Engineers at the University of Southampton are part of a team developing new "green" power cables which can be recycled at the end of their lives.
The project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is being undertaken by a multidisciplinary team drawn from the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science, GnoSys UK at the University of Surrey, National Grid and Dow Chemical Company.
It is in response to a move in the UK and across Europe to place more of the power network that provides electricity to our homes and industry underground, particularly in areas of outstanding beauty and in major cities.
It is also in response to questions such as whether such cables could ever be considered to be environmentally friendly or have a low carbon footprint.
"Moreover, with the emphasis on ensuring security of supply and improving the amount of power that can be transported around the country with a cable that must operate reliably for 40 years or more, the challenge is to meet these needs and have an environmentally clean cable that can be recycled at the end of its life," said Professor Alun Vaughan of the University's School of Electronics and Computer Science.
Issues like these are being addressed in this new project which is developing new power cable materials and the tools to evaluate the complex and often competing factors which need to go into a full life-cycle assessment.
The aim is to determine the performance of a new design of plastic insulated cable and its impact on the environment over its complete life from raw materials, through manufacture and years of service, and finally recycling at the end of life. The outcomes of the project will allow utilities to choose the best solution for the environment and the power system.
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