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Science Shop First Prize for SMAE Student Ciaran Doherty

Congratulations to Ciaran Doherty, who was recently awarded the Science Shop first prize for his work on his final year project at the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queens.

The Science Shop works across all university faculties linking the knowledge and skills of students and staff with community needs through course-based research projects and dissertations.  Ciaran, from the 2016 Mechanical Engineering graduating class, undertook his final year dissertation on the topic of  ‘Design of reed beds for extreme weather conditions’.  His project was supervised by Dr Beatrice Smyth and the project was carried out in conjunction with Share Village, a  registered charity that works for the inclusion of disabled and non-disabled people.

Based in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, Share is Ireland's largest residential outdoor activity and adventure centre.  The centre has been operating reed beds for the treatment of the site’s wastewater for over 20 years.  Reed beds are artificially constructed wetlands, which are used to treat wastewater before it is discharged to the environment.  However, in cases of extremely cold weather, the operation of these systems can be detrimentally affected and, in severe prolonged freezing conditions, the systems can cease to function, leaving the influent untreated and hazardous to the local environment and population.  Although reed beds have been installed throughout N Ireland, there are as yet limited measures in place to counteract the effects of extreme weather conditions.

The particularly cold winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 led to concerns in Share Village about the long term viability of the reed beds, and the aim of Ciaran’s project was to develop a design solution to ensure the continued operation of the reed beds during extreme winter weather conditions.  After analysing Share Village’s reed bed in terms of biology, chemistry, environmental conditions and the geography of the site, Ciaran developed a design solution that utilised a foam glass material to act as a floating insulator, encased in modular lightweight moveable grid matrices.  It was calculated that if this design was installed with a small aerator, the reed bed could be prevented from freezing even if exposed to temperatures of around -15oC for a period of two months.