Turning air into liquid could help tackle the UK’s energy shortage and produce a £1bn industry with 20,000 jobs, according to a University of Brighton scientist.

Dr Robert Morgan, principal research fellow at the university’s School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics, took part in a study and co-authored a white paper on how air can be turned into liquid using surplus energy from renewable generation, such as wind and solar power.

These sources sometimes produce energy when it is not needed but storing it as liquid air means it can be heated and turned back into electricity when demand increases. The UK has a renewable energy target of 15 per cent of the nation’s requirements by 2020. Dr Morgan said liquid air energy storage improves the efficiency and lowers the overall cost of operating the electricity network at the levels of renewable generation expected in the future.

Dr Morgan is a former chief technical Officer at Highview Power Storage, which has had a liquid air storage plant operating at pilot scale since 2010.

He will be giving a talk on the subject at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at the University of Brighton’s Huxley Building in Moulsecoomb, Brighton, on 22 January.

He said: “The University of Brighton worked with companies active in liquid air and with other universities including Birmingham, Queen Mary’s College, Leeds, Imperial, and Loughborough to produce the white paper.”

Dr Morgan led the writing of a chapter of the white paper which covered grid scale storage. The paper covered both the technical aspects and economics of storage in the context of the UK electricity network. He presented his work at the Royal Academy of Engineering where the paper was launched.

He said the University of Brighton will continue working with the industry on ways of lowering carbon emissions and increasing energy security: “The economic value of liquid air storage on the electricity grid could be £1 billion per year by 2050 and could support 20,000 jobs in the UK alone. Given the technical leadership the UK has in liquid air storage, there is good potential for building a significant export industry.”