In Brief

The Challenge

Distilleries are important industries for Ireland and efforts are being made to decarbonise their activities. One such innovation has been the use of anaerobic digesters to produce biogas, replacing fossil natural gas as an energy source. These anerobic digesters can feed on distillery by-products to help deal with waste, but produce their own waste in turn in the form of effluent. Around 0.9 kg of effluent is generated for every kilogram of distillery by-products fed in an anaerobic digester. Some of it can be spread on land, but this also leads to several other environmental problems like ground water contamination and loss of oxygen in the water (eutrophication). We aim to solve this problem in a circular economy and industrial ecology framework, to improve energy and water systems. 

The Solution

Develop “engineered” carbon-based functional materials, namely, pyrochar and hydrochar from anaerobic digestate of distillery by-products. These materials possess high surface area, porosity, conductivity, and resemblance to activated carbon and graphene. These materials need to be “engineered” by physical and chemical modifications to achieve higher effectiveness, especially in terms of enhancing the surface area and conductivity, and stabilising the interconnected 3-D structure. These engineered carbon-based functional materials could then potentially be used to replace costly electrode material in batteries or supercapacitors, or may act as an adsorbent to remove novel impurity present in wastewater.

The Team

  • Team Lead: Dr Kunwar Paritosh, University College Cork 
  • Team Co-Lead: Dr Archishman Bose, University College Cork  

Societal Impact Champion

  • Dr James Browne, Irish Distillers Limited