IT Sligo PhD researcher Seán O’Connor has won the Environmental Science Association of Ireland (ESAI) Postgraduate Researcher of the Year award 2020.  

The research – in the renewable engine project – has been carried out under the EU INTERREG funded Renewable Engine project with collaboration from industry partner Organic Power. The judges were impressed with the combination of scientific excellence and societal impact of the research.

O'Connor said: “I am delighted to have been awarded Postgraduate Researcher of the Year 2020 from the Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland (ESAI) for my PhD work at IT Sligo.  A huge thank you to my supervisors John Bartlett, Suresh C Pillai, Ehiaze Ehimen, David Tormey and mentors at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Renewable Engine, and Organic Power.”

O'Connor is in the final stage of his PhD studies, which seeks to accelerate the development of small-scale anaerobic digestion (SSAD) in Ireland.

Transform organic matter into biogas

SSAD is a promising technology with the capacity to transform organic matter into biogas, a mixture mainly composed of carbon dioxide and methane, making the technology suitable for a variety of applications in energy, agriculture. 

It could also be potentially used in the emerging bio-products and bioprocesses sector. His research aims to evaluate the current status of SSAD and to implement relevant improvement strategies and technologies, which will serve to guide researchers, policymakers and plant operators in developing a sustainable indigenous bioenergy industry in Ireland.

O'Connor has published six papers in high impact journals such as Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Journal of Energies, Journal of Environments, and Springer Nature.

His research findings have been disseminated at four national and seven international conferences including European Biomass Conference and Exhibition (EUBCE) and the Energy Technology Partnership Annual Conference. His work will be showcased at the annual ESAI Environ conference set to be held virtually from June 16-18, 2021.

His full publication list can be viewed at: