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Associate Professor

Photo of Associate Professor Michael Jack.

Room 413
Phone numbers
7753 (Office)
64 3 479 7753 (Office Direct Dial)
Research Group

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My undergraduate studies were undertaken at the University of Canterbury and my postgraduate studies at the University of Auckland. From 2000 to 2005 I held postdoctoral positions at Hiroshima University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, NTT Basic Research Laboratories (Tokyo, Japan) and Rice University (Houston, USA). I then held a range of positions at the New Zealand Crown Research Institute Scion until 2014, including Science Leader of Clean Technologies, after which I joined the Department as a Senior lecturer.


My research group carries out fundamental and applied research into a wide range of sustainable energy areas. We specialize in applying methods from theoretical physics to the sustainable energy area, but collaborate closely with a wide range of other disciplines. Areas of focus include: smart, flexible energy systems, exploring fundamentally new paradigms of energy generation and conversion and designing efficient technologies for renewable energy production and energy efficient processes.

Smart energy systems

Globally energy systems are rapidly transitioning from the traditional fossil-fuel dominated and centralized paradigm to being much smarter, more energy-efficient, distributed, highly renewable and low carbon. Electricity grids and greater electrification will play a key role in this transition. To enable this transition, we need ways of matching variable renewable electricity generation to increasingly variable energy demand, without building expensive underutilized infrastructure. This research focuses on understanding the opportunity for innovative grid-connected technologies (solar PV, EV, energy storage), ICT and business models to create flexible energy services that link generation, storage and demand to shift consumption away from periods of peak demand and respond to variable supply from renewables.

This work is carried out in collaboration with the Centre for Sustainability (CSAFE) and the University of Canterbury.

Nanoscale energy conversion – Molecular motors

At the nanoscale new possibilities and phenomena arise. For example, chemical energy can be converted directly into useful work and thermal fluctuations become an inherent part of a system's behaviour. Biological systems harness nanoscale machinery to create processes with performance far exceeding man-made technologies. If we can understand these biological nanoscale energy conversion processes we may be able to develop future technologies that are very energy efficient. Our work involves developing mathematical theories of the behaviour of nanoscale devices or molecular motors subject to large thermal fluctuations and applying this to both developing a better understanding of biological energy conversion and developing new technology concepts.

Recent work focuses on exploring the collective behaviour that spontaneously arises from many interacting molecular motors. This work is relevant to the rapidly growing field of Active Matter and may provide insights into the microscopic origin of collective behaviour and macroscopic structures that arise in biological cells.

This work is carried out in collaboration with Dr Katharine Challis from Scion.


Jack, M. W., & Konings, H. B. (2024). Seasonal variation in electricity demand of solar-powered net-zero energy housing in temperate climates. Energy & Buildings, 303, 113826. doi: 10.1016/j.enbuild.2023.113826

Deaker, A., & Jack, M. W. (2023). Gutzwiller approximation for indistinguishable interacting Brownian particles on a lattice. Physical Review E: Statistical, Nonlinear, & Soft Matter Physics, 107, 044109. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.107.044109

López-Alamilla, N. J., Challis, K. J., Deaker, A. G., & Jack, M. W. (2023). The effect of futile chemical cycles on chemical-to-mechanical energy conversion in interacting motor protein systems. Physica A, 615, 128608. doi: 10.1016/j.physa.2023.128608

Razaq, A., & Jack, M. W. (2023). An inverse-problem approach to simulating smart control of domestic electric hot water cylinders using electricity demand time-series data. Energy & Buildings, 278, 112644. doi: 10.1016/j.enbuild.2022.112644

Jack, M., & Konings, H. (2022). Will net-zero energy buildings break New Zealand's electricity grid? Proceedings of the 16th Otago Energy Research Centre (OERC) Symposium: An Equitable and Low-Cost Energy Transition. (pp. 33). Retrieved from

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