ATU and TCD take the lead in sustainable solutions to tackle the global waste crisis

Wednesday, February 28, 2024 Press Office
Press Releases

In the pursuit of a sustainable energy source, researchers at Atlantic Technological University and Trinity College Dublin have partnered up to revolutionise energy production through the Nano2H2 project. This collaborative effort, funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), aims to develop low-cost materials facilitating commercial hydrogen production from renewable sources.  

Prof Suresh C. Pillai from Atlantic Technological University (ATU) and Prof Paula Colavita from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) are leading out on the Nano2H2 project which addresses three key aspects - energy production, waste management, and environmental protection.  

Hydrogen, touted as the 'fuel of the future,' holds immense promise as a clean, efficient, and sustainable energy source. Unlike conventional fuels, hydrogen emits no carbon dioxide when burned or used in a fuel cell, paving the way towards achieving net-zero emissions. This breakthrough aligns with the circular economy, a transformative concept challenging the traditional linear model of "take, make, use, waste". As the world races towards 2030, companies embracing this shift stand at the forefront of innovation and market share. In the current linear model, we take materials from Earth, make products, and eventually throw them away as waste. A circular economy, in contrast, ensures materials never become wasted, promoting regeneration and sustainability. Recycling plastic into pellets for making new plastic products is an example of a circular economy.  

People living in Ireland produce more than 14 million tonnes of waste yearly (Environmental Protection Agency, National Waste Statistics), which is approximately 5,600 Olympic-sized swimming pools* filled with waste. It's a problem that The Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy (Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, 2020), Ireland's new roadmap for waste planning and management, fights to tackle.  

Prof Suresh C. Pillai, Director of the Health and Biomedical Research Centre and Head of the Nanotechnology and Bio-Engineering Research Group at ATU, acknowledges that waste is a huge problem worldwide.  

He said: "Since the Industrial Revolution, an enormous amount of waste has been created during manufacturing. Our world cannot sustain this. With a circular economy model, the waste is converted to products using 7-Rs: Redesign, Renew, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recover and Recycle, which can lead us to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 37% by 2050."  

Prof Paula Colavita, Professor of Physical Chemistry at TCD, highlights the importance of waste utilisation in reducing carbon emissions;"We need to make more out of the waste we are already producing, and we need to reduce our carbon emissions", she says, adding that a way forward is to use electricity from renewables to produce hydrogen more effectively and at a lower cost. "Waste can help us do that; however, we need to design new materials to enable this technology. We are at the early stages of designing these materials and are excited to work with our students and a team of researchers to achieve this purpose."  

Watch the project explainer video here


*Disclaimer: This calculation is based on the assumed density. This is a rough estimate, and the actual density of waste can vary.   

Featured image: Prof Paula Colavita and Prof Suresh C. Pillai with a group of researchers in a lab. 


Ivana Hanjs  
Digital Communications Officer /Oifigeach Cumarsáide Digiteach 
Ollscoil Teicneolaíochta an Atlantaigh (OTA), Éire  
Atlantic Technological University (ATU), Ireland  
Tel: +353 89 963 9559