Profs. Justin Holmes & Paul Hurley

EU H2020 Pillar 1 – Excellence Science

TRANSLATE, The Recycling of waste heat through the Application of Nanofluidic ChannelS: Advances in the Conversion of Thermal to Electrical energy, aims to develop a new proof-of-concept nanofluidic platform technology leading to a breakthrough in versatile and sustainable energy harvesting and storage. 

The research project has received €3.5m in EU funding to develop a revolutionary way of converting waste heat into electricity. Building on the latest advances in nanochemistry and materials science, Professor Justin Holmes and the research team involved in the ‘TRANSLATE’ project aim to construct a device that can harvest and store the waste heat produced by power generators, factories and domestic heating systems.

According to Professor Holmes:

“Every day we lose 70% of all the energy we produce in our homes, offices and factories in the form of heat, which evaporates away into the atmosphere. The aim of TRANSLATE is to develop a reliable, low-carbon technology that can harvest as much as possible of this waste heat and turn it into electricity.”

Although the technology required to convert heat directly into electricity has been around since the 19th century, in the form of thermoelectric generators, these devices require costly, unsustainable materials and complicated fabrication methods, making them too inefficient and expensive to deploy on a global scale.

However, a recent materials science breakthrough made by researchers at the Technical University of Darmstadt has made it theoretically possible to construct a device that could overcome such obstacles.

Dr Kafil M. Razeeb leads the Advanced Energy Materials Group at Tyndall and comments:

“It is really exciting to be part of TRANSLATE. We will apply Darmstadt’s cutting-edge theoretical understanding of how ions move through nanochannels, and develop this into a complete prototype device that can efficiently convert any wasted heat below 100 °C into usable electricity. We will build this using only low-cost and non-toxic materials in order to create a sustainable device that can power the future generation of wireless sensors and wearable tech.”

Over the course of the next four years, Professor Holmes and his colleagues at UCC and Tyndall will be working in collaboration with researchers from the Technical University of Darmstadt, the University of Latvia and Spanish tech SME, Cidete, to turn theory into reality.

If they are successful, researchers involved in the TRANSLATE project will have developed a device that has the potential to harvest one of the largest sources of clean and inexpensive energies available, and, if converted into electricity, could provide a major breakthrough towards sustainable global energy.

Stephen O’Reilly, the FET H2020 National Contact Point for Ireland at Enterprise Ireland congratulated Professor Holmes on his success and noted that

“TRANSLATE is an excellent win for Ireland in what was a very competitive call with a success rate of less than 7%. It is also very topical in light of the European Commission’s Green Deal Policy. With TRANSLATE, Professor Holmes becomes the first researcher in Ireland to successfully coordinate two FET-Open proposals in H2020. This accomplishment is reflective of the excellent scientific research base in Ireland.”

After successfully securing Horizon 2020 funding, the focus of the multidisciplinary research team has turned towards developing and testing the technology required to recycle waste heat into electricity.

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