UL has high-flying ambition to tap into Ireland’s aerospace sector

23 Nov 2017

Prof Luuk van der Wielen, director, Bernal Institute. Image: Connor McKenna

Under the directorship of Prof Luuk van der Wielen, UL’s Bernal Institute is exploring the use of Ireland’s vast agro-forestry residues in bioaviation fuel.

Given that it practically neighbours the Shannon Airport hub and all of the aerospace companies that surround it, the Bernal Institute is rather ideal for the production of advanced materials for the aviation sector.

This includes a focus on materials to produce lighter aircraft, and the maintenance of those parts.

A growing area within the institute is biofuels, which, in an Irish context, has even greater potential value, given our long tradition in agriculture.

All of that agriculture produces not only food, but vast quantities of waste and by-products that could, with the right harnessing, create natural and renewable energies.

“The benefits of biofuels in relation to the Irish context is that it can give value to much of the rural residues that you have – so, agricultural residues and forestry residues,” explained Prof Luuk van der Wielen, director of the Bernal Institute at the University of Limerick.

“It also solves the climate problem at the same time and creates the jobs we are looking out for. This makes it a key area for us to move into.”

Since 2004, Van der Wielen has been director of the BE-Basic Foundation, a globally operating, private-public research organisation for biobased, sustainable industrial chemistry, food, energy and materials.

Based in the Netherlands with hubs in south-east Asia and Brazil, the foundation has a cumulative budget exceeding €250m. Van der Wielen said that such international projects are vital to advancing our understanding of science in general.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic