~£150 billion of assets at risk from coastal flooding, of which with £75 billion in London alone. Consequently, most nations have developed/ implemented protection plans, which commonly use ranges of sea-level rise estimates from global warming scenarios such as those published by IPCC, supplemented by worst-case values from limited geological studies. UKCP09 provides the most up-to-date guidance on UK sea-level rise scenarios and includes a low probability, high impact range for maximum UK sea level rise for use in contingency planning and in considerations regarding the limits to potential adaptation (the H++ scenario). UKCP09 emphasises that the H++ scenario is unlikely for the next century, but it does introduce significant concerns when planning for longer-term future sea-level rise. Currently, the range for H++ is set to 0.9-1.9 m of rise by the end of the 21st century. This range of uncertainty is large (with vast planning and financial implications), and - more critically - it has no robust statistical basis. It is important, therefore, to better understand the processes controlling the maximum sea-level rise estimate for the future on these time-scales. This forms the overarching motivation for the consortium project proposed here. iGlass is a broad-ranging interdisciplinary project that will integrate field data and modelling, in order to study the response of ice volume/sea level to different climate states during the last five interglacials, which include times with significantly higher sea level than the present. This will identify the likelihood of reduced ice cover over Greenland and West Antarctica, an important constraint on future sea-level projections. A key outcome will be to place sound limits on the likely ice-volume contribution to maximum sea-level rise estimates for the future. Our project is guided by three key questions: Q1. What do palaeo-sea level positions reveal about the global ice-volume/sea-level changes during a range of different interglacial climate states? Q2. What were the rates of sea-level rise in past interglacials, and to what extent are these relevant for future change, given the different climate forcing? Q3. Under a range of given (IPCC) climate projection scenarios, what are the projected limits to maximum sea-level rise over the next few centuries when accounting for ice-sheet contributions? The research will directly inform decision-making processes regarding flood risk management in the UK and abroad. In this respect, the project benefits from the close co-operation with scientists and practitioners in the UK Environment Agency, UKCIP, the UK insurance industry, as well as the wider global academic and user communities.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H024301/1
    Funder Contribution: 716,274 GBP

    Relative sea level (RSL) change reflects the interplay between a large number of variables operating at scales from global to local. Changes in RSL around the British Isles (BI) since the height of the last glaciation (ca. 24 000 years ago), are dominated by two key variables (i) the rise of ocean levels caused by climate warming and the melting of land-based ice; and (ii) the vertical adjustment of the Earth's surface due to the redistribution of this mass (unloading of formerly glaciated regions and loading of the ocean basins and margins). As a consequence RSL histories vary considerably across the region once covered by the British-Irish Ice Sheet (BIIS). The variable RSL history means that the BI is a globally important location for studying the interactions between land, ice and the ocean during the profound and rapid changes that followed the last glacial maximum. The BI RSL record is an important yardstick for testing global models of land-ice-ocean interactions and this in turn is important for understanding future climate and sea level scenarios. At present, the observational record of RSL change in the British Isles is limited to shallow water areas because of accessibility and only the later part of the RSL curve is well studied. In Northern Britain, where the land has been rising most, RSL indicators are close to or above present sea level and the RSL record is most complete. In southern locations, where uplift has been less, sea level was below the present for long periods of time but there is very little data on RSL position. There are varying levels of agreement between models and existing field data and we cannot be certain of model projections of former low sea levels. Getting the models right is important for understanding the whole global pattern of land-ice-ocean interactions in the past and into the future. To gather the missing data and thus improve the utility of the British RSL curves for testing earth-ice-ocean models, we will employ a specialised, interdisciplinary approach that brings together a unique team of experts in a multidisciplinary team. We have carefully selected sites where there is evidence of former sea levels is definitely preserved and we will use existing seabed geological data in British and Irish archives to plan our investigations. The first step is marine geophysical profiling of submerged seabed sediments and mapping of surface geomorphological features on the seabed. These features include the (usually) erosional surface (unconformity) produced by the rise in sea level, and surface geomorphological features that indicate former shorelines (submerged beaches, barriers and deltas). These allow us to identify the position (but not the age) of lower than present sea levels. The second step is to use this stratigraphic and geomorphological information to identify sites where we will take cores to acquire sediments and organic material from low sea-level deposits. We will analyse the sediments and fossil content of the cores to find material that can be closely related to former sea levels and radiocarbon dated. The third step in our approach is to extend the observed RSL curves using our new data and compare this to model predictions of RSL. We can then modify the parameters in the model to obtain better agreement with observations and thus better understand the earth-ice-ocean interactions. These data are also important for understanding the palaeogeography of the British Isles. Our data will allow a first order reconstruction of former coastlines, based upon the modern bathymetry, for different time periods during the deglaciation. This is of particular importance to the presence or absence of potential landbridges that might have enabled immigration to Ireland of humans and animals. They will also allow us to identify former land surfaces on the seabed. The palaeogeography is crucial to understanding the evolving oceanographic circulation of the Irish Sea.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/I012915/1
    Funder Contribution: 401,388 GBP

    Future climate change is one of the most challenging issues facing humankind and an enormous research effort is directed at attempting to construct realistic projections of 21st century climate based on underlying assumptions about greenhouse gas emissions. Climate models now include many of the components of the earth system that influence climate over a range of timescales. Understanding and quantifying earth system processes is vital to projections of future climate change because many processes provide 'feedbacks' to climate change, either reinforcing upward trends in greenhouse gas concentrations and temperature (positive feedbacks) or sometimes damping them (negative feedbacks). One key feedback loop is formed by the global carbon cycle, part of which is the terrestrial carbon cycle. As carbon dioxide concentrations and temperatures rise, carbon sequestration by plants increases but at the same time, increasing temperatures lead to increased decay of dead plant material in soils. Carbon cycle models suggest that the balance between these two effects will lead to a strong positive feedback, but there is a very large uncertainty associated with this finding and this process represents one of the biggest unknowns in future climate change projections. In order to reduce these uncertainties, models need to be validated against data such as records for the past millennium. Furthermore, it is extremely important to make sure that the models are providing a realistic representation of the global carbon cycle and include all its major component parts. Current models exclude any consideration of the reaction of peatlands to climate change, even though these ecosystems contain almost as much carbon as the global atmosphere and are potentially sensitive to climate variability. On the one hand, increased warmth may increase respiration and decay of peat and on the other hand, even quite small increases in productivity may compensate for this or even exceed it in high latitude peatlands. A further complication is that peatlands emit quite large quantities of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas. Our proposed project aims to assess the contribution of peatlands to the global carbon cycle over the past 1000 years by linking together climate data and climate model output with models that simulate the distribution and growth of peatlands on a global scale. The models will also estimate changes in methane emissions from peatlands. In particular, we will test the hypotheses that warmth leads to lower rates of carbon accumulation and that this means that globally, peatlands will sequester less carbon in future than they do now. We will also test whether future climate changes lead to a positive or negative feedback from peatland methane emissions. To determine how well our models can simulate the peatland-climate links, we will test the model output for the last millennium against fossil data of peat growth rates and hydrological changes (related to methane emissions). To do this, we will assemble a large database of published information but also new data acquired in collaboration with partners from other research organisations around the world who are involved in collecting information and samples that we can make use of once we undertake some additional dating and analyses. Once the model has been evaluated against the last millennium data, we will make projections of the future changes in the global carbon cycle that may occur as a result of future climate change. This will provide a strong basis for making a decision on the need to incorporate peatland dynamics into the next generation of climate models. Ultimately we expect this to reduce uncertainty in future climate change predictions.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/J003247/1
    Funder Contribution: 359,554 GBP

    Connectedness, as in "can we get there from here", is a fundamental concept, both in actual space and in various abstract spaces. Consider a long ladder in a right-angled corridor: can it get round the corner? Calling it a corridor implies that it is connected in actual three-dimensional space. But if we consider the space of configurations of the ladder, this is determined by the position and orientation of the ladder, and the `corridor' is now the requirement that no part of the ladder run into the walls - it is not sufficient that the ends of the ladder be clear of the walls. If the ladder is too long, it may have two feasible positions, one in each arm of the corridor, but there may be no possible way to get from one to the other. In this case we say that the configuration space of the ladder is not connected: we can't get the ladder there from here, even though we can get each end (taken separately, which is physically impossible) from here to there. Connectedness in configuration space is therefore the key to motion planning. These are problems human beings (especially furniture movers, or people trying to park cars in confined spaces) solve intuitively, but find very hard to explain. Note that the ladder is rigid and three-dimensional, hence its position is determined by the coordinates of three points on it, so configuration space is nine-dimensional. Connectedness in mathematical spaces is also important. The square root of 4 can be either 2 or -2: we have to decide which. Similarly, the square root of 9 can be 3 or -3. But, if 4 is connected to 9 in our problem space (whatever that is), we can't make these choices independently: our choice has to be consistent along the path from 4 to 9. When it is impossible to make such decisions totally consistently, we have what mathematicians call a `branch cut' - the classic example being the International Date Line, because it is impossible to assign `day' consistently round a globe. In previous work, we have shown that several mathematical paradoxes reduce to connectedness questions in an appropriate space divided by the relevant branch cuts. This is an area of mathematics which is notoriously difficult to get right by hand, and mathematicians, and software packages, often have internal inconsistencies when it comes to branch cuts. The standard computational approach to connectedness, which has been suggested in motion planning since the early 1980s, is via a technique called cylindrical algebraic decomposition. This has historically been computed via a "bottom-up" approach: we first analyse one direction, say the x-axis, decomposing it into all the critical points and intermediate regions necessary, then we take each (x,y)-cylinder above each critical point or region, and decompose it, then each (x,y,z) above each of these regions, and so on. Not only does this sound tedious, but it is inevitably tedious - the investigators and others have shown that the problem is extremely difficult (doubly exponential in the number of dimensions). Much of the time, notably in motion planning, we are not actually interested in the lower-dimensional components, since they would correspond to a motion with no degrees of freedom, rather like tightrope-walking. Recent Canadian developments have shown an alternative way of computing such decompositions via so-called triangular decompositions, and a 2010 paper (Moreno Maza in Canada + Davenport) has shown that the highest-dimensional components of a triangular decomposition can be computed in singly-exponential time. This therefore opens up the prospect, which we propose to investigate, of computing the highest-dimensional components of a cylindrical decomposition in singly-exponential time, which would be a major breakthrough in computational geometry.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/I031170/1
    Funder Contribution: 536,960 GBP

    Current computer graphics techniques allow us to render almost any object at near photo-realistic quality. However, the standard approach necessitates that the user painstakingly specifies all aspects of the geometric and material properties of the object. This is time-consuming and needs skilled human operators. It is hard to edit the resulting models at anything other than the low level of geometry and materials at which they are specified. Moreover, we cannot edit real photographs without reverse engineering the underlying model and this is very difficult.In this proposal we investigate a radically different pipeline for computer graphics that will allow non-experts to rapidly create and edit photo-realistic two dimensional images of objects. The crux of our approach is to provide the computer with a deeper understanding of the class of objects under consideration. This knowledge (which takes the form of a statistical model) is then leveraged to help the user achieve their goals more easily. The impact of this project is potentially enormous. Such a technology could become a standard tool installed on every home and business computer. Some of the many potential applications are:- Conceptual design. Manufacturing industries often need to sketch new product ideas and refine existing designs. Our system could help a fashion designer produce and manipulate photo-realistic images of new garments.- Clipart objects. Stock images are required for on-line and real-world publishing and these are often sought via search engines (e.g. Google Images). However, the returned results are often not ideal and may be subject to copyright. Our approach will allow the user to design bespoke images to exactly their specifications.- Photo and movie editing. Digital editing of images and movies is commonplace, but requires considerable skill. Our techniques could be used to modify facial expressions in portrait photography or apply digital cosmetics in movie post-production.- Content for virtual worlds. The trend towards larger 'sandbox' environments in video games has created an explosive demand for graphical content. Our system could allow automated or semi-automated creation of photorealistic building facades for a large virtual environment.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/J00538X/1
    Funder Contribution: 289,002 GBP

    Climate science demands on data management are growing rapidly as climate models grow in the precision with which they depict spatial structures and in the completeness with which they describe a vast range of physical processes. For the Climate Model Inter-comparison Project 5 (CMIP5), a distributed archive is being constructed to provide access to what is expected to be in excess of 10 Peta-bytes of global climate change projections. The data will be held at 30 or more computing centres and data archives around the world, but for users it will appear as a single archive described by one catalogue. In addition, the usability of the data will be enhanced by a three-step validation process and the publication of Digital Object Identifiers (doi) for all the data. For many users the spatial resolution provided by the global climate models (around 150km) is inadequate: the CORDEX project will provide data scaled down to around 10km. Evaluation of climate impacts often revolves around extremes and complex impact factors, requiring high volumes of data to be stored. At the same time, uncertainty about the optimal configuration of the models imposes the requirement that each scenario be explored with multiple models. This project will explore the challenges of developing a software management infrastructure which will scale to the multi-exabyte archives of climate data which are likely to be crucial to major policy decisions in by the end of the decade. Support for automated processing of the archived data and metadata will be essential. In the short term goal, strategies will be evaluated by applying them to the CORDEX project data.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/H021868/1
    Funder Contribution: 569,600 GBP

