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Emergence of winner-takes-all connectivity paths in random nanowire networks

Researchers at AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded National Materials Science Research Centre, hosted at Trinity, in collaboration with Duke University, have discovered the emergence of winner-take-all connectivity pathways in random networks, where memory is distributed across the network but encoded in specific connectivity pathways, similar to that found in biological systems. Their research was published today in the prestigious journal, Nature Communications.

Establishing the optimum pathway across complex networks is a ubiquitous problem: from information networks such as the internet to physical networks of roadways to highly interconnected biological networks within the brain. These findings may help in the development of hardware-based neural network systems with brain-inspired architectures for cognitive signal-processing, decision-making systems and ultimately neuromorphic computing applications. Neuromorphic computers outperform conventional computers at tasks that are natural to our brain such as ultra-fast sensory processing, high-level pattern recognition, and motor control.

The research was a collaboration between Professors John Boland and Mauro Ferreira, AMBER researchers in Trinity’s Schools of Chemistry and Physics, Professor Justin Holmes, AMBER researcher at University College Cork, and additional researchers from Duke University. Through experiment and simulation, the collaborative team elucidated the properties of nanowire networks that give rise to singular or multiple connectivity pathways.

Nanowires are similar to normal electrical wires but are extremely small, typically a few hundred atoms thick or thinner than one thousandth of the thickness of a human hair. Just like normal wires, nanowires can be made from a variety of different materials and typically have surface coatings either from their growth process or an engineered coating to stop them clumping together in solution. By changing the nanowire material, or the coating on the nanowire the team found that networks can develop different types of connectivity pathways, and importantly identified the conditions required for the emergence of a single lowest-energy, most-efficient pathway.

To understand preferred pathways, think of walking through a University campus or business park with some grassy areas and paths connecting the different buildings. There will be foot-worn short cuts in the grass that people take to save time and energy. The combination of frequently used paved and unpaved pathways are the most practical or preferred pathways for moving efficiently. The human brain develops preferred communication pathways that link together different brain circuits or loops to quickly and efficiently complete specific tasks and this research shows evidence for the same behaviour in a nanowire network.

37th combustion symposium held in Dublin

Researchers from Trinity and NUI Galway recently hosted the largest ever convening of the most important scientific conference on alternative fuels, fuel efficiency and fires. The occasion marked the first time the biennial symposium had been held in Ireland.

Assistant Professor in Physics at Trinity, Stephen Dooley, partnered with Emeritus Professor John Simmie (Chemistry) and Dr Rory Monaghan (Engineering & Ryan Institute) from NUI Galway to form the local host team for the 37th International Symposium on Combustion. Over 1,800 delegates from across the globe attended the technical presentations in the Convention Centre Dublin.

37th combustion symposium

Over 90% of the energy used in Ireland is delivered by burning fuels, the vast majority of which is imported. This energy is needed for everything from lighting and heating our homes and preparing our meals, to powering our industries and fuelling our planes, trains and automobiles. The immediate challenges posed by climate change, declining air quality, increasing energy bills, and energy supply security, especially with Brexit around the corner, means that cleaner, cheaper, more reliable forms of energy are urgently needed.

Professor Dooley said: “Combustion accounts for approximately 90% of the world’s energy utilisation, and is a very significant contributor to climate change. The 37th International Symposium on Combustion focused members of the international research community on how humanity can affordably diversify away from fossil fuel energy sources, and dramatically improve the efficiency of the combustion processes, such that much less carbon dioxide is produced.”
“Through their research contributions, which culminated in the arranging of this major conference, Ireland and Trinity are emerging as international leaders in resolving global environmental and societal issues in energy-climate change.”

The symposium highlighted recent advances in the development and testing of renewable fuels including biomass, biomethane, liquid biofuels and hydrogen; use of waste products like agri-forestry wastes, sludges and municipal waste as fuels; efforts to reduce harmful emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter; increases in engine efficiency through a better understanding of how existing and new fuels burn and how engines can be redesigned around this new knowledge.

37th combustion symposium

The symposium also dealt with the study of how fires spread, what can be done to better predict this, and how emergency planning and evacuations can be improved. This was thrown into tragic light last year in Grenfell Tower and this summer in Greece and California.

