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News - 2015

Shane Bergin listed in Silicon Republic’s 10 Bright Sparks Igniting STEM Communities in Ireland

10 December 2015

Silicon Republic have listed 10 amazing advocates that share their skills, ignite curiosity, inspire creation and motivate people to engage with STEM in ways that have never before been done. Our very own Shane Bergin was included in this list for his work including hosting "Bright Sparks on RTÉ Radio as well as founding City of Physics.

Read full article on Silicon Republic

Shane Bergin

City of Physics

09 November 2015

In 2013, Dr Shane Bergin (School of Physics) won a small grant to put some physics-themed ads on the DART, Dublin’s commuter line. This grew into an award-winning media campaign that garnered national attention and international support. This year, working with Dr Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain (UCD), they’re taking on the whole city with City of Physics.

Trinity College Dublin students from physics and engineering will be sparking physics conversations around the city for the month of November.

You can follow the campaign at & @cityofphysics

21 October 2015

Maths Physics Open Day 2015

The Maths and Physics Open Day will take place from 10:00 until 15:30, Saturday, 14 November 2015. The day features lectures and tours along with a chance to meet staff and students from both the School of Physics and the School of Mathematics. The event will be held in the MacNeill Lecture Theatre, Hamilton Building, East End of Trinity College, by Westland Row.
Programme covers degree courses in:

  • Physics
  • Physics & Astrophysics
  • Nanoscience
  • Mathematics
  • Theoretical Physics
  • Maths & other subjects

1 October 2015

Trinity Solar Physics Feature on Cover of Leading International Journal

Research from the School of Physics has been featured on the front cover of a leading European scientific journal, Astronomy & Astrophysics. Trinity graduate student Ms. Diana Morosan and her supervisor Prof. Peter Gallagher used observations of the Sun from the International Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) to study very short pulses of radio waves from the solar atmosphere. These radio bursts have been imaged for the first time by LOFAR and the results of their study have been published in a paper which featured in the August edition of Astronomy & Astrophysics. These bursts are less than 1 second long which made it challenging for previous radio telescopes to determine their location. These observations show the true potential of LOFAR in advancing the study of radio emission coming from the Sun.

Trinity Solar Physics Feature on Cover of Leading International Journal

1 October 2015

Astros represent School of Physics at Discover Research Night

Joe McCauley in the Monck Observatory dome explaining the intricacies of observing to eager youngsters

Overcast conditions could not hamper the enthusiasm of attendees at the Astrophysics portion of TCD’s Discover Research Night on Friday 25th September. Despite the cloud, conditions were sunny for the Sunspotters workshop hosted by Prof. Gallagher and postgraduate students in the Fitzgerald Library, where members of the public were tasked with identifying different types of solar features as part of a crowdsourced science programme.

Upstairs in the Schroedinger Lecture Theatre, Prof. Brian Espey gave an introduction to meteorites illustrated with images of passing asteroids obtained from the Monck Observatory, and there was standing room only for Joe McCauley’s illustrated introduction to observing held in the dome of the Monck Observatory. Although there was no viewing through our 14” diameter telescope, a good night was had by all with approximately 50 attendees – including some enthusiastic youngsters – asking questions and later expressing their appreciation of the event. Hopefully we’ll have better weather next year!

1 October 2015

School of Physics observations of lunar eclipse

The lunar eclipse of the night of 27th- 28th September 2015 was observed by an automatic lightmeter measuring the skies in a dark area of County Mayo as part of a project involving Prof. Brian Espey of the School of Physics.

The plot shows the zenith brightness of the sky plotted against time during the night of the eclipse. Although the sky in the Nephin region of Mayo was overcast the cloud was thin enough that the effect of the various stages of the eclipse can be clearly seen. Note, in particular, the drop in light of a factor of 50 between the uneclipsed and fully eclipsed Moon. The timing of the various phases are indicated on the plot, and two representative images showing the Moon’s appearance are also provided. These images, taken by Barry Cooke of the TCD Buildings Office, clearly show the difference in brightness between uneclipsed and partially eclipsed Moon, and also the red glow of the totally eclipsed portion of the Moon which is lit by sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. Because of the sharp difference in brightness between the different portions of the Moon, part of each image is overexposed.

