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12 December 2011

Sunflower Power And The Next Generation of Ulster Engineers
University of Ulster engineers and pupils at a Portadown primary school have teamed up in a search for greener, more sustainable new fuels that could prove vital to our future energy requirements

Scientists from the Biomolecular Diagnostics and Engineering Group at Ulsters Jordanstown campus led by Professor James Davis and children from St John the Baptist Primary School are involved in a novel research project to investigate the potential of sunflowers as a fuel source.

Primary 4, 5 and 6 children at the school planted sunflower seeds in small pots in their classrooms before the summer break. They then took the plants home and during the school holidays watched them grow in their own gardens.

Seeds from the giant sunflowers some of them topped six feet tall have now been collected and are being used by Professor Davis and his research team to assess the effectiveness of new processes for transforming sunflower oil into biofuel.

Professor Davis explains: The health benefits of cooking with sunflower oil are well known. The challenge facing these aspiring young engineers from Portadown is to see if sunflower oil has potential as an alternative source of fuel. The children have been working with us on a series of experiments both in their classrooms and in the universitys labs to assess the efficacy of new processes for transforming the oil into biofuels.

Looking ahead, he says the children will have an opportunity to record how the sunflower fuel produced from the seeds they grew actually performs in road tests.

This should help drive home the message that not only is biofuel green and sustainable but that it can also be very useful.

Professor Davis adds that the success of the pilot project in St John the Baptist Primary School means that other schools will now be invited to get involved.

For the full news article and to be taken to the website, click here


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