    The Cretaceous, 146-66 million years ago, experienced high levels of atmospheric CO2, and the warmest climates and highest global sea-levels in the last 300 Ma. On several occasions, the oceans became abruptly depleted in oxygen, so-called oceanic anoxic events (OAEs), when organic matter accumulated in the oceans, producing widespread black shales that now act as oil source rocks. However, the mechanisms that caused these events remain hotly debated. This proposal aims to use a new multi-dynamic approach to better understand the mechanisms that caused the onset, duration and cessation of global carbon burial events during the Late Cretaceous. Burial of organic matter leads to the preferential removal of isotopically light carbon from the oceans, increasing the 13C/12C ratio of seawater and, via the atmospheric CO2 reservoir, the entire Earth surface system. Weathering releases 12C back to the surface carbon cycle. Carbonates and organic matter in rocks preserve changes in C-isotope ratios through time, providing a basis for C-isotope stratigraphy. Major changes are synchronous and global in extent, and we have proposed that C-isotope variation in the Late Cretaceous may be used as a proxy for global sea-level change; this remains to be tested. Osmium, a platinum group element with a short ocean residence time of <40 kyr, also shows isotopic variation in seawater through time, being controlled predominantly by two end-member components: weathering of crust and input from volcanic activity (mantle). These have drastically different ratios, so Os isotopes potentially may provide high-resolution stratigraphic control during times of palaeoenvironmental change, such as episodes of increased weathering or volcanic input. The modern oceans display a uniform Os-isotope ratio, but our new data for Os isotopes through an OAE at ~94 Ma indicate that the Atlantic displayed diachronous shifts in Os isotopes. This offers an exciting potential new tool for studying palaeocean-mixing. However, this OAE may be a unique event with regard to oceanic Os; further regions and OAEs need to be tested. This project will use C-isotope stratigraphy from organic matter to correlate global successions from diverse environments, palaeolatitudes and oceanic settings. The time interval to be investigated, 101 - 83 Ma, was characterized by two OAEs and other significant changes in the carbon cycle. We aim to answer the following: (1) Are secular C- and Os-isotope curves related to sea-level change? (2) Can Os-isotope stratigraphy be used for chemostratigraphy: is it synchronous or diachronous? (3) Do OAEs coincide with Os-isotope excursions, and what was the steady state of the oceans? (4) What are the relationships between sea-level change, climate and ocean anoxia; can we finally identify the key forcing mechanism for widespread ocean stagnation? Sites in Canada, France, Czech Republic, Far East Russia, Ecuador, South Atlantic, and offshore Australia will be studied. The relative sea-level histories for each basin, correlated using C-isotopes, will be used to test relationships between C-isotope stratigraphy and sea-level change. Key stratigraphic time intervals will be characterised for Os isotopes and trace-metals to: establish the evolution of Os isotopes in the Late Cretaceous oceans; evaluate possible regional variation in the Os-isotope composition of seawater; establish levels of seawater oxygenation in the associated water masses; and identify the causes of widespread ocean stagnation. Results from our Cretaceous extreme-greenhouse study will provide unique constraints for modelling interactions between, and the impacts of, sea-level and climate change, and perturbations of the global carbon cycle for an icecap-free Earth; the increasingly likely near-future for our planet. The proposed research will aid in understanding whether periods of ocean stagnation are a likely future consequence of present-day global warming.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: NE/I006672/1
    Funder Contribution: 807,791 GBP

