Ghaelcholáiste Chiarraí student Grace Ní Ifearnáin won the Eli Lily award for best overall project for chemistry and biotechnology content and first place in the junior chemical, physical and mathematical sciences category at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition (BTYSE).

Ní Ifearnáin believes she has found a way to eradicate Japanese knotweed using the black walnut tree.

After confirming there was no Japanese knotweed growing within 150ft of the trees, the 14-year-old then carried out further laboratory tests, which revealed that juglone, an organic compound produced by black walnut trees and spread through their roots, had poisonous properties.

Next phase

The next phase of the project involved extracting juglone from the hulls of the black walnut and adding it to distilled water, methanol and 1% ascorbic acid solutions.

Finally, it was found that the methanol and 1% ascorbic acid had a discolouration effect on the Japanese knotweed.

This led Ni Ifearnáin to believe that the black walnut extract did indeed have a negative effect on the Japanese knotweed. Further monitoring of these results will take place in the spring.

The Kerry student has also been selected to represent Ireland at the Broadcom Masters International in Atlanta in May with her project.