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D085 - ENERGY

Materials

RESEARCH TOPICS

 In the following you can find a non-exhaustive list of research topics related to the PhD Program on Energy.

Low carbon energetics and innovative nuclear systems

  • Building physics; innovative technologies for the building envelope; heating and cooling with renewable energy sources; net zero energy buildings; home automation; 
  • Air quality and environmental well-being; 
  • Life cycle assessment;
  • Rational use of energy and energy saving; cogeneration, micro-cogeneration and poly-generation; mini wind and photovoltaic power plants in the urban context; fuel cells; hydrogen production from the wave energy; energy from biomass and wastes; 
  • Neutron analysis and thermo-hydraulic of nuclear power plants of III and IV generation; neutron; thermo-hydraulic and thermo-mechanical of fusion reactors; Numerical and experimental thermal-fluid dynamics applied to energy components;
  • Modeling and characterization of materials for nuclear reactors; Nuclear measures; 
  • Environmental monitoring; Radiation protection.  
  • Integrated study of the nuclear, thermofluid dynamic and structural response of the tritium breeding blanket concepts foreseen for the DEMO fusion reactor
  • Integrated study of the thermo-fluid dynamic and thermo-mechanical response of the Divertor cassette currently planned for the DEMO fusion reactor
  • Study of the thermo-fluid dynamic and thermo-mechanical behavior of the Divertor of the DEMO fusion reactor under steady state and transient conditions 
  • Development of advanced methodologies for the deterministic analysis of accidental transients in nuclear fission plants.

Electrical Engineering

  • Dielectric spectrometry on nanostructured composite materials 
  • Automation of distribution grids and user systems 
  • Development of innovative electrical control techniques 
  • Smart grids e microgrids operation and optimal control;
  • Energy hubs;
  • Electrical drives and electromagnetic compatibility issues 
  • Computational Electromagnetics and Electromagnetic Compatibility for Electrical Engineering and ICT frameworks
  • Innovative solutions in the field of electric machines 
  • Study and simulation of DC networks, studies of stability and integration with AC
  • Innovative digital technologies for transactive energy;
  • Innovative business models for transactive energy;
  • Innovative methods and tools for power, energy and power quality measurements in power systems
  • Measurement and communication systems for the development and management of Smart Grids
  • Energy conversion control
  • Automation of industrial systems
  • Innovative broadband communication systems.

 

A more detailed description of some research topics

 

Electrical Engineering

Innovative digital technologies and business models for transactive energy;

The management of power supply systems is oriented towards new distributed architectures. It is therefore necessary to identify new rules and tools that allow the transition to a decentralized energy system based on the exchange of energy between neighbors, and the disconnection of the related financial transactions from a centralised control unit. The continous changes in the regulatory framework, which will allow peer-to-peer energy transactions and the charging of V2G electric vehicles, leads to the search for the use of innovative tools. In this context, it arouse great interest technologies enabling the management of certified transactions on the Internet, without intermediaries and third parties, such as platforms that use blockchain protocols. The research line is part of this framework, and it is aimed to deepening the technical aspects related to innovative digital technologies and business models for transactive energy applied to microgrids, in a perspective that considers digital technologies, such as blockchain, as a distributed tool that goes beyond the economic aspects of energy transactions and can be used to make distributed decisions for technical operations on the network.

Smart grids e microgrids operation and optimal control; Energy hubs

The scientific research activity deals with the problem of energy management in smart-grids, systems that integrate both renewable energy sources and even innovative storage systems, and in which power electronics takes an increasing influence. Optimized energy management is considered as the operation of energy and power flow control in the aim of attaining high performance with minimum costs and in compliance with technical constraints. Energy management is also an interesting issue in multi-carrier energy hubs that implement a recent tendency in energy systems interfacing smart-grids. They include different energy resources that need to be managed differently, but in an integrated fashion.

Automation of distribution grids and user systems 

The scientific research activity deals with the issue of control logics suitable for managing electric and thermal loads in residential buildings. Growing home comfort is causing increasing energy consumption in residential buildings and a consequent stress in urban medium and low voltage distribution networks. Therefore, distribution system operators are obliged to manage problems related to the reliability of the electricity system and, above all, they must consider investments for enhancing the electrical infrastructure. The purpose of research is to assess how the reduction of building electricity consumption and the modification of the building load profile, due to load automation, combined with suitable load control programs, can improve network reliability and distribution efficiency.

Study and simulation of DC networks, studies of stability and integration with AC

The research lines are aimed to studies of methods for DC power distribution, which recently is gaining more and more importance over its AC counterpart achieving increased efficiency, greater flexibility, reduced volumes and capital cost. Moreover, the research activities deal issues related to preserve the security and the reliability of the power electric systems. The wide spread of Renewable Energy Sources, because of the conversion of traditional power system based on fossil fuel towards a renewable energy-based power system, are posing critical issues related to the mining of power systems stability, essentially due to a decrement of the inertial response during system's contingencies. As a consequence, to preserve the security and the reliability of the system, it is necessary to study new frequency adjustments mechanisms.

Innovative methods and tools for power, energy and power quality measurements in power systems.

Sensing and measurement technologies are at the basis of innovation in power systems and related applications, including smart grids and renewable sources, energy efficiency, electric mobility. Advanced metering devices, data acquisition systems, distributed measurement systems, traceability and reliability of measurements are at the basis of all modern smart monitoring, management and control applications in power systems. In this framework, main research topics are: methods, systems and instrumentation for power, energy and power quality measurement; characterization of measurement transducers in the presence of harmonics; EMC measurements, metrological characterization of components and systems in the presence of disturbances, measurements of magnetic and electromagnetic fields; data acquisition systems, virtual instrumentation and digital signal processing techniques for measurements on stationary and non-stationary signals; development, simulation and experimental verification of measurement algorithms for applications on electrical machines and drives.

Measurement and communication systems for the development and management of Smart Grids.

The increasing presence of renewable energy production and the progressive integration of distributed generation and storage systems in modern smart distribution grids provide a key contribution for environmental protection, green economy and social growth; however, if not properly managed, they can cause serious problems for the safe and optimal grid operation. To face these issues and to allow the full development of modern smart grids, new monitoring, management, control and protection functionalities are needed which must be supported by advanced metering and communication capabilities and new measurement-based technologies for the full integration distributed generation and storage systems. They shall implement not only traditional metering functions but also enhanced capabilities, such as smart power flows and islanding operation management, analysis of power quality disturbances and identification of their sources, fault diagnosis, distributed generation and storage systems remote control and cooperation with the main grid. In this framework, main research topics are: measurement equipment and architectures for smart grids, distributed generation and storage systems; wired and wireless communications solutions for smart grid distributed measurement systems; smart devices for power quality measurements, fault diagnosis and disturbance detection; measurement-based algorithms and systems for monitoring, management, protection and control of smart grids.

Computational Electromagnetics and Electromagnetic Compatibility for Electrical Engineering and ICT frameworks
The research topic ranges from the implementation of innovative numerical methods for the modeling and simulation of electromagnetic problems both in the frequency domain and in the time domain, to the analysis of electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) issues both conducted and radiated, in the fields of electrical engineering and ICT. Innovative modeling aspects and the analysis of the increasingly binding EMC problems present in the field of avionics applications and for e-mobility, in EMI filtering in the presence of electronic power converters used today massively in all contexts of electrical engineering, in bio-electromagnetic diagnostics in the medical field, in the smart-grid context, are just some examples of the research activities that can be developed.

 

Low carbon energetics and innovative nuclear systems


Building physics; innovative technologies for the building envelope; heating and cooling with renewable energy sources; net zero energy buildings; home automation.

The aim of this research topic is to acquire new knowledge and to develop methods, based on physics research and application, that result in a sustainable, healthy, comfortable and productive indoor and outdoor environment. Building physics deals with heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting in buildings, innovative monitoring and (smart) controls, use of local and renewable resources for achieving minimal (nearly Zero) impacts on the environment.

Innovative building construction technologies and materials are studied for their application in Mediterranean context. Theoretical and experimental activities are conducted thanks to a well-consolidated infrastructure of labs and advanced simulation tools.

Air quality and environmental well-being.

The main topic of the research concerns indoor air quality (IAQ) and indoor comfort with the aim of evaluating the performance of the indoor environments in relation to their intended use, in order to provide optimal conditions for the occupants. For museum and similar, it is also investigated the preservation of the objects sited in such enclosed spaces, which are often at odds. On the other hand, the assessment of the indoor conditions is also oriented on their influence on the buildings’ energy consumption. Part of the research is also aimed at studying the influences that the high levels of air pollution present in urban areas and the extreme atmospheric events, have on human health and mortality rate. In-depth studies and experimental analysis are performed by means of laboratory activities, monitoring and measuring instruments, use of advanced simulation software and programming languages and codes.