The importance of combustion research was recently highlighted by the launch of the €4.4-million Sustainable Energy and Fuel Efficiency (SEFE) ‘spoke’ at the Research Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy. With financial backing from Science Foundation Ireland and national and international industry, SEFE researchers at Trinity, NUI Galway, UCC, UL and Teagasc will develop the next generation of renewable fuels and cleaner engines.

The hosting of the symposium in Ireland was particularly timely given the recent announcement from the Climate Change Advisory Council that the country is “completely off course” to achieve its 2020 and 2030 climate targets. This event thus served as a rallying call to the energy research and policy-making communities that unless Ireland takes immediate action on the development alternative fuels, the country is in line for hundreds of millions of euros worth of annual fines from the EU.

Chairperson of the local host team, Emeritus Professor at NUI Galway, John Simmie, said: “Given society’s heavy reliance on fuels, combustion is more relevant now than ever. While the recent popularity of electric vehicles is to be welcomed, technological limitations and high costs mean that all energy forecasts show significant combustible fuel use until well into the second half of the 21st century, especially for heavy, long-distance transportation.”

Head of Strategy at Science Foundation Ireland, Dr Peter Clifford, highlighted the scientific excellence of the event, saying: “The International Symposium on Combustion is the premier gathering of the fuels and combustion research community. Its presence here underscores the efforts and growing reputation of the combustion research community in Ireland.”

The Symposium was supported financially by Science Foundation Ireland through the Exceptional Conference Award, Fáilte Ireland, and a wide array of Irish and international industry sponsors.

Why hasn't graphene changed the world? Professor Jonathan Coleman talks about the miracle discovery 15 years ago. Interview with Pat Kenny on Newstalk.

A team of international researchers led by Prof Martin Hegner developed an automated diagnostic platform that indicates thrombotic risks or cancer in one drop of blood.

13 July 2018

A team of international researchers led by Prof Martin Hegner, Investigator in CRANN and Trinity’s School of Physics developed an automated diagnostic platform that indicates bleeding - and thrombotic risks in one drop of blood within seconds.

They exploit micro-resonators for real-time measurements of the evolving blood plasma clot strength. Along with the clinically measured clotting time, other parameters, from specific factor deficiency to global coagulation parameters to assess fibrinolysis, can be extracted. These technical developments now open up the possibility to introduce a miniaturized global haemostasis assay with capability to fine-tune anti-coagulation therapies (left image).

Automated diagnostic platform

In collaboration with the multinational Hoffman-la-Roche they report a novel strategy for quick, reliable and quantitative diagnostics of expression patterns of non-coding short RNA in blood plasma or cell cultures. They directly detect label-free specific miRNA biomarkers relevant to cancer and adverse drug effects in blood-based samples (right image).

Prof Hegner’s work focuses on development of innovative nanotechnological automated diagnostic platforms that underpin the next generation medical devices. The collaboration with the multinational Hoffman-la-Roche, a world leader in in-vitro diagnostics, enabled this scientific study and provides the possibility to further miniaturize this device for portable point-of-care testing for the market and society.

Prof Hegner commented, "This has significant implications for a non-invasive, rapid and personalised diagnosis using nanomechanical sensors".

Published in Nanoscale a high impact peer reviewed journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The School of Physics launches new sculpture “The Radiant Stranger”

29 May 2018

On Thursday, 24 May, the School of Physics officially welcomed a new sculpture to the Fitzgerald building. The sculpture, entitled The Radiant Stranger, is a model of conical refraction and was designed by Prof James Lunney and fabricated by David Grouse in the Mechanical Workshop in the School of Physics. The renowned theoretical physicist Sir Michael Berry FRS, who talked about the discovery and significance of conical refraction, launched the sculpture.

The Radiant Stranger was the name given by the Irish poet Aubrey de Vere (1814-1902) to conical refraction, an optical effect predicted in 1832 by William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865) and observed by Humphrey Lloyd (1800 - 1881) in the same year. This was a major sensation, a prime example of a theoretical prediction using the wave theory of light, quickly confirmed by observation. Both Hamilton and Lloyd made notable contributions to mathematics and physics in Trinity in the 19th century.

In conical refraction a beam of light directed along either of the optical axes of a biaxial crystal spreads out as a hollow cone inside the crystal, and emerges as a hollow cylinder of light. Sample rays of the cones are highlighted in orange in the sculpture, which is a scaled-up version of a small wire model recently discovered in College, possibly made in Paris in the 19th century. It was the discovery of this model, which inspired Prof Lunney to propose the making of The Radiant Stranger.

