27 October 2020- iCRAG, the SFI Research Centre for Applied Geosciences, today announced the launch of a new US-Ireland Centre-to-Centre partnership focussed on biomineralization with applications in the construction and waste sectors.

In collaboration with the NSF-funded Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics (CBBG) and Queen’s University Belfast Energy Efficient Materials Research Center (EEM), the partnership will collaborate with several Irish and international industrial partners as part of The US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership programme.

The research project, entitled “Multi-scale Investigation of Bio-Based Mineral Precipitation in Carbonate Bearing Granular Soils and Construction Related Waste” will use microbes and enzymes to enhance methods of bio-based mineral precipitation which can be used to cement granular soils, encapsulate problematic waste such as asbestos,  and stabilise soil slopes in areas of high land-slide risk.

Prof. Frank McDermott of the UCD School of Earth Sciences and Co-Principal Investigator in iCRAG explained, “Biomineralization is the process by which living organisms produce minerals to strengthen, stiffen and stabilise tissues and their bodies. The research project takes inspiration from that process and will focus on the use of microbes and enzymes extracted from plants to enhance mineralization and strengthening processes in carbonate-bearing materials, with widespread uses for iCRAG industry partners across the field of construction, waste management and natural hazard management.”

Prof. Edward Kavazanjian, Jr., CBBG Director said, “This collaborative project will contribute significantly to CBBG’s strategic goal to establish the emerging field of biogeotechnics as an important field in geotechnical engineering.  This project substantially contributes to the focus of microbially- and enzyme-induced carbonate precipitation research in CBBG and offers the promise of both mitigation beneath key civil infrastructures at risk from the critical problem of earthquake-induced soil liquefaction and reducing the carbon footprint of many construction activities.”

Dr Rory Doherty of Queen's University Belfast, School of Natural & Built Environment said, “This new project will aid in pioneering the development of sustainable materials within the framework of a circular economy for infrastructure, and will also aid in developing low CO2 ground stabilisation techniques”

The US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership is a unique initiative involving funding agencies across three jurisdictions: the National Science Foundation of the United States of America, Science Foundation Ireland of the Republic of Ireland & the Department for the Environment of Northern Ireland. The overall goal of the Partnership is to increase the level of collaborative R&D amongst researchers and industry across the three jurisdictions. This collaboration aims to generate valuable discoveries and innovations which are transferable to the marketplace, or will lead to enhancements in health, disease prevention or healthcare.

The three year project, with a total budget of €1.27M, will see eight researchers recruited across the republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United States.

A number of scientists and engineers from iCRAG are Co-Principal Investigators in the project: Prof. John Walsh of the UCD School of Earth Sciences, and Dr Mike Long and Dr Shane Donohue from the UCD School of Civil Engineering.