Following support from the Irish Research Council, Dr Kevin O’Toole has set upon a goal to reduce global carbon emissions by 1.2pc.
For the last five years, I have been working as the director of research and development at Exergyn, a company I co-founded in 2012 as a direct consequence of my Irish Research Council-funded doctoral work.
Exergyn’s mission is to meaningfully reduce global carbon emissions by mass deployment of our technology across the world. The technology, which has been proven and is now well into the pre-production phase, is a novel waste heat recovery solution that converts waste heat at very low temperatures into usable power, and it does so at a very low cost.
In short, we have developed an engine that runs on hot water! Whilst other waste heat recovery solutions do exist, these are only viable for higher temperatures (above 150 degrees Celsius) and, even then, they are often not cost-effective.
What makes Exergyn different is our ability to convert heat at less than 100 degrees Celsius to power cost effectively. This means we can convert some of the heat in, for example, the radiator circuit of an industrial engine, to additional mechanical or electrical power as these radiator circuits typically operate with water at 80 to 90 degrees Celsius.
‘There is no rule book for us to follow that will help us develop our technology. All we can do is work hard, apply the best research and development practices and, hopefully, have a little luck along the way’
Considering that every combustion engine on the planet requires a radiator circuit to work, and there are a plethora of other sources of less-than-100 degrees Celsius water that we can utilise, we estimate that our technology has an addressable market of hundreds of billions of euro.
Not only that, but by dint of the fact that every engine we attach our technology to will be, by definition, more efficient (requiring less fuel to achieve the same power output), our technology has the potential to reduce global carbon emissions by up to 1.2pc if deployed to its fullest extent. Or, to put it another way, an amount equal to the total emissions produced by the UK every year! This will have a hugely beneficial effect on both humankind and the environment.
I am honoured to be associated with the company and its ambitions. When my two co-founders and I met for the first time in a small café in Dublin in late 2011, we just had an idea on the back of an envelope. I have now been involved in not only developing the technology, but developing the working teams, establishing the company culture, imagining the commercial vision and finding the all-important investors to allow us to keep our ideas in motion.
‘When my two co-founders and I met for the first time in a small café in Dublin in late 2011, we just had an idea on the back of an envelope’
What we are attempting to do is at the cutting edge of industrial technology and I consider myself lucky to be in the thick of it. I work with a group of people (engineers and non-engineers alike) whom I would consider to be some of the smartest and most innovative people on the planet. I love the idea that what we are doing in a relatively small laboratory in Dublin (not necessarily known for its industrial technology development) could have such a large global impact, and could potentially change the world for the better.
There is no rule book for us to follow that will help us develop our technology. All we can do is work hard, apply the best research and development practices and, hopefully, have a little luck along the way.
This makes it all the more rewarding on those occasions where we can stand back and watch our latest prototype in operation – knowing that what we are witnessing is a world first, and knowing that it can potentially have such a positive benefit for my children and my children’s children.
We still have some way to go, but I’m very proud of the work to date and I sure there will be exciting times ahead for us.
Dr Kevin O’Toole is co-founder and director of research and development at Exergyn. In 2006, he was awarded an Embark postgraduate scholarship funded by the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology (IRCSET). Exergyn is also an enterprise partner on the council’s Employment-Based Postgraduate Programme.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Irish Research Council blog.