Prof Lunney said, “The Radiant Stranger is a celebration of the discovery of conical refraction in Trinity College Dublin in 1832. The combination of theoretical prediction by William Rowan Hamilton, followed shortly by the experimental observations of Humphrey Lloyd, was a sensational moment in the development of optics in the 19th century.”

The launch event also included a screening of A Reflection on Light, a short film by artist Grace Weir who was artist-in-residence in the School of Physics, and Dr Iggy McGovern reading some of his poems on themes of Hamilton and conical refraction. Prof James Lunney spoke about the circumstances leading the creation of the sculpture, and thanked all those who had helped along the way.

The artwork was jointly funded by the School of Physics and the TCD Association and Trust.

Pictured (L-R) Sir Michael Berry, Grace Weir, Prof James Lunney, Dr Iggy McGovern, Prof Peter Gallagher and David Grouse.

The School of Physics welcomes Laidlaw Scholars

24 May 2018

Speaking at the announcement on May 22nd, Provost Patrick Prendergast said “The Laidlaw Scholarship was established in 2014, thanks to Lord Laidlaw of Rothiemay’s commitment to the development of young people. The scholarship is designed to assist undergraduates to become leaders in academia or other sectors; it supports self-motivated and ambitious students to gain the knowledge and skills to become future leaders. The long-term vision for the programme is to create a wide-reaching and diverse network of scholars who will reinvest their knowledge, skills and experiences amongst their peers, colleagues and networks. The scholarship comprises a research project and a leadership development programme. The research will be carried out across two consecutive summers, with leadership activities taking place throughout the year. The leadership programme will support the scholars’ personal development with modules on leadership styles, group dynamics, and communication skills. Scholars will improve their employability by participating in workshops designed to develop self-awareness, initiative, motivation and creativity. Trinity is of course honoured to be one of just eleven universities worldwide included in this far-reaching and creative programme which will be invaluable to the participating scholars and, through their contribution, to society at large.”

The six students working with the School of Physics team are:

  • Andrew Cleary- Leaking Exoplanets: Understanding how Stars affect Atmospheric Escape in Exoplanets (Prof Aline Vidotto)
  • Colin Wilburn- Waste Heat Harvesting Using Thermally Charged Capacitors (Prof David McCloskey)
  • Robert Clampett: Helium Ion Beam Defects in the Creation of Silicon Waveguides (Prof David McCloskey, Prof Hongzhou Zhang and Prof James Lunney)
  • Samuel Bateman: Helium Ion Microscopy of Tumour Cell Platelet Interactions (Prof Hongzhou Zhang and Prof Maria Santos-Martinez)
  • Seán McMahon: The Synthesis of Electromechanical Strain Sensors based on Graphene/Polymer Nanocomposites: Measuring the cyclical defection of bike frames for performance analysis (Prof Jonathan Coleman)
  • Stefan Nixon: Luminous Supernovae across the Universe (Prof Jose Groh)

We wish them the very best and look forward to working with them over the coming months.

Provost Patrick Prendergast’s full speech from the ceremony is available here.

Laidlaw Scholars

Annual global engagement joint awards for Prof Charles Patterson and Prof Hongzhou Zhang

17 May 2018

On Tuesday 15th May, the Annual Global Engagement Awards were hosted by the Provost in recognition of outstanding contributions to Trinity’s Global Engagement activities.

The recipients of this year’s Trinity Global Engagement Awards were: Professor Zuleika Rodgers as Programme Director for the Dual Degree programme with Columbia University and a joint award for Professor Charles Patterson and Prof Hongzhou Zhang to recognise their work in the development of a partnership with University of Science and Technology Beijing (USTB).

The Vice President for Global Relations, Professor Juliette Hussey, commented: “This is the fourth year of the Global Engagement Awards and as Vice President for Global Relations I was delighted to see such strong applications for the Awards. It is wonderful to see the level of global engagement throughout Trinity and in particular in the area of university partnerships. All three awardees this year were involved in developing partnerships with universities in US and China leading to both a dual degree and an articulation programme.”

The Awards are designed to recognise the exceptional contribution made by staff to global education and research, cultural understanding and global experiences that directly benefits the Trinity community, raising the University’s profile and supporting the development of students into global citizens.

