Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD today announced that two iCRAG researchers, Dr Shane Donohue of UCD and Dr Juan Diego Rodriguez Blanco of TCD, have been awarded funding through the Science Foundation Ireland Frontiers for the Future Programme.
The iCRAG projects are among 71 projects, from across 12 Higher Education Institutions, which have been awarded a total of €53 million. The programme provides opportunities for independent investigators to conduct highly innovative, collaborative research with the potential to deliver impact, whilst also providing discrete opportunities for high-risk, high-reward research projects.
Dr Donohue, an Associate Professor in the School of Civil Engineering, University College Dublin has received €475,379 for the Geophysical and Earth Observation Tools for Evaluating the Condition of Slopes (GEOTECS) research project which is also supported by GSI and EPA. GEOTECS aims to develop a way of monitoring the impact of floods and extreme weather on the condition of man-made slopes (e.g. embankments, dams), so that repairs can be targeted, and failures avoided. Vast networks of these slopes support the world’s transportation arteries and flood defences.
Speaking on the announcement of the award, Dr Donohue said, “Our project will bring together a team of scientists and engineers, from academia and industry, to develop a novel approach for characterising and monitoring the condition of geo-infrastructure slopes, such as embankments, cuttings or dams that are at risk of failure. The GEOTECS project will use remotely sensed data from satellites, in combination with geophysical data from fibre-optic cables, in order to develop a novel approach for identifying slope instability on a network scale and monitoring the deterioration of this geo-infrastructure over time with respect to climate.”
The scope of work in the project will see Dr Donohue collaborate with numerous industry stakeholders, including Irish Rail, Office of Public Works (OPW), Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), Network Rail, Canal & River Trust (CRT), Environment Agency (UK) and Optasense.
Dr Juan Diego Rodriguez Blanco, the Ussher Assistant Professor in Nanomineralogy in Trinity College Dublin, has been awarded €467,646 to conduct the SEleCTOR project - SEparating Critical metals ThrOugh mineRal crystallization with support from GSI and the EPA. The rare earths are a group of 17 chemical elements that are essential for clean and smart technologies, including smartphones, computers, lasers, wind turbines and hybrid cars. While extracted from rocks, in order to be useful industrially, these elements also have to be separated from each other. SEleCTOR will develop novel, clean and cheap protocols to separate rare earths from water to improve on current processes which are inefficient and environmentally damaging.
Speaking on the announcement of the award, Dr Rodriguez Blanco said, “The goal of the SEleCTOR project is to build the knowledge required to develop green and cheap methods to separate the rare earths from wastewaters. Our economy heavily relies on rare earth elements and these are not a sustainable resource. If we want to maintain the current standards of living and ensure the quality of life of future generations, we have to obtain and use rare earths in a sustainable manner.”
Commenting on the programme, Minister Harris said: “Congratulations to all the researchers who have received funding today as part of the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme. I am delighted to support this programme which funds individual-led research, with an emphasis on areas of high-risk, high-reward, which will help us build a better future for Ireland through discovery, innovation, and impact.”
The SFI Frontiers for the Future programme comprises two funding streams:
- Projects – 45 high-risk, high-reward research projects will receive €25 million to facilitate highly innovative and novel approaches to research.
- Awards - 26 larger scale innovative, collaborative excellent research programmes that have the potential to deliver economic and societal impact will receive €28m in funding.
For further information visit: https://www.sfi.ie/research-news/news/harris-sfi-frontiers/