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Shell Springboard winners tackling climate change

Three Oxfordshire-based businesses scooped £80,000 between them for ideas to combat climate change. Cella Energy, based at Harwell, won £40,000 from the national Shell Springboard programme to develop a carbon-free alternative to petrol, which could cost as little as 19p per litre.

The hydrogen-based fuel created by scientists at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxford University, and University College, London, is carbon-free and could be on sale in three years, experts said.

Prof Stephen Bennington, of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the lead scientist on the project, said: “In some senses hydrogen is the perfect fuel; it has three times more energy than petrol per unit of weight, and when it burns, it produces nothing but water.

“But the only way to pack it into a vehicle is to use very high pressures or very low temperatures, both of which are expensive to do.”

“Our new hydrogen storage materials offer real potential for running cars, planes and other vehicles that currently use hydrocarbons on hydrogen, with little extra cost and no extra inconvenience to the driver.”

Cella Energy chief executive Stephen Voller said: “Consumers want to be able to travel 300-400 miles before they have to refuel. And when they do have to fill up, they want to be able to do it as quickly as possible.

“Existing hydrogen storage methods do not meet these consumer expectations, but the ones we are developing have the potential to do just this.”

Cella Energy will join nine other companies at the Shell Springboard final in London on February 22.

Oxford Photovoltaics and TwentyNinety each won £20,000 – Oxford Photovoltaics for its screen-printed solar-panel window glass and TwentyNinety for technology to monitor the performance of solar panels.

Paul Vickery, of Oxford Photovoltaics, said: “Our solar cells can be printed on to glass, meaning they are ideal for new buildings where solar cells can be incorporated into glazing panels and walls.”

He added: “We think our techonology has the potential to deliver more solar power when our cells are incorporated into the fabric of a building rather than just being on the roof.”

Simon Hombersley, of TwentyNinety, said: “Our product uses low-cost wireless technology, widely found throughout other applications, such as security tags in stores, to monitor performance of individual panels and control the whole system to ensure optimum performance.”

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Ben Roeves