Concept Phase Teams

*Teams co-funded by DFAT

Carbon-Impact

Developing sustainable and scalable atmospheric CO2 capture technologies

Challenge CO2 is a greenhouse gas and increasing atmospheric concentrations endanger human activities in their entirety. It is predicted that fossil fuels will remain an industrial feedstock and modest reductions of CO2 emissions will only delay the increase of CO2 levels in the atmosphere. A 4-fold decrease in CO2 emissions is required in the coming decades to successfully stabilise the CO2 concentrations. Ireland’s emerging and striving industrial sectors use more and more energy. CO2 capture technologies that integrate in energy-intensive industrial settings, operate as chillers or utilise waste heat are of high ecological impact, and will support Ireland, Europe and the World to adhere to their CO2 emission reduction targets. 

Solution Carbon-Impact aims to establish a disruptive atmospheric carbon capture technology that operates economically in humid air and is modular, scalable and not restricted to specific locations or CO2 point sources. The team will develop a technology that can lead to negative or net zero emissions, rather than reduced emissions, using abundant, stable and porous materials that capture CO2 form air and can be regenerated at low energetic costs. Moreover, the process will produce high purity CO2 which can be directly used, stored, sold or transformed, notably into bio-fuels using renewable energy. The technology will initially be designed to integrate as chillers in industrial cooling and air handling systems. Use of ‘Carbon-Impact’ modules in energy-intensive industries will significantly contribute to the reduction of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.  

Team Wolfgang Schmitt (TCD), Sebastien Vaesen (TCD), John Gibbons (MedMedia Group)

LiCoRICE *

Bringing lithium cobalt batteries into the circular economy

Co-funded by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Challenge Rechargeable batteries containing lithium and cobalt are key to meeting Ireland’s aims of decarbonising transport by 2030 and limiting the effects of transport emission on climate change. Currently, demand for these batteries is increasing massively, but the supply of raw materials is limited and mining them often involves exploitation of child labour. Ireland (and Europe) also face challenges in security of the supply of these materials as they originate outside of the EU. Recycling spent batteries is obviously the answer, but to date, this is not undertaken in an efficient manner and involves export of waste across the world. A solution to the problem of recycling batteries will positively impact everyone’s lives, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, lowering the cost of electric vehicles and improving the conditions of populations involved in mining raw materials. 

Solution The LICORICE team’s highly innovative solution is to recycle waste battery products into a novel material that is then transformed into fresh lithium cobalt oxide (LCO) for new batteries. Our process will result in lower energy consumption and a fast turnaround for producing LCO compared to current industry standards. We will work with industry and academics to make Ireland’s first fully green battery, showing that electric vehicle production can be environmentally sound. This will lead to cheaper batteries for electric vehicles, lower carbon emissions and relieve conditions for communities involved in mining the raw materials. 

Team Tony Keene (UCD), Steven Ferguson (UCD), Conor Leonard (WEEE Ireland)

SolarCool *

Improving solar panel performance in arid climate conditions

Co-funded by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Challenge Developments in the solar power industry over the past 50 years have led to improvements in both efficiency and economic viability of solar power installations; for example, the cost has dropped from an average of 76.67 USD/Watt in 1977 to 0.37 USD/Watt in 2017. Large-scale solar PV is now becoming competitive with other renewable technologies such as offshore wind. This project aims to address the major issues associated with the operation of solar cells in high ambient temperature arid environments for prolonged periods of time. These areas have particularly high resources of solar energy up to 2500 kWh/m2/year, which over twice that of Northern Europe or Ireland. Ambient temperature in these climates can reach above 50 degrees Celsius during the day and - degrees Celsius at night, and the solar Panels themselves can easily reach temperatures over 100 degrees Celsius. We are working together with Concern Worldwide to ensure that this technology can have societal impact in developing economies in Africa, where over 64% of the continent can be classified as arid or semi-arid.   

Solution In this project we will take a novel approach of addressing overheating issues in solar photovoltaics at both the solar cell and solar panel level. Silicon based solar cells are currently designed to operate optimally at 25 degrees Celsius typical in European climates, and in arid desert environments efficiency can be up to 30% lower than rated values. What’s more, average module operational lifetime is significantly reduced. This project will develop technology to reduce operating temperature of solar panels in this environment and thus further lower cost by increasing efficiency and operational lifetime to enable large-scale uptake of the technology.

