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Professorial Appointment for Ulster Academic

9 January 2013

A University of Ulster scientistwhoplayed a key role in the establishment of the All Party Group(APG)on ScienceandTechnology at Stormont has been promoted toapersonal professorship.

Dr Tony Byrne, a Reader in the School of Engineering and a member of the University’s Engineering Research Institute,becomes Professor of Photocatalysis.

Aftergraduating from Ulster with a first class honours degree inAppliedBiochemical Sciences in 1993, Professor Byrneembarked on his doctorate studies inPhotocatalyticWater Treatment. He was awarded his D Phil in 1997 and hassincegone on to enjoy a distinguished academic career withan international reputation as a respected researcher.

He wasappointedlecturer in the School of Engineeringin 2005and after three years in post, he was promoted to Reader.The Jordanstownbased academichasbeen to the forefront of innovative teaching programmes. He spearheaded the introduction of thehonours degree in Clean Technology, the first of its kind in the UK. He is alsobeen involved in many pioneering projects to promote Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM subjects) to younger children.

Professor Byrne’sresearch focuseson photocatalysisfor a range of clean technology applications including solar disinfection of water, the removal of toxic pollutants from water and water splitting using solar energy to generate hydrogen.

He is currentlyinvolved in a number of major international collaborative research projects with partners in the USA,India, Spain, Mexico, Norway and the Czech Republic.

“Photocatalysis is the acceleration of a photoreaction in the presence of a catalyst," he explained. "For example, titanium dioxide is a white powder normally used in toothpaste and sunblock. If one excites titanium dioxide with UV light it becomes a powerfulphotocatalystcapable of killing bacteria and destroying toxic chemicals in water.If we can use solar energy effectively to drivephotocatalysis, then we have a truly ‘clean’ technology.

“Clean Technology is a term used to describe knowledge-based products or services that improve operational performance, productivity or efficiency, while reducing costs, inputs, energy consumption, waste or pollution.”

Professor Byrne has used his position aschairman of the Royal Society of Chemistry Northern Ireland section (RSCNI),toensure that independent scientific advice relating to key issues is made available to the governmentand that MLAs are fully aware of important technological and educational developments in STEM related areas.

Heis principal investigator ofa number ofinternationalprojectstohave attractedsignificantresearchfunding. They includea US-Ireland Initiative funded jointly by DELNI, National Science Foundation (USA), and the Science Foundation Ireland (RoI) forphotocatalysisresearch.His research has been published in leading academic journals includingApplied Catalysis B, Water Research and the Journal of Hazardous Materials.

Professor Byrne’sdoctorate research onPhotocatalyticWater Treatment wassupervisedbyDr BrianEgginswho is nowretired.OtherformerPhDstudents of DrEgginsinclude John Irvine, Professorof Chemistry at the University of St Andrew’s University and Peter Robertson,Professor of Energy and Environmental Engineering, Vice Principal and Pro Vice Chancellor(Research)at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

A native ofPortadownin CountyArmagh, Professor Byrne is married withfoursons and a daughter.