Inspiration from the sea

TWO young Ballybunion girls who have studied the process of extracting iodine from seaweed in a renewable and economical way are to showcase their findings at this week's BT Young Scientist Exhibition.

Cora O'Mahony and Sarah Barry, who are both second year students at St Joseph's Secondary School, said they are over the moon at qualifying for the tightly fought competition, which sees just 550 of the 1, 870 original entries make it to exhibition stage.

The girls, both aged 14, will compete in the 'Chemical, Mathematical and Physical' category of the competition, bringing together the results of months of hard work and research. Cora explained that the concept arose after a class nature walk along the beach with their teacher, Elaine O'Connell.

"Iodine resources are being depleted and because iodine is found in seaweed, which is so widely available on our shores, we felt it would be cheap and easy to produce," she said. "After washing, cutting and converting the seaweed to ash, we added chemicals to it. We were left with an organic purple iodine layer and a waste layer, and we put the purple layer into a test tube and put it into a fume cupboard over night so the chemicals would evaporate. The end result was black iodine crystals."

The Ballybunion brainiacs, who have been friends since primary school, were due to set off for Dublin on Wednesday, to be followed later in the week by proud teacher Ms O'Connell and school principal, John O'Donovan.

"It's a wonderful achievement to be chosen to compete and for two 14 year olds to come up with something like this is brilliant," Mr O'Donovan said.

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