RTE One 7.30PM, Friday, October 04, 2013

On this week’s show, Jonathan checks out two very different projects which could have positive impacts on our environment, Aoibhinn investigates how maths can be used to improve the management and distribution of blood supplies around Irish hospitals, and as Kathriona looks into grass growth monitoring that uses NASA satellite data she also gets the chance to fly a high tech drone!

Part 1 : Grass Growth Monitoring

With our reputation as the Emerald Isle precious, most of us do not give grass much thought. But with the recent fodder crisis and high agricultural industry growth targets set for 2020, growing the nation’s most important crop has become very serious business. Stuart Green, a remote sensing specialist at Teagasc’s research facility in Ashtown, tells Kathriona how we are now using NASA and the ESA’s satellite technology to monitor grass growth using infra-red technology. It’s a research project that quite literally involves watching grass grow!!

Part 2 : Heat Pumps

While it may be easy to turn a blind eye and place the blame elsewhere, the fact is that we produce a whooping 6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide directly in our homes. And with EU mandatory targets, calling for 20% of all energy to come from renewable sources by 2020, our over reliance on fossil fuels will have to change, whether we like it or not. Jonathan travels the country to meet a hotel owner and householder who have chosen to implement new ways of improving the efficiency of their own homes and business that not only benefits the environment but their pockets too!

Part 3 : MACSI Maths Workshop

Everyone knows Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain loves maths, so she’s in her element at a workshop where Industry leaders such as Diageo and Dell can bring their technical problems to be solved by mathematicians from all over Europe!  Aoibhinn investigates some real-life problems that maths and science can provide solutions to, and finds out how the workshop has improved the management and distribution of the HSE’s blood supplies in the Limerick area.

Part 4 : World 1st in Biodegradable Plastics

For it’s size, Ireland is among the highest waste producers in Europe – our waste every year would fill Croke Park to the top of the stands! Thankfully we’ve moved quickly from a position of almost total reliance on landfill to a high level of recovery of certain recyclable materials, however plastic bottles have a low recycling value and a lot of these bottles (which are often non-biodegradable) end up in landfills forever. So how can we convert that waste into something that is valuable? Kevin O’Connor at UCD may have the answer, with new technology that uses a combination of chemistry to break down plastic bottles and bacteria to convert the breakdown product to a biodegradable plastic.