Real-time accounting and simulation of dynamic energy-water-material balances for achieving liveable and sustainable cities of the future

Many of us envision living in a future where covering our needs for energy, water and food does not result in deteriorating environmental systems. Transition towards such future would undoubtedly require updating current technological infrastructure and implementing technological solutions that make use of renewable sources of energy, water and nutrients. Many such solutions are already available (solar energy harvesting through photovoltaics or solar collectors, reusing greywater, nutrient recovery from waste). These technologies, however, are not sustainable per se. Nevertheless they can be sustainably implemented in a specific context depending on a local climate and availability of other technologies. For example, even in the areas with abundant insolation, having photovoltaic modules does not ensure self-sufficiency of the urban system, as long as harvested solar energy storage is not addressed.

The goal of this project is, therefore, to develop a model-based framework that would allow to systematically identify the most suitable combinations of technologies for a specific urban system (e.g., building or district), taking into account intermittency of renewable sources of energy, water and nutrients, as well interconnected nature of urban energy, water and nutrient cycles.

Highlight of the past year

The model, implemented in Matlab, to simulate water and energy flows within residential buildings was used to study the relationship between technological factors (PV efficiency, water and electrical energy storage capacity, etc) and the extent to which external water and energy demand can be reduced within the building. This relationship was studied via Response Surface Methodology using full factorial design.

Type of student projects envisioned

Student projects will involve modelling of water, energy and nutrient cycles in an urban environment using Matlab software. High proficiency in Matlab is not required, however, previous experience is welcomed.