Life cycle assessment.

The aim of this research topic is to apply the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology for assessing the life cycle energy and environmental impacts of energy systems and technologies and building systems, for calculating energy and environmental payback indices and identifying eco-design and circular strategies for the investigated systems. Furthermore, methodological advancements of LCA  will be investigated, with particular attention to the consequential approach. Theoretical and experimental activities will be conducted thanks to a well-consolidated infrastructure of the LCA and ecodesign lab.

Rational use of energy and energy saving; cogeneration, micro-cogeneration and poly-generation

Complex energy systems are studied with an integrated approach linking demand and supply management as well as storage options. The aim is to provide tools to identify rational and cost-effective design and operation strategies for energy systems, taking into account time dependent physical or regulatory constraints and the opportunities deriving from integrated use of multiple-energy-systems. Energy districts (from the micro to the large scale) are the focus of the research activity. Multi sources and vectors systems, often combining both conventional and renewable sources, are investigated: 2nd Law analysis and thermoeconomics are eventually applied to identify possible routes toward performance improvements, not only in small-to-medium-scale plants for application in buildings, but also in large scale systems supplying industrial uses. In this last respect, the crucial role of power-to-heat equipment such as heat pumps is also investigated, in order to maximise the potential for low-temperature waste heat recovery.

 

Mini wind and photovoltaic power plants in the urban context; fuel cells; hydrogen production from the wave energy; energy from biomass and wastes.

Local and regional use of Renewable Energies is investigated at different levels. Construction and testing of prototypes or demo plants monitoring are used to enhance TRL of emerging technologies (i.e. mini wind turbine, floating electricity generators for sea applications, solar heating and cooling systems, PV/Th plants, building-integrated solar collectors). Advanced methods for assessing the techno-economic potential and the best design options for RES exploitation are developed based on multicriteria analysis, GIS, machine learning approaches.

Neutron analysis and thermo-hydraulic of nuclear power plants of III  and IV generation

The scientific research activity deals with thermal-hydraulic/safety and neutronic analysis of innovative nuclear fission reactors. Concerning the thermo-hydraulic issues, both large-scale and small-scale problems are addressed with reference with such reactor components as heat exchanger, large piping systems, reactor core and so on. The issues concerning the first approach are addressed with the lumped parameter system codes while the second one are analyzed with computational fluid-dynamic calculation codes. Concerning the neutronic investigations, they deals with criticality analysis and coupling thermal-hydraulic/neutronic problems both with a Monte Carlo and deterministic numerical methods. Moreover, it is to be outlined that the research activity is carried out in close cooperation with ENEA and other Italian universities.

Neutron and thermo-hydraulic and thermo-mechanical of fusion reactors

The scientific research activity deals with the typical coupled and multiphysics technological issues arising in the development of thermonuclear fusion reactors with magnetic confinement. In particular, the activity is focussed onto the technological and engineering development of very critical reactor plasma-facing components (blanket, divertor, limiter, ports) and it deals with the assessment of the coupled thermo-mechanical, thermal-hydraulic and nuclear performances under steady state and transient conditions. A theoretical-computational approach is, usually, adopted, based on the Finite Element method, the Finite Volume method and the Monte Carlo method, respectively. Moreover, it is to be outlined that the research activity is carried out within the framework of a extensive and fruitful international collaborations with researchers working in the field of fusion nuclear technology worldwide.

Numerical and experimental thermal-fluid dynamics applied to energy components.

Both experimental and computational activities are being carried out in this area. Current experimental work includes the assessment of the local heat transfer coefficient distribution in spacer-filled channels  typical of Membrane Distillation using Thermochromic Liquid Crystals  and Digital Image Processing. Current computational work includes the  CFD simulation of the same systems, with a view to the assessment and best choice of turbulence models.

Nuclear measures; Environmental monitoring; Radiation protection

The research lines are aimed to studies of methods for detecting  environmental radioactivity, of natural and artificial origin, and  correlating it to the main ambient parameters (soil, water, ..) and to  meteorological conditions. One part concerns the development of instruments and  methods for radiation protection, with the realization of innovative dosimeters to be used in various fields,  radiotherapy, personal dosimetry, industrial applications, ambient dose monitoring and so on. Test and calibration of new detectors are performed through gamma and neutron irradiators of different activity and energy purposely realized and characterized.