Turning air into liquid could help supply the UK's energy needs and produce a £1 billion industry with 20,000 jobs, according to a Brighton scientist.

Robert Morgan, principal research fellow at the University of Brighton'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, he said.

The UK has a renewable energy target of 15% of the nation's requirements by 2020, Dr Morgan said.

He claims 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.

Mr 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 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 which covered grid scale storage and presented his work at the Royal Academy of Engineering where the paper was launched.

The paper covered the technical aspects and economics of storage in the context of the UK electricity network.

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 GBP1 billion per year by 2050 and could support 20,000 jobs in the UK alone," he said.

"Given the technical leadership the UK has in liquid air storage, there is good potential for building a significant export industry."