Lunar Eclipse

14 August 2015

Fundamental Advance in Magnetism Announced; Could Increase the World’s Capacity for Big Data

Groundbreaking Advance for Materials Science has been made by AMBER Researcher

World-first magnetism research has today been published by Professor Michael Coey at AMBER (the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research Centre based at Trinity College Dublin) together with researchers from The Netherlands, Singapore, and the USA in the prestigious journal Science.* Researchers have discovered that magnetism can be suddenly switched on by adding an extra layer just one atom thick to a thin film of a specific oxide material. This is not only important for materials science, as researchers have detected a surprising new type of behavior within the material, but it is also a significant discovery that could have potential for storing the World’s big data. Besides, it is a step towards the goal of new, oxide-based electronics. Researchers from the University of Twente, the National University of Singapore, Stanford University, the University of Nebraska and AMBER in Trinity College Dublin all contributed to this body of research.

All the information we download every day from the Internet is stored magnetically on the hard disks in server farms dotted across the World. Magnetism in layers of nanomaterials less than 50 atoms thick has been a key enabler of the big data revolution. One of the major challenges is to increase the density of storage in the discs, which is where the new, ultra-thin magnetic oxide layers may help.

The researchers discovered the unusual magnetic effect in nanolayers of a material, LaMnO3 (an oxide of lanthanum and manganese). When thin layers of this material were grown, it was discovered that the magnetism was sensitive to the slightest change in layer thickness. Below 5 layers of these atoms, the material is non-magnetic, but magnetism is switched on abruptly when the number of layers changes from 5 to 6 (or more). Such an abrupt transition has never been seen before.

This discovery could have a significant impact on data storage. 2.7 Zetabytes of data exist in the digital universe today (where 1 zetabyte is the equivalent of one sextillion (or 10 to the power of 21) bytes), and that amount is doubling every year. Only with new ideas and new materials can we continue to progress at this pace.

Professor Coey, a Principal Investigator at AMBER and Emeritus Professor in Trinity’s School of Physics, is an authority on magnetism and its applications, was the first Irish member of the European Academy of Science and has received many honours and awards. On today’s announcement he said: “The discovery of such a tiny change to a material for the appearance of magnetism makes it possible to define magnetic structures on a nanoscale. The work shows how the addition of just one extra atomic layer can utterly change the magnetism. Now, the team are planning to use pinpoint electric fields or special molecules to turn on the magnetism of our 5-layer films, and explore potential applications in big data storage.”

* The full paper, “Imaging and control of ferromagnetism in LaMnO3/SrTiO3 heterostructures” by X. Renshaw Wang, C.J. Li, W.M. Lü, T.R. Paudel, D.P. Leusink, M. Hoek, N. Poccia, A. Vailionis, T. Venkatesan, J.M.S. Coey, E.Y. Tsymbal, Ariando en H. Hilgenkamp has appeared in the August 14, 2015 issue of Science.
** According to IBM Big Data Platform

31 July 2015

Trinity College Dublin and University of Limerick become first Irish institutions to achieve prestigious Athena SWAN award.

Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick are today celebrating becoming the first Irish institutions to receive the prestigious Athena SWAN award. Athena SWAN, the initiative run by Equality Challenge Unit to address issues in gender inequality, recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, but this is the first year in which Irish institutions were invited to participate. Both Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick received Bronze Athena SWAN awards for their institutions as a whole, with Trinity College Dublin also attaining Bronze awards at departmental level for the School of Chemistry, the School of Physics and the School of Natural Sciences.

The Athena SWAN team received ten applications from Irish HEIs and their departments overall, including the submissions from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick.

Responding to the announcement, Ruth Gilligan, Manager of the Athena SWAN programme, said ‘We’d like to congratulate Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick on their success. They worked extremely hard on their submissions and we are delighted that their efforts have resulted in a successful outcome. We’d also like to congratulate and say a big thank you to all of the institutions who submitted applications. The submission process is in itself, rigorous and time-consuming, and these institutions have ably demonstrated their unwavering commitment to gender equality by participating in it’.

The submission deadline for the next cohort of applicants is 5th September 2015 at 5pm.

13 July 2015

Job Vacancy: Assistant Professor – Science of Energy & Energy Systems

The School of Physics wishes to appoint an Assistant Professor in the Science of Energy & Energy Systems for 5 years arising from a leave of absence of one of our academic staff members. The successful candidate will play a full part in the academic life of the School and will participate fully in both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, research and supervision of Masters and PhD students and academic administration. In particular, s/he will be expected to contribute to the development and delivery of a proposed new course in the Science of Energy.

It is therefore desirable that the candidate can demonstrate experience in teaching to undergraduate and/or postgraduate students and will have the skills required to supervise successfully PhD students, develop in-house research facilities and collaborations with other research groups in Trinity and in other Irish or