Sustainable Environment Research Group

Organization profile

Organisation profile

The Sustainable Environment Research Group (SERG) is an multidisciplinary group that brings  together experts from a range of backgrounds including mechanical engineering, chemistry, hydrology, ecology, computer modelling and operations management. Our common interest is in meeting the challenges posed by the impact of human activities on the environment. We aim to develop technologies and tools that conserve and rehabilitate the natural environment while enabling international development.

Our research falls in three main areas: 


Solar Energy and water treatment 


Sunlight is the most abundant source of energy available to humankind. But so far the challenge of capturing and using solar energy economically and effectively remains largely unmet. Researchers at Aston are working on new materials to enable cheaper and more versatile ways of producing electricity from sunlight. (read more)


They are also working on new concepts for solar energy systems that circumvent the need for electricity altogether. Instead the solar energy will provide other kinds of outputs. One example is the development of a solar powered cooling system for greenhouses, which can be used to produce food crops in hot climates. Another example is solar powered desalination – useful for extracting freshwater from saline water found in the sea and underground sources.


A drawback of solar energy systems is the difficulty of storing the energy for use after sunset. Together with partners in India, we are working on combined solar-biomass power plants, in which biomass such as rice husk is used to provide the back up energy. Solar collectors are being developed for use in these hybrid systems.

Land resource assessment and biodiversity

The world population continues to grow - but the earth is not getting any bigger! If all the inhabitable land area were shared out evenly among its 7 billion inhabitants each person would get about 1.2 hectares. By 2050 this will be less than about 1 hectare or, to put it another way, 1 football pitch each – not a lot considering that this area has to provide all our food and fibres and absorb much of our waste. Land resource assessment uses computer tools such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to make systematic assessments of resources of land, vegetation, and water in relation to population. It is very relevant to other Aston research themes like bioenergy and solar energy. Because of its global perspective, this area naturally involves international collaboration for example with India and Pakistan (read more)

Not only humans but also plants and animals occupy land footprint.  Humans may appear to be in competition with other species but are also totally reliant on them, because all living organisms are connected through ecosystems. Human activity is causing a great loss to biodiversity. Researchers of the Sustainable Environment Research Group use GIS and other tools to study the increasingly important topic of the intereraction of human projects and ecosystems, as reflected by the growing amount of legislation in this area

Green transport and alternative fuels

The needs for transport and power generation in the future are growing. Meanwhile there is a need to reduce the environmental impact from engines and to find alternative prime movers.

Our researchers are working on the use of alternative fuels derived from biomass in engines. We are particularly interested in fuels that can be derived from waste sources as these reduce the land requirements for cultivation compared to conventional 'first generation' biofuels. Case study>

In addition we are collaborating with researchers across the West Midlands to facilitate the introduction of low carbon vehicles, such as electric vehicles, hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells. Setting up the right infrastructure for these technologies requires a detailed understanding of end user usage patterns. This information is used by vehicle manufacturers to select the optimal powertrain configuration to minimize environmental impact through CO2 reduction and by energy providers and regional authorities to cost effectively site recharging/fueling points within the built environment. Current research projects focus on analysis of real-world data from prototype fleets to establish representative vehicle use profiles. These profiles are incorporated into journey simulation programs to maximize the environmental impact reduction of Low Carbon Vehicles.


Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Sustainable Environment Research Group is active. These topic labels come from the works of this organisation's members. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

    Research Output

    An experimental study on performance and emission characteristics of an IDI diesel engine operating with neat oil-diesel blend emulsion

    Hossain, A. K., Refahtalab, P., Omran, A., Smith, D. I. & Davies, P. A., 1 Feb 2020, In : Renewable energy. 146, p. 1041-1050 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • Microscopic characteristics of biodiesel – Graphene oxide nanoparticle blends and their Utilisation in a compression ignition engine

    Nagaraja, S., Rufuss, D. D. W. & Hossain, A. K., 9 Jul 2020, In : Renewable energy. 160, p. 830-841 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Open Access
  • Student theses

    Biodiesel-biodiesel mixtures to upgrade fuel properties and lower exhaust gas emissions

    Author: Masera, K., 5 Dec 2019

    Supervisor: Hossain, A. K. (Supervisor) & Davies, P. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The application of modified adaptive landscapes to heuristic modelling of engine concept designs using sparse data

    Author: Price, B., 21 Dec 2017

    Supervisor: Davies, P. A. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy



    International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology (Journal)

    Brian Price (Editorial board member)

    1 Jan 2019

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

    External examiner - Department of Engineering and the Built Environment, Faculty of Science and Technology

    Gayan Wedawatta (Recipient)

    1 Feb 201831 Dec 2021

    Activity: Other activity typesTypes of Award - Appointment

    PLATE 2015

    Brian Price (Participant)

    17 Jun 201519 Jun 2015

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

    Press / Media

    Blood flow research showcased at Houses of Parliament

    Laura Leslie, Geoff Tansley & Lindsay Marshall


    1 item of Media coverage

    Press/Media: Research