Wednesday 21 August 2019

Septic-tank substitute and cheap dental work plan win awards

left: Competition judge Katherine Donnelly (Irish Independent); competitors Daniel Ryan, Artemisa Jaramillo, Fergus McAuliffe, Maria Boyce, Kevin Roche; compere Kevin Myers (Irish Independent) and judge Tom Boland (HEA).
left: Competition judge Katherine Donnelly (Irish Independent); competitors Daniel Ryan, Artemisa Jaramillo, Fergus McAuliffe, Maria Boyce, Kevin Roche; compere Kevin Myers (Irish Independent) and judge Tom Boland (HEA).
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A TIMELY alternative to septic tanks and fast, low-cost ways of filling teeth scooped the top awards in a competition aimed at rewarding emerging research talent in Ireland today.

Student Fergal McAuliffe (25) from Farran, Co Cork, is working at finding a way for willow trees to soak up enough wastewater to make septic tanks a thing of the past.

Kevin Roche (24), from Gorey, Co Wexford, impressed with his work on developing new materials for repairing tooth cavities that would not require the services of a fully qualified dentist.

The Making an Impact competition is a joint initiative of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the Irish Independent, which invited entries from research students in any discipline in higher education.

The two winners will receive cheques for €2,500 each, sponsored by the Irish Independent, after a final involving a 10-minute presentation in front of an audience of students, and a question-and-answer session with three judges.

They were selected on the vote of the audience and the judging panel, comprising: Eucharia Meehan, head of research with the HEA; Tony Donohoe, head of education with the employers' organisation IBEC; and Katherine Donnelly of the Irish Independent. The competition was compered by Irish Independent columnist Kevin Myers.

Mr McAuliffe's -- a PhD student in UCC -- research is particularly topical given the row over the proposed septic-tank inspection system.

Constructed wetlands have been shown to be more effective than septic tanks in treating wastewater and he is exploring their use as an alternative. Fast-growing willow trees would be planted, and a key focus of his research is finding ways to increase the water uptake by the willows, so that they would take up less space.

Kevin Roche, a PhD student at the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in UCD, says the problem with some materials used in filling tooth cavities is that they don't stick and a lot of drilling is needed. His research is using a material called glass-ionomer cement that sticks directly to teeth, eliminating the need for drilling. But it can crack easily under stress, so his work is now focussing on mixing it with materials akin to what makes real teeth, to make it tougher.

Irish Independent

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