Research in Environmental Technology is undertaken currently by Dr. J.J. Leahy; Prof. Michael Hayes; Prof. Julian Ross; Dr. Tom O'Dwyer; Dr. Duncan Martin; Dr. Robin Howard-Hildige; Dr. Teresa Curtin; Dr. Brian Kelleher; Dr. Tony Kay; Mr. Adrian O'Connell; Ms. Michelle Minihan; Mr. Mathew Ryan; Ms. Janice O'Brien and Ms. Sandra Linehan.
A first research theme is the development of innovative or clean technologies and the examination of the environmental impacts of alternative or 'clean' energy sources. Research on biofuels explores the use of, for example, waste cooking oil from the catering industry and tallow from meat rendering processes as raw materials for biodiesel. Although it is possible to use some of these oils directly in many cases chemical modification is required. To date we have participated in three EU ALTENER programmes and in addition have an Enterprise Ireland Applied Research Award. We have established links with a number of EU Universities as part of the EU ALTENER project. The work has included optimising the processing including the use of novel heterogeneous catalytic materials as well as testing the biofuels in fixed engine beds. Allied to this work is an additional project on the environmentally safe thermal disposal of risk materials from animal carcass processing.
A second research theme concerns the use of chemically modified natural materials such as clays and peats as adsorbents for the removal of heavy metals and hazardous organic molecules from waste water. The chemical modification of the clays involves intercalation with large organic molecules which reduces the hydrophilicity of the clays and increases the interaction between organic molecules and adsorbent. The modification of peat involves solvent extraction to reduce the hydrophobicity, increasing pore size to increase the ion-exchange capacity and regenerability of the adsorbent.
A third research theme involves collaboration with researchers within the Materials and Surface Science Institute on the development of regenerable catalytic adsorbent materials for removal and destruction of pollutants from aqueous waste streams and the use of catalysts for the decomposition of ammonia. This involves using a copper based catalyst for the decomposition of ammonia to nitrogen and water. The work also involves investigating the influence of water and SO2 on the overall reaction.