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University of Cambridge to use space telescopes to measure energy efficiency of homes




The energy efficiency of buildings will be monitored from space after the University of Cambridge received government funding for the project.

Dr Ian Parry, from Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, was awarded a grant to use high-resolution thermal infrared space telescopes for the task.

Europe seen from space (43512311)
Europe seen from space (43512311)

“Normally I point my telescope at the stars but by pointing it at the Earth I can help address a really important issue,” said Dr Parry.

“This technology can give us a global health check to let us know if the world is on target to meet its carbon emissions targets. It also makes it clear who needs to act and what they have to do if the targets aren’t being met.

“It’s a bit like trying to get someone to give up smoking. The person knows it’s bad for them and they have good intentions and make promises, but they still fall short of what they need to do until they get a worrying wake-up call from a medical examination.”

Thermal infrared (TIR) earth observation telescopes in low earth orbit are able to monitor the energy output of buildings.

Dr Parry and his collaborators will build and develop a prototype for the continuous alignment required for a space telescope, as well as developing cases for its use in the battle against climate change.

The technology will identify anything bigger than about five metres across that is using large amounts of energy, such as buildings, houses, aircraft, ships or trucks.

The university was one of 21 organisations awarded a share of more than £7million in funding from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme, designed to put the UK at the forefront of the latest advances in space innovation.

Science minister Amanda Solloway said: “We want the UK to be a world leader in space technology which is why we are supporting our most ambitious innovators who are developing technologies to help solve some of our greatest challenges.

“From slashing carbon emissions to protecting the UK’s critical services from harmful cyber-attacks, today’s funding will unshackle our most entrepreneurial space scientists so that they can transfer their revolutionary ideas into world class products and services, while helping to boost the UK economy.”

Businesses, universities and research organisations were awarded co-funding of between £170,000 and £1.4 million per project.

Dr Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Space technologies have become deeply embedded in, and critical to, almost every aspect of our daily lives.

“With rapid technological innovation, space offers a broad and growing range of opportunities to support economic activity and protect the environment. From the satellites connecting our calls to the ones that tell us when to expect rain when we step outside, space technologies are fundamental to our day-to-day lives.Our space sector is constantly advancing and welcoming new ideas, and through this funding we are championing the best of this British innovation.”

A further £5million of funding has been set aside for international projects, which will focus on increasing exports and securing new inward investment.

The UK space sector has grown by more than 60 per cent since 2010.

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