New Zealand has a number of internationally recognised research platforms that find applications in energy research. In what follows we highlight four applications, based on New Zealand's strengths in functional materials, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), and human factors in sustainability.
The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology based at Victoria University of Wellington is a national network of leading New Zealand scientists. Its research is organised into three themes each of which explores a different aspect of material science and nanotechnology in depth, ranging from the design and construction of nanodevices to analysing the properties of novel materials. One of these themes is specifically focused on Materials for Energy Capture and Utilisation.
Two groups associated with MacDairmid have been applying their expertise in functional materials to specific problems in energy. Prof Jim Johnston at Victoria University has been working with nano-structured calcium silicates to improve the performance of geothermal generation, and the Robinson Research Institute also at Victoria University has been using their expertise in high temperature superconductors to develop machines for uses ranging from high power, fast charge/discharge storage to high power density motor/generators in hybrid aircraft.
New Zealand has a strong international reputation for work in virtual and augmented reality, particularly for its commercial use in gaming, entertainment etc. This is reflected in research at Victoria University's Human-Computer Interaction Group; Otago University's Human Computer Interaction Group; and Auckland University of Technology's Colab. Together these groups represent a significant platform of VR and AR expertise working on a range of applications that could provide New Zealand with very low energy substitutes for transport, particularly personal transport.
The increasing speed with which change is occurring in the New Zealand energy sector and the significant shift to consumer control makes human factors a critical part of our energy futures. Otago University Centre for Sustainability's Energy Research has built up significant capability in energy cultures in New Zealand.