The winners were chosen following a detailed assessment by the adjudication panel, comprising representatives of academic and administrative staff and an external reviewer. The panel examined each candidate across four categories that included global engagement, international education and outreach activities, international relationship building and leadership in global fundraising.

The range of Trinity’s Global Engagement activities cover areas such as: development of Trinity’s academic partnerships; contributing significantly to Global research areas – working to solve real world problems; supporting international students’ integration on campus; expanding the range of study areas available to students; developing exchange programmes and raising Trinity’s global awareness.

Pictured (l to r): Professor Zuleika Rodgers, Dr. Niamh McGoldrick (accepting on behalf of Professor Hongzhou Zhang) and Professor Charles Patterson.

Electrical Analytics selected for final of One2Watch competition at FutureScope

05 May 2018

Electrical Analytics, a spinout from the Applied Physics Research Group, has developed a power quality monitoring system, backed by a cloud-based data analysis platform that enables power grid operators to have complete visibility over their entire distribution network.

FutureScope One2Watch 2018 Finalists (L-R) Ronan Kelly, founder and CEO, Bespoke Choice; Barry Murphy, CTO, Electrical Analytics; Lucy O’Keeffe, co-founder and CEO, CroiValve; Fergal O’Connor, founder and CEO, Buymedia.

Electrical Analytics Technology Ltd. is a spinout from the Applied Physics Research Group based in Trinity College Dublin.

This project is a Commercialisation Fund initiative funded by Enterprise Ireland. The team is also proudly supported by Science Foundation Ireland and Trinity College Dublin.

EU grants €22m to bio-refinery research project led by Glanbia Ireland

01 May 2018

The European Commission today announced €22 million in funding for a new bio-economy research project to be led by Glanbia Ireland. The project, called AgriChemWhey, will receive €22 million in funding from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. It is the first dairy industry project to be awarded funding under the programme. The overall value of the project is €30 million with the balance of funding coming from the partners involved. The project will explore the development of a new state-of-the-art, bio-refinery at Lisheen, Co Tipperary with a world-first process for converting by-products from the dairy industry into high value bio-based products including biodegradable plastics.

€22 million in funding for a new bio-economy research project to be led by Glanbia Ireland. The project, called AgriChemWhey

AgriChemWhey is based on groundbreaking technology developed and patented by Glanbia Ireland, in collaboration with University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin. It builds on previous research programmes funded by Enterprise Ireland and research carried out within the Science Foundation Ireland funded Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) centre. Dr Ramesh Babu from Trinity’s School of Physics is the AMBER lead on the project.

Making the announcement today, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan said: “I am very pleased to see this project receive funding under the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking. AgriChemWhey is a highly innovative research project, which if successful, will serve as a flagship for Europe’s growing bio-economy, contributing towards a more resource efficient European dairy sector, with enormous potential for replication in other areas across Europe, while also providing a boost to jobs and growth in Europe’s rural economy.”

Speaking at the launch, Michael Creed TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said: “I congratulate Glanbia and all the Irish partners involved in this ground-breaking award. Innovation is a key theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy for the sustainable growth of the agri-food sector. Projects such as AgriChemWhey will strengthen the environmental sustainability of the sector, while offering new opportunities for rural employment and development.”

Philippe Mengal, Executive Director of BBI JU which has awarded funding to the project commented: “All of us in BBI JU, together with our founding partners the European Commission and the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) are very pleased to support this project. It is exciting to see Glanbia Ireland and its partners in the agricultural sector spearhead this research project as it gives us a clear indication that more actors see the potential offered by a sustainable and competitive bio-based sector for Europe and its citizens’’. The AgriChemWhey project will take low value by-products from the dairy processing industry –excess whey permeate (WP) and delactosed whey permeate (DLP) - and convert them into cost competitive, sustainable lactic acid. Lactic acid can then be used in value-added bio-based products for growing global markets, including biodegradable plastics, bio-based fertiliser and minerals for human nutrition. The new technology developed by Glanbia Ireland will provide both the dairy industry and wider society with an opportunity for greater resource efficiency - less food waste, more products from the same starting material (milk), and integration of food and non-food material production.

Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland added: “A key plank of Enterprise’s Ireland engagement with international research and innovation cooperation is through the European Union Research and Innovation Framework Programmes. Enterprise Ireland leads the national support network for Horizon 2020 through which funding for the AgriChemWhey project has been secured. This project is Ireland’s biggest win under the fund to date and illustrates the potential of the fund for Irish companies and researchers. I want other Irish companies to work with us and see Horizon 2020 as an opportunity to innovate and grow their businesses.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland congratulated the partners on this ambitious project stating: “Ireland is ranked second in the world for Animal and Dairy Research, a topic of great strategic importance to this country and it is a testament to the excellent research being undertaken across industry and academia that competitive European investments of this magnitude are won. I am delighted that Glanbia is leading this project and I hope that other Irish based industries are encouraged by their success to lead and win additional research projects of scale from the EU programmes. The technology garnered from this research will place Ireland at the cutting edge of sustainable agricultural processing, and provide an excellent test bed for the roll-out of new and innovative technologies in the dairy sector.”

Jim Bergin, CEO of Glanbia Ireland concluded: “We are very excited about this R&D project which has the potential to harness the potential of by-products from the dairy processing stream and to create a circular bio-economy for the dairy industry. I would like to thank our partners who have contributed to the project so far and most particularly, our funding partner, the BBI JU. We look forward to working together and to taking the project forward to its next phase of development.”

This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI-JU) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 744310. The BBI-JU is a €3.7 billion Public-Private Partnership between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium. Growth in milk production is set to continue as a result of increasing demand for whey protein for human and animal nutrition globally and the removal of milk production quotas in the EU in 2015, underscoring the need for new technologies, products and markets to manage the associated waste streams.

AgriChemWhey has the potential for replication in other regions across Europe, contributing towards the development of the European bio-economy to promote rural growth, competitiveness and job creation and aligning with European sustainability targets. The new facility is planned for the new bio-economy innovation campus at Lisheen, Co. Tipperary on the site of the former Lisheen mines. The new bio-economy campus will offer a single hub to enable industry, entrepreneurs and researchers to scale technologies that convert Ireland’s natural resources to products of high value for use in a wide variety of sectors.

AgriChemWhey will also partner with Model Demonstrator Regions for sustainable chemicals in Ireland and in Belgium to examine policy development for market uptake of bio-based products and share best practice while working on common challenges together as part of the Irish Bioeconomy Association.

Partners in the AgriChemWhey project include:

  • Glanbia Ireland - Project Coordinator;
  • University College Dublin (UCD) – Beneficiary;
  • AMBER, School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) – Beneficiary
  • Commercial Mushroom Producers Cooperative Society Ltd (CMP), Ireland – Beneficiary
  • PNO Consultants Limited, UK – Beneficiary
  • GIG Karasek GmbH, Austria – Beneficiary
  • Tipperary County Council, Ireland – Beneficiary
  • TEAGASC – Agriculture and Food Development Authority, Ireland – Beneficiary
  • Pole Greenwin, Belgium – Beneficiary
  • Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium – Beneficiary
  • EW Biotech GmbH, Germany - Beneficiary

Prof Aline Vidotto awarded prestigious Irish Research Council Laureate. Prof Vidotto will lead ASTROFLOW, a 0.6 million euro project that will investigate how the atmospheres of exoplanets are affected by their host stars.

29 March 2018

One of the biggest surprises in the discovery of nearly 4,000 exoplanets is that the majority of known exoplanetary systems have a very different architecture than that of the solar system. Many exoplanets orbit very close to their host stars, with distances that can be more than 10 times smaller the Sun-Mercury distance. This extreme proximity causes exoplanets to receive a larger dosage of high-energy radiation from their host stars. Ultimately, this radiation heats exoplanetary atmospheres, which expand and “leak”.

The ASTROFLOW project will investigate how the leaking atmospheres of exoplanets are affected by material that is ejected from the host star. The project will use a suite of 3D magnetohydrodynamic models to study the interactions between stellar and exoplanetary outflows. The computer simulations will use Irish supercomputing facilities, such as ICHEC.

Exoplanetary atmospheres are believed to be an important ingredient in the potential for an exoplanet to develop life. When planets lose significant amounts of material, their evolution changes. Atmospheric loss sculpts planet and changes how big and how massive they become.

The ASTROFLOW simulations will provide theoretical interpretation for observations of atmospheric escape. Prof Vidotto’s group in Trinity College is involved in the CUTE mission, a NASA-funded cubesat, expected to launch in early 2020. CUTE will survey evaporating atmospheres of gigantic gaseous planets orbiting scorchingly close to their parent stars.

“Light at Night” Citizen Science Project

13 March 2018

Prof. Brian Espey of the School of Physics is leading a Citizen Science project to assess night-time light changes, our attitudes to them, and the potential implications for health and the environment as part of the Irish Times Science Citizen programme sponsored by Science Foundation Ireland and the Environmental Protection Agency. There was an article about this work in the Irish Times:

Researchers Develop A New Material Capable Of Regenerating Diseased Heart Tissue And Limiting Infection

13 March 2018

Researchers from AMBER and the School of Physics, have developed a new biomaterial which is capable of both regenerating tissues which respond to electrical stimuli (such as the nerves, spinal cord, heart, brain and muscles) as well as eliminating infection – an ever-growing problem in hospitals. This could enable enhanced recovery for heart attack and burn patients. The new study is published in Advanced Materials*, a leading international materials science journal. The study was led by AMBER researchers at RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) in partnership with Trinity College Dublin and Eberhard Karls University in Germany.

This new material could help to improve quality of life for heart attack survivors, as scar tissue build-up can decrease heart function. An electroconductive biomaterial could bypass damaged regions of the heart and restore functional activity.

For people with extensive nerve damage, there are currently very limited options in terms of repairing nerve injuries extending beyond two centimetres. However, by combining a biomaterial with proven regenerative capacity, like collagen, with a material that can carry an electrical stimulus, it may be possible to transmit electrical signals across damaged tissue, resulting in functional restoration of the affected area. This concept may also have potential in regenerative capabilities of the spinal cord and other areas including the brain.

The new material developed by the multidisciplinary research team is composed of collagen (the most abundant protein of the human body which has known regenerative potential and can support the body’s cells) and graphene (the world's thinnest material which is known to have unique mechanical and electrical properties) resulting in an electroconductive ‘biohybrid’ combining the beneficial properties of both materials –resulting in a material which is mechanically stronger, with increased electrical conductivity.

This ‘biohybrid’ material has been shown to enhance cell growth and, when electrical stimulation is applied, directs cardiac cells to respond and align in the direction of the electrical impulse. Furthermore, the material prevents bacterial attachment, a hugely favourable characteristic which can be applied in the development of next generation antimicrobial medical devices. The surface roughness of the material, induced by the introduction of graphene, causes bacterial walls to be burst while simultaneously allowing the heart cells to multiply and grow.

Professor Jonathan Coleman, Principal Investigator in AMBER and Trinity’s School of Physics said, “It is remarkable to work with my AMBER colleagues in RCSI, combining bioengineering and physics to find a new application for the graphene being produced in our labs. Recently our team have pioneered the development of a technique to produce large quantities of pristine graphene at low cost and so it is significant that we are in a position to now create this new biomaterial using this wonder material.”

Professor Fergal O’Brien, Head of the Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) in the Department of Anatomy in RCSI, Deputy Director of AMBER and lead Investigator on the project said, “Many cells and tissues in the body are responsive to electrical stimulation but electroconductive materials are limited because they may kill cells or cause infection. Despite progress in biomaterials science for some applications, there has been limited success in treating tissues of the heart and nervous system. There are currently no solutions for very large nerve defects and large areas of heart wall damage.

We are very excited by the potential of this material for cardiac applications but the capacity of the material to deliver physiological electrical stimuli while limiting infection suggests it might have potential in a number of other indications such as repairing damaged peripheral nerves or perhaps even spinal cord. The technology also has potential applications where external devices such as biosensors and devices might interface with the body.

This type of collaborative research is only possible in a centre like AMBER where leading researchers from different disciplines get to share ideas and work in partnership together.”

The work was conducted by AMBER and RCSI TERG post-doctoral researcher, Dr Alan Ryan, first author on the paper with Dr Cathal Kearney, an AMBER senior research fellow and lecturer in RCSI in partnership with multi-disciplinary team of researchers based in RCSI, Trinity and Professor Katja Schenke-Layland’s laboratory in Eberhard Karls University Tübingen in Germany, where the electrical stimulation research was carried out.

Professor Michael Morris, Director of AMBER, said, “Today’s announcement about this new biomaterial demonstrates our track record of pushing the boundaries of science to discover real solutions for people. We will continue to carry out excellent research that has real societal impact, with this technology potentially improving the lives of thousands of people.”

Link to Advanced Materials Article

‘Powering STEM’ celebrates graduating Trinity Walton Club students

12 March 2018

‘Powering STEM’ marked the completion of four years’ hard work and commitment from the inaugural secondary school club members of the Trinity Walton Club.

The Trinity Walton Club is a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education enrichment programme at Trinity College Dublin. Walton Club students embark on a 100-week educational experience, developing skills across problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork and communications.

‘Powering STEM’ is a celebration of the first young people to sign up to the club and the commitment they have shown. At this event each team of students will present their detailed research projects around the theme ‘Sustainable World’. The students projects include:

  • The Power of Sound: an experimental investigation into the use of waste sound energy as a potential form of electrical energy
  • An investigation into how we can minimise human error in recycling
  • D.O.O.M (Destruction Of Our Masses): this research is a study into natural disasters and the destruction they cause, which may ultimately leading to humanity’s decline
  • Project Lír: research into developing a universal, financially viable solution for the filtration and desalination of contaminated water for application in the Third World
  • SERVA (soil: electronically and remotely viewing attributes): a project studying sensors and their application in the future of farming
  • The Energy Revolution: an investigation into generating useful electrical energy from revolving doors

Trinity Walton Club Director, Professor Arlene Gallagher, said: “Trinity Walton Club provides an opportunity for our university to play an active role in nurturing tomorrow's trailblazers. We are empowering an ecosystem of critical thinkers and creative problem solvers who can confidently and competently affect positive change in the world.” Aligned with Trinity’s values, the Trinity Walton Club is a catalyst for strengthening community relations and building valuable partnerships. To date, Trinity Walton Club has worked with over 1,000 second-level students from 247 different schools across 19 counties in Ireland. The club also recruits internationally. Students have travelled from 15 different countries to attend camps with a further 200 international students joining the programme throughout 2018.

Head of Innovation at Bank of Ireland, David Tighe, said: “Bank of Ireland and Trinity College Dublin have a long legacy of working together and we are delighted to support the Trinity Walton Club, an initiative which succeeds through the talent and enthusiasm of students and staff. Ireland’s continued achievement across science and technology can only be assured through support for programmes like this. The Trinity Walton Club’s focus on inclusion and promoting STEM for all is hugely important for our communities and through our community programmes, Bank of Ireland continues to support this mission.”

Mr Woods and Mrs Marian Woods, daughter of ETS Walton with Prof Arlene Gallagher and Prof Igor Shvets

PhD graduate of School of Physics appointed new CEO of American Institute of Physics

8 March 2018

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) recently announced the appointment of a new CEO, experimental physicist Michael H. Moloney who completed a PhD in the School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin in 1993. The topic of his then research was in nonlinear optical properties of strained semiconductor materials and devices and was carried out under the supervision of Prof. John Hegarty who later became Provost (2001-2011). The American Institute of Physics is a federation of ten US physical science societies and was established in 1931 to advance and promote the physical sciences. Through its member societies it covers a broad range of fields in the physical sciences and collectively represent more than 120,000 scientists, engineers, educators and students in the global physical sciences community.

Having completed his education (primary degree at UCD and PhD at Trinity), Dr Moloney served for seven years in the Irish embassy in Washington, DC and in the Irish delegation at the UN in New York. Prior to appointment at the AIP, Dr Moloney filled various important roles at the US National Academies of Sciences where he was study director or senior staff on about 100 reports on subjects as varied as quantum physics, nanotechnology, cosmology, the nation’s helium reserves, counterfeit currency, corrosion science and nuclear fusion. In 2011 the American Astronomical Society awarded Dr. Moloney a special citation for his leadership on the decadal survey “New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics.”

More Information Here

Astrophysics postgraduate student wins Outstanding Student Award at American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans.

25 January 2018

Laura Hayes, won the Outstanding Student Award at American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans ( The annual AGU Fall meeting is the largest Earth and Space Science meeting in the world with more than 20,000 oral and poster presentations from ~20,000 attendees. The Outstanding Student Paper Award is only awarded to 5% of student participants, so this is a great achievement for Laura.

Link to Lauras Poster