Meet the female engineer leading the charge to clean, sustainable energy
The future of the planet depends on finding a sustainable, reliable and affordable alternative to fossil fuels, and Dr Jovana Radulovic is busy working to find one.
Dr Radulovic is one of our Senior Lecturers in Mechanical and Energy Engineering. Her research is looking at how we can improve existing energy solutions – and at the same time, develop new alternative electricity generation technologies that meet the ever-increasing energy demand of a growing global population.
Renewables are becoming increasingly cost effective and sustainable, but they're still not massively reliable in terms of energy security. In contrast, fossil fuels are reliable and very cheap, but not sustainable in the slightest.
It’s this problem – the need to create an energy system that is cost effective, dependable and sustainable – that Jovana is looking to solve through her research. And with our climate at a turning point, finding reliable energy solutions that don’t damage the environment is more crucial than ever.
‘An energy system that scores highly in two out of three, or is fairly centrally placed in that energy triangle, is currently the best that any engineer can hope to achieve. But there are so many areas and applications in which energy systems could show improvement.’
To combat our continuing reliance on fossil fuels, Jovana is looking into alternative electricity generation technologies. In particular, she’s looking at renewable energy and energy storage.
Wind and solar energy systems are being installed on a global scale, but slowly. Because they don’t generate electricity all the time, they aren’t reliable.
‘Moving away from fossil fuels will help in the fight against climate change. But there are still great obstacles to affect successful implementation of non conventional energy systems.’
Effective energy and thermal storage is the step change that the technology needs to allow greater take up. Thermal storage has particular promise. It’s useful for domestic and industrial applications. Large scale thermal storage can power a plant.
Implementation of different solar energy systems across Western Europe is part of Jovana’s research. Standard rooftop installations and solar thermal, which provides electricity and heat, are both widely used - but not without flaws. She’s also investigating how modern solar technologies can be used to power protected historic buildings.
Conventional energy systems have potential to meet our energy demand in a better way too. Greater utilisation of available energy is the first step. And even small improvements in efficiency would lead to significant savings.
Going against convention
Working fluids - gases and liquids which are used to transfer energy - pose yet another challenge. Conventional fluids are the industrial norm. But they’re great contributors to global warming. They’ve been phased out in Europe but are still in wider global use.
Industry is transitioning to novel working fluids with lower environmental impact. But improvements are still needed.
To find a solution Jovana is working with a company local to the University of Portsmouth. They’re looking at compressors, an essential in refrigeration systems and chillers.
Jovana and her team are designing a new kind of compressor. The aims are to be more efficient than conventional compressors, to use a novel working fluid with very low global warming potential, and to be quiet and easy to maintain. This would be a big step forward.
Jovana believes it’s her duty as an engineer to provide sustainable and affordable energy solutions. Through her research, she’s making real inroads into achieving this.