30 December 2019|Young Scientist Competition

Well done to the Coláiste students pictured above, who took part in this year’s Young Scientist Competition. L-R  Zoé Ellingstad(2F), Lauren Cahill(2F), Jennifer Weston(2E), Aoibhinn Leyden(TY), Lucy Murphy(TY),  Clíona O’Keeffe(TY). Thanks to their teachers Ms Nicola Meere and Ms Colette Redington for their help and support.

Congratulations to Transition Year students Clíona O’Keeffe, who won second prize in the Intermediate Chemical and Mathematical Sciences and to  Aoibhinn Leyden whose project was highly commended.Well done also to second year students Zoé Ellingstad, Lauren Cahill, and Jennifer Weston whose project was highly commended.

The projects are described below.

Can Clever Crystals Cut Irish Farming Emissions?

Most people are aware of Ireland’s problem with Greenhouse Gases and the allied issues of cows emitting methane. Fertilisers spread on farmland as nutrients are a significant contributor to emissions also.

Fertilisers contain nitrates, phosphates and potassium. Nitrates are particularly present in urea – one component of the fertilisers used…it makes the grass green, but unfortunately urea is very unstable and breaks down to ammonia (NH3) almost as soon as it hits damp ground. Teagasc have been carrying out research on different strategies to slow down the release of ammonia, which is a much more potent and damaging gas than CO2.

Jennifer Weston, Lauren Cahill and Zoe Ellingstad, pupils of Colaiste Muire, Ennis have been looking at another innovative way of reducing this environmentally damaging gas by changing the crystalline nature of urea and combining it with other crystals such as glutamic acid.

They hope that their work will stimulate debate and contribute to the Government’s Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gases significantly. In 2014 the Irish government made a commitment to make agriculture carbon neutral by 2050 . However, trends show that agricultural emissions are on the rise and the students hope that their work will open new areas of research.

Fantastic Eggplastic! A comparative study of sustainable plastics

Cliona O ‘Keeffe was concerned as a primary school student about the sustainability of plastics in our lives.
From the fossil fuels used in their production to their short use, together with the fact that most plastics take centuries to degrade – our relationship with plastic made no sense to Cliona.

She has brought this passion to providing a solution in her Young Scientist project five years later.

Cliona has completed a thorough manufacture and analysis of plastics made without fossil fuels and compared their properties .

Even more exciting, she has made a new plastic material from crushed eggshells and other natural ingredients which initial testing shows has genuine promise as a packaging material of the future.

Cliona’s project displays kitchen cupboard science at it’s best . She has been supported in her work by her school , Colaiste Muire and the SSPC Science Foundation Outreach group at the Bernal Institute , University of Limerick. Testing facilities were carried out at Athlone Institute of Technology .

Cliona gratefully acknowledges this support of her work and hopes that she can contribute in a meaningful way to a more sustainable future.