    PAGODA will focus on the global dimensions of changes in the water cycle in the atmosphere, land, and oceans. The overarching aim is to increase confidence in projections of the changing water cycle on global-to-regional scales through a process-based detection, attribution and prediction. The scientific scope prioritises themes 2,1,3,4 in the AO, adopting a focus on climate processes to extend our understanding of the causes of water source/sink uncertainty at the regional scale, which is where GCMs show huge variations concerning projected changes in precipitation, evaporation, and other water related variables. This model uncertainty is closely linked to shifts in large-scale circulation patterns and surface feedback processes, which differ between models. Furthermore, even where models agree with each other (for example, the suggested trend towards wetter winters and drier summers in Europe, connected to storm tracks and land surface processes), consistency with the real world cannot be taken for granted. The importance of quantitative comparisons between models and observations cannot be overstated: there is opportunity and urgent need for research to understand the processes that are driving changes in the water cycle, on spatial scales that range from global to microscopic, and to establish whether apparent discrepancies are attributable to observational uncertainties, to errors in the specification of forcings, or to model limitations. PAGODA will achieve its scientific objectives by confronting models with observations and reconciling observations, which possess inherent uncertainty and heterogeneity, with robust chains of physical mechanisms - employing model analysis and experiments in an integral way. Detection and attribution is applied throughout, in an iterative fashion, to merge the understanding from observations and models consistently, in order to isolate processes and identify causality. PAGODA is designed to focus specifically on the processes that govern global-to-regional scale changes in the water cycle, particularly on decadal timescales (the timescale of anthropogenic climate change). It addresses processes in the atmosphere, land and oceans, and brings together experts in climate observations, climate models, and detection and attribution. It seeks to exploit important new opportunities for research progress, including new observational data sets (e.g. ocean salinity reanalysis, TRMM and SSMIS satellite products, long precipitation records), new models (HadGEM3 & new capabilities for high resolution simulations), and the new CMIP5 model inter-comparison and to develop new methodologies for process-based detection, attribution and prediction.

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  • Funder: UKRI Project Code: EP/I019278/1
    Funder Contribution: 5,012,100 GBP

    In the UK there are more than four billion square metres of roofs and facades forming the building envelope. Most of this could potentially be used for harvesting solar energy and yet it covers less than 1.8 % of the UK land area. The shared vision for SPECIFIC is develop affordable large area solar collectors which can replace standard roofs and generate over one third of the UK's total target renewable energy by 2020 (10.8 GW peak and 19 TWh) reducing CO2 output by 6 million tonnes per year. This will be achieved with an annual production of 20 million m2 by 2020 equating to less than 0.5% of the available roof and wall area. SPECIFIC will realise this by quickly developing practical functional coated materials on metals and glass that can be manufactured by industry in large volumes to produce, store and release energy at point of use. These products will be suitable for fitting on both new and existing buildings which is important since 50% of the UKs current CO2 emissions come from the built environment.The key focus for SPECIFIC will be to accelerate the commercialisation of IP, knowledge and expertise held between the University partners (Swansea, ICL, Bath, Glyndwr, and Bangor) and UK based industry in three key areas of electricity generation from solar energy (photovoltaics), heat generation (solar thermal) and storage/controlled release. The combination of functionality will be achieved through applying functional coatings to metal and glass surfaces. Critical to this success is the active involvement in the Centre of the steel giant Corus/Tata and the glass manufacturer Pilkington. These two materials dominate the facings of the building stock and are surfaces which can be engineered. In addition major chemical companies (BASF and Akzo Nobel as two examples) and specialist suppliers to the emerging PV industry (e.g. Dyesol) are involved in the project giving it both academic depth and industrial relevance. To maximise open innovation colleagues from industry will be based SPECIFIC some permanently and some part time. SPECIFIC Technologists will also have secondments to partner University and Industry research and development facilities.SPECIFIC will combine three thriving research groups at Swansea with an equipment armoury of some 3.9m into one shared facility. SPECIFIC has also been supported with an equipment grant of 1.2 million from the Welsh Assembly Government. This will be used to build a dedicated modular roll to roll coating facility with a variety of coating and curing functions which can be used to scale up and trial successful technology at the pre-industrial scale. This facility will be run and operated by three experienced line technicians on secondment from industry. The modular coating line compliments equipment at Glyndwr for scaling up conducting oxide deposition, at CPi for barrier film development and at Pilkington for continuous application of materials to float glass giving the grouping unrivalled capability in functional coating. SPECIFIC is a unique business opportunity bridging a technology gap, delivering affordable novel macro-scale micro-generation, making a major contribution to UK renewable energy targets and creating a new export opportunity for off grid power in the developing world. It will ultimately generate thousands high technology jobs within a green manufacturing sector, creating a sustainable international centre of excellence in functional coatings where multi-sector applications are developed for next generation manufacturing.

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