Catherine Adley

University of LimerickUniversity of Limerick


Think big, act small; think small, act big; but do big things.


Look to nature, go green: green roofs and green algae, they will target CO2 emission and generate oxygen.


  • Talented people will provide future prosperity.
  • Look to nature to somewhat target unrealistic COP21 targets.
  • Small actions can lead to big outputs.


Energy is the driving force of the universe, according to scientific principles and here, I thought it was money!

Ireland’s manufacturing sector needs to achieve not just a transformative step in terms of productivity, innovation and competitiveness but should also support a positive eco-system1. These are grand words and ideas in a challenging global dictatorship of climate change demands. The EU under its collective COP21 objectives aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions by shifting away from fossil fuels. Ireland’s target for 2020 is 20% reduction in CO2 emissions, is not realistic, as agricultural is it primary industry. The number of male and female cattle in Ireland2 as of June 2015 stood at 6963m, with Food Harvest 20203 targeting a 50% increase in milk production by 2020, where is the scope to achieve this target?

There are approximately 205,700 people employed directly in manufacturing, with support jobs bringing to 400,000 people under it remit and contributed €7.6 billion in payroll to the economy in 2011, with almost 95% of manufacturing firms employing less than 50 people. Exports of ‘agency’ assisted manufacturing companies were €78.5bn in 2012 up from €54.8bn in 2000, and have proven to be relatively resilient through the recession.1

Many existing firms in Ireland have already invested in necessary changes including; Lean, six sigma principles, automation, upskilling, new partnerships, investing in ICt’s , but how have they identified ways to improve energy efficiencies? Recent Government investments in Technology Centers such as the i2E2 Energy Research Centre can play an impactful role by working with companies to develop innovative technology solutions. The world economic forum on manufacturing4 states that: affordable clean energy strategies and effective energy policies will be top priorities for manufacturers and policy-makers, and serve as important differentiators of highly competitive countries and companies.4

As a microbiologist, I suggest we think small with big ‘innovative’ actions.

Cast study 1: Let nature work for us, look to nature: create algae ponds, about 70 percent to 80 percent of all the oxygen we breathe comes from algae!5 Put a green roof on your (new) manufacturing building. They reduce storm water runoff volumes and peak flows; they can mitigate the urban heat island effects. Grass roofs can also cool buildings during summer months; a small reduction in pollution control and they can be designed to improve urban biodiversity. What about also a green wall for ‘artistic’ and functionality.

Case study 2: Think low grade hear recovery: boiler flue gas has a high temperature (~120oC) and relatively low humidity due to liquid fuel. The solution presented -combustion air to be pre-humidified using flue gas waste low grade energy as a last stage of cooling, plus providing substantial reduction of NOx emissions (~up to 3.5 times) without any increase in boiler efficiency, using a simplified second generation contact economiser6,7.



  1. Forfás Report (2013). Making it in Ireland: Manufacturing 2020. Forfás, Wilton Park House, Dublin 2.
  2. Finnerty, C. (2016). EU cattle herd increases for the fourth year in a row. Agri-land newsletter Oct 8th 2016
  3. Food Harvest 2020: A vision for Irish agri-food and fisheries in 2020. Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food 2010.
  4. World Economic Forum (2012). The future of manufacturing opportunities to drive economic growth. Geneva, Switzerland.
  5. Biello, D. (2009). The Origin of Oxygen in Earth’s Atmosphere. Scientific America, August 19th 2009
  6. Mooney, E., Semkov, K, Mooney C., Adley, CC, (2014). Efficiency improvement through waste heat reduction. Applied Thermal Engineering 70:716-722
  7. Mooney E. (2014) Innovation in energy analysis. PhD Thesis- University of Limerick file:///C:/Users/Home/Downloads/Mooney_2014_innovation.pdf



About Professor Catherine Adley:

Professor Catherine Adley is researcher and lecturer in microbiology. She has worked in the USA in NY at Cold spring Harbour Laboratory and Boston University; in the UK in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Surrey. She has served on the Scientific Committee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and was a board member of the RDS. She served as Head of the Department of Chemical and Environmental Science for six years at the University of Limerick. Her interests are in mankind’s interactions and influences on the environment.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *