Solar treatment of biomass for power generation using carbon slurries in hybrid renewable energy systems

Grant: £1.2m Royal Society-DFID funded (part of the Royal Society’s African Capacity Building Initiative)
Dates: June 2016 – September 2021 (5 year project)

Principal investigator: Professor Jon Lovett

Co-investigators: Dr Andrew Ross, Professor Jenny Jones, Professor Paul Williams, Dr Hu Li, Dr Benjamin Chong

Post-graduate researchers: Opio Mira (CREEC), Mwaka Juma (Dar-es Salaam Institute of Technology), Tania Mayala (Marien Ngouabi University)

Project partners:



Electricity demand across the continent is expected to double between 2012 and 2035 and the provision of clean, reliable and affordable electricity has an impactful knock-on effect on development. Increasing generation capacity and electrification rates is therefore one of the key goals of African energy policy.

Several African countries have significant fossil fuel resources in the form of coal and gas that could be used for power generation. However, Africa’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change suggests that new electricity generation capacity should preferentially be from low carbon sources.


This project aims to tackle the challenge of universal access to clean modern energy in sub-Saharan Africa, using two readily available energy sources: sunshine and biomass.

This project is novel because it seeks to overcome the major renewable energy constraint of storage of solar power through solar treatment of biomass and using the stored treated biomass as a fuel for electricity generation.

As part of the Royal Society’s Capacity Building for Renewable Energy in Africa initiative (ACBI), the project is designed primarily for capacity building, containing a major element of training through PhD student development and research exchange. The project also seeks to enhance gender‐balance in renewable energy capacity.


  1. Using biomass as the primary energy source
  2. Storing solar energy by using concentrated solar power to treat biomass
  3. Converting solar treated biomass into a fuel that can be used directly in modified electricity generators
  4. Developing a scalable hybrid renewable electric energy system for rural electrification in order to integrate the mix of renewable energies
  5. Integrating different sources of electricity in hybrid renewable energy systems


The impact of the project will be to enhance the skills base in Africa for provision of clean modern energy supplies of renewable energy. This will be achieved through capacity building by training three PhD students through conducting innovative research on renewable energy; creating a network of researchers and practitioners; and developing training courses that will continue to be delivered by the project partners after completion of the project.