Current research is now bifurcated into two entirely seperate themes.
Indoor air quality and repiratory health
Scotland has the highest incidence of asthma in the world. The main thrust of the research effort to date, has been a series of interventionist trials to assess and quantify the role indoor air quality - in particular high humidity (driving the colonisation and proliferation of the house dust mite (HDM) - plays in the aetiology of the disease and periodic symptomatic exacerbations. A phased programme tested a range of retro-fit measures and anti-allergen strategies and successfully reduced patient symptoms by inhibiting HDM activity and denaturing allergen reservoirs.
This research cuts across a variety of specialisms: building physics and material science, entymology, immunology, toxicology, bio-statistics and pulmonary medicine. It has required a multi-disciplinary team to be assembled from Glasgow University , Western and Royal Infirmaries and Monklands General Hospital as well as specialists statistician and immunologists from within the university of Strathclyde.
The fist two phases have been supported by a range of funders including the Chief Scientists Office, Scottish Executive, North and South Lanarkshire Councils, Vent-Axia Ltd, ScottishPower, TRANSCO, Dyson Ltd, Energy Action Scotland, North Lanarkshire Health Board and EAGA Charitable Trust.
Funds are still being sought to complete a 3rd phase that aims to collect dust samples from 2000 randomly identified dwellings across Scotland and to correlate allergen and toxic compounds with house type/construction, occupancy density and specific features such as heating systems, double glazing etc. This work will have the statistical power to identify and index the key drivers and will inform future legislation with the ultimate aim of improving design standards and indoor air quality.
This work has recently informed the Buidling Standards Division (Scottish Government) who have put out for consultation changes to the Building Standard (Scotland) Regulations with the specific aim of improving indoor air quality and occupant health.
In addition to the retro-fit work model house types using 'organic' and hygroscopic materials to suppress indoor vapour pressures below the critical equilibrium humidity of the HDM have been developed. Two prototype dwellings are programmed to be constructed during 2015 that will act as a test bed for resolving the conflict between energy efficeincy and 'near to zero' carbon design. These dwellings will form the rationale for a new 'eco'village to be built in Ayrshire over the next 3 years.
The solar revolution
The second stream of research has been the development of a range of solar ovens that have been 'spun out' (2014) into a new comapny - Sunstore Technologies Limited.
Over 2.4 billion people cook their evening meal using firewood, despite living in regions where insolation levels are sufficient for the task (5-9kWh/m2 for over 320 days). The use of firewood has a deleterious impact on air quality (both indoor and outdoor) and is in many regions responsible for increasing the pace of de-forestation and desertification, as well as being implicated in the prevalence of asthma and cancer. The developing market in solar ‘cookers’ has to date produced many devices able to provide sufficient direct solar gain to cook relatively small amounts of food at mid-day; the key task, however, is to provide a ‘hot to taste’ evening meal at circa 9.00pm for a large family. The Sunstore range of solar ovens meets this challenge.
The Sunstore 500 -1100 - 3100 range of solar ovens, ‘graze’ the suns energy throughout the day using a Fresnel lens and stores this heat (up to 6kWh) in an insulated metal thermal mass that has the capacity to cook between 5 – 30kg of rice (or equivalent), that can be served piping hot up to 5 hours after dark.
The ovens can incorporate a simple low cost solar tracking device and have been designed to be loaded with ingredients in the morning, and left to ‘slow cook’ the contents over the subsequent 8 hours. This maintains the nutritional value of the food, produces no air pollution and does not require the family to waste many hours collecting firewood. The device has the facility to be converted to an LPG/biomass hybrid in regions where monsoon conditions may reduce seasonal solar gain.
The business will license the product to companies with the capacity to manufacture, assemble, distribute and market, ideally with an existing presence in the solar cooking market. The Scottish based company will concentrate on product development, marketing and identifying suitable international partners.
The product is simple, robust and safe to use, requires little maintenance and satisfies a basic need, while increasing human productivity and reducing internal and external air pollution.