Team David McCloskey (TCD), Séamus O’Shaughnessy (TCD), Connell Foley (Concern Worldwide)

www.nanothermal.ie/projects/zeroemissions

C-MINUS

Enable low-energy carbon-capture and negative-carbon technologies

Challenge Carbon capture, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is technologically feasible, but not commercially viable, except for situations where carbon dioxide concentrations are high. The main reasons for this are that most current approaches use chemical capture, which have high energy costs associated with regeneration of the active material, and alternative physical capture processes are less energy intensive but suffer from poor performance. Carbon capture will have important future roles in industry, energy, negative emissions technologies such as bioenergy carbon capture and storage, as well as air quality and agriculture. 

Solution The C-MINUS team aims to develop a disruptive solution using advanced physisorbents that capture carbon even at low concentrations. These materials will form the basis for the design and manufacture of devices to be field tested with multiple end users. Ultimately, net decarbonisation of electricity generation, transportation, agriculture and commercial/residential sources of greenhouse gas emissions will be enabled. The team will work with industry partner, MoleculeRnD Ltd. to develop a prototype and field testing will be conducted in arid regions in South Africa as well as in other application areas. 

Team Michael Zaworotko (UL), David Styles (NUIG), Loenard Barbour (Stellenbosch University, South Africa)

EcoMAG

Creating eco-friendly and cost-effective super magnets for electric vehicles

Challenge To significantly reduce the negative impact of climate change, we need to move from conventional vehicles to efficient electric vehicles. A critical component of the electric vehicle is the motor, which acts as the ‘heart’ of the car. Using a permanent magnet, rather than an electro-magnet, in an electric motor increases the efficiency by 15%, but the problem is that current permanent magnet motors use rare earth elements, which results in a cost eleven times higher than rare-earth free permanent magnets.  Additionally, the mining and extraction of rare earth elements poses a great risk to human health and the environment, meaning that current permanent magnets are not a sustainable solution for our transportation problem. 

Solution Our team aims to produce cost-effective permanent magnets, which will be used in highly efficient green electrical vehicles that do not use rare earth elements. This will reduce the CO2 associated with transport and minimize negative social and environmental impacts. A further advantage is that this new permanent magnet can be used in a wide variety of energy generation solutions such as wind turbines. This economical solution will help lead us towards a greener and safer future. 

Team Ansar Masood (Tyndall), Paul McCloskey (Tyndall), Wassim Derguech (Jaguar Landrover)

EFACE

Increasing the efficiency of renewable electricity using bioenergy

Challenge The Irish energy system will continue to undergo a transition towards low life-cycle carbon emissions through further renewable energy deployment. A successful and sustainable transition presents challenges related to grid stability of intermittent renewable electricity as well as needing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture and transport sectors via a circular economy approach.  

Solution The EFACE team will examine diversification of agricultural output through the production of renewable energy in the form of biomethane, coupled with the generation of biofertilisers to reduce fossil based mineral fertilisers. Furthermore, for the first time in Ireland, electrofuels will be investigated in the form of hydrogen, providing use for electricity from wind turbines when demand for electricity is low. The solution presented is the assessment of a Power to Gas (electrofuel) facility at the DePuy Synthes site in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork with the SFI MaREI Centre, Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) and DePuy Synthes agreeing to collaborate as key initial stakeholders to progress the solution. It is expected that the EFACE project will generate a range of societal impacts including the promotion of renewable technologies (in Agriculture and Industry), the production of sustainable, renewable fuels (in Transport), the circular economy (in Energy) and climate mitigation (Climate). 

Team Jerry Murphy (UCC), David Wall (Tyndall), Ian O'Flynn (Gas Networks Ireland)

Farm Zero C

Creating a carbon-neutral resilient dairy farm

Challenge The dairy industry is a key component of the social and economic fabric of Ireland and Europe. This sector faces the challenge of needing to reduce GHG emissions and ultimately to become carbon neutral. The development of a carbon-neutral farm must be in the context of promoting and growing biodiversity as this is critical to farm resilience. 

Solution The carbon-neutral resilient dairy farm will be a world first for agriculture. Our team will undertake an interdisciplinary programme of work targeting soil and grassland; animal diet and breeding; biodiversity; life cycle analysis and renewable energy as a direct response to the challenge area. This presents a holistic view of the farm to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the health and resilience of the farm.  

Team Kevin O'Connor (UCD), Fionnuala Murphy (UCD), Enda Buckley (Carbery) 

HyBioSol

Making the energy and waste management sector sustainable

Challenge The Irish government have set an ambitious target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which can be achieved only by decarbonising the energy and waste management sectors. Industries, anaerobic digesters, incinerators, waste and wastewater treatment plants will have demand to reduce carbon emissions and implement a sustainable water management. However, developing a remunerative, resilient, environment-friendly technology to achieve this goal is still a challenge. 

Solution The HyBioSol team proposes to address the challenge by implementing a hybrid, bio-solar technology that converts CO2 containing effluents to biofuels and/or chemical commodities, such as bioplastic, while treating contaminated wastewater. The energy required for the process will be renewable solar energy, making the technology self-sustainable and environment-friendly. We will develop a versatile device that can be incorporated to any plant producing contaminated wastewater and gas streams. The biofuels and bioplastics produced have the potential of replacing the fossil fuel-based counterparts, contributing to the development of a green, circular bioeconomy. 

Team Paolo Dessi (NUIG), Pau Farras Costa (NUIG), Kieran Cunnane (Galway Waste Coop) 

MESSO

Minimising the environmental impact of additive manufacturing

Challenge Additive manufacturing (AM) is a relatively new manufacturing technique where material in the form of powder, filament or liquid is added layer by layer until a near net shape part is formed. Initial research shows that AM has huge potential to become a significantly more environmentally friendly manufacturing method when compared to more traditional methods. However, AM is not without its limitations as materials and other inputs to the process can contain high embodied energy, meaning that they can actually be less efficient if not used correctly.  

Solution The MESSO research group, CIT, together with Depuy Synthes are collaborating to firstly quantify the environmental impact of an AM process using experimental testing. Once an in-depth understanding of the energy usage of a part from birth to death has been obtained, the AM method will be optimised to reduce the environmental impact of the process relative to traditional manufacturing methods. 

Team Andrew Cashman (CIT), Michael D Murphy (CIT), Donal Og Cusack (Depuy Synthes) 

https://messo.cit.ie

NAPSS2030

Making sustainable transport available to everyone

Challenge NAPSS2030 challenges unsustainable forecasted growth in Irish vehicle ownership, which is due to rise by 35% to 2.56M vehicles in 2030 (compared to 2014 baseline level). This growth has adverse environmental and societal impacts both nationally and globally in terms of emissions, utilisation of natural resources, pressure on infrastructure and unequal access to transportation.    

Solution NAPSS2030 addresses the challenge of ‘runaway’ car ownership growth through the marriage of ‘Autonomous-Driving’ technologies & ‘Mobility-on-Demand’ applications.   Integrating these features within a National Autonomous Pod Sharing Service will create a gigantic breakthrough whose innovation centres around the following interlocking components: 

  1. The Pod; an electric, 3 seat, 3 wheel, enclosed moped that is the most efficient mode of travel for 74% of all car trips with three persons or less.
  2. Automated Roving; automated-valet-parking and independent slow, occupant-less roving.
  3. Shared-Mobility; smart-phone bookings, vehicle-2-grid communication and GPS tracking will allow up to 100% utilization 24 hours a day of vehicles. 

The NAPSS2030 vision is to remove 600,000 vehicles from our roads and to eliminate 2MT CO2E by 2030. 

Team Yuansong Qiao (Athlone IT), Leo Creedon (IT Sligo), Michael Newham (Call-A-Pod)

www.NAPSS2030.mobi

SMILE team

Reducing transport emissions through smart mobility

Challenge The private car is king: transport accounts for 20%, passenger cars 10%, of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce this to zero, or close to, will require a whole-society shift in mobility behaviour from high- to low- or no-emissions transportation. Previous efforts have been piecemeal, such as individual initiatives based on only one discipline (e.g., Engineering/Economics/Psychology), or policies with opposing impacts (e.g., promoting the bike to work scheme while also delivering additional road capacity which fosters car-dependence). 

Solution SMILE brings together multidisciplinary expertise from computer science, engineering and social sciences to design an evidence-based mobility ecosystem centred on a trip decision-making app. The app will inform, educate and motivate users towards low- or no-emissions modes with a user-friendly interface making accessing eco-modes seamless. It will also personalise trip guidance to be optimised to the user, utilising sensors to harvest actual mobility behaviour and machine learning will optimise the nature and presentation of choices to maximise eco-mode choices. These data will be used to inform transport services and infrastructure planning and policy, and ultimately to bring about the shift in mobility behaviour from high- to low- or no-emissions transportation. 

Team Sam Cromie (TCD), Brain Caulfield (TCD), Shane Dunny (AECOM)

https://www.tcd.ie/cihs/projects/smile.php