NUI Galway to lead €5m project to turn waste into fuel

14 Nov 2017

Image: Chokniti Khongchum/Shutterstock

NUI Galway is to lead a national effort to turn our waste into potentially vital biofuels, making Ireland more energy self-efficient.

With Ireland’s target of 16pc renewable energy generation by 2020 in mind, newly appointed Prof Piet Lens and his team from NUI Galway are looking to microbial life to help make up the difference.

As part of a new €5m project funded by Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Research Professorship Programme, Lens will be looking to develop novel bioreactor concepts that will recover energy from waste and wastewater.

This will potentially add new biofuels to the Irish energy sector, particularly in the agricultural industry, where methane emissions from livestock are significant.

Right now, technology is being developed that can take waste products such as methane and use them to produce fuel and other valuable products, while reducing pathogen levels and greenhouse gas emissions.

In countries such as Germany and France, methane has already become an important energy source.

Contribute to green Irish economy

As part of his research, Lens will focus on finding new marine bacteria for potential energy generation, developing mathematical models for bioenergy production, creating new bioreactor configurations and then turning these ideas into a working product.

Lens will collaborate nationally with research teams in NUI Galway, the MaREI and Beacon research centres, and the Energy and Dairy Processing Technology Centres.

“Prof Lens is a world-leading researcher dedicated to developing novel bioprocesses for the recovery of resources such as energy, metals and nutrients from waste,” said Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of the SFI.

“His work will contribute to the greening of our economy and Ireland’s energy sector, and will support the implementation of a circular economy in Ireland through the invention and application of new technologies.”

Lens said that he is “committed to contributing to further developments in this area, and to supporting a strong national and international network of academic and industrial partners linked to this university”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic