NUI Galway opens biofuels lab

Prof Piet Lens, Prof Walter Gear, and Prof Ciaran O hOgartaigh, NUI Galway
Prof Piet Lens, Prof Walter Gear, and Prof Ciaran O hOgartaigh, NUI Galway

Facility will see research team produce fuel, plastics from waste

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12 April 2019 | 0

NUI Galway has launched a new research laboratory, featuring the latest analytical equipment to characterise biofuels produced from organic waste as well as the microbial communities which produce these fuels.

Prof Piet Lens will lead a team of 25 PhD and post-doctoral researchers in the Department of Microbiology at NUI Galway, which includes almost €1 million of advanced analytical equipment, funded through an investment under the Science Foundation Ireland research professorship programme: Innovative energy technologies for bioenergy, biofuels & a sustainable Irish bioeconomy.

Prof Lens and his team are spearheading this major research project to transform waste and wastewater treatment into production processes as part of a circular economy. The project will develop new technologies to produce biobased renewable fuels (such as hydrogen from dairy effluent) that are generated from waste products (such as butanol from spent brewery grains). These can be added to Ireland’s energy mix, supporting the Government’s strategy for an energy self-sufficient Irish bioeconomy.

Besides high-tech solutions, nature-based technologies will also be developed with the aim of tackling socio-environmental challenges such as climate change, water security, water pollution, food security and human health. These pollution control technologies are based on processes as they occur in wetlands and algal ponds. Also, the biomanufacturing of new biobased products such as fertilisers and biocommodities such as bioplastic.

At the launch, Prof Piet Lens said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for NUI Galway to develop new technologies that transform wastewater and waste into energy and biocommodities. The investment of Science Foundation Ireland in this area is a response to the nation’s climate action plan and ambitions to become a self-sustainable island for energy, where renewable biofuels are generated out of our wastes.”

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