NUI Maynooth powers into Microsoft tech finals with biofuel engine

12 Jun 2008

With the addition of NUI Maynooth’s Team Acidrain, the world’s largest student technology competition, the Microsoft Imagine Cup, now has two teams representing Ireland in Paris next month amongst teams from over 50 countries worldwide.

The theme of this year’s competition is technologies that contribute to a sustainable environment. Competing in the embedded development category against students from the US, China and India is Team Acidrain led by Brian Byrne with technology that enables plant oil-powered car engines.

Most fuel conversion kits for engines require the use of a second fuel tank along with manual switches, which is both expensive and bulky, as well as requiring a car to start on diesel and then convert to oil when the engine reaches room temperature.

Team Acidrain has developed an embedded conversion kit that will allow a diesel engine to change over to any kind of plant oil, be it olive, sunflower, rapeseed whatever.

To prove the effectiveness of their invention, the entire team plans to drive a car containing their conversion kit all the way from Ireland to the Imagine Cup finals in Paris, fuelled on sunflower oil.

This is the first time Team Acidrain member Aodhan Coffey has participated in the Imagine Cup finals but last year his brother Cathal was part of another NUI Maynooth team that made it to the finals and won a prize there.

“He [Cathal] made the trip to Silicon Valley and even got to meet Bill Gates,” said Coffey.

“As a team, we can’t wait to take on the challenge of driving the car to Paris and when we hopefully make it there, we can’t wait to win!”

The second team chosen to represent Ireland at the Paris finals is ParkIT, led by Kieran Stafford and Christina Luminea, two software engineering students from Sligo IT with a technology that provides drivers with real-time parking information using a combination of cameras and software which scans for empty spaces and relays this information to a central database.

Last year’s Imagine Cup in South Korea saw over 100,000 students from more than 100 countries enter, with 112 teams from 56 countries competing in the finals.

By Marie Boran

Pictured L-R:Karl O’Dwyer (18), Brian Byrne (27) and Aodhan Coffey (20) from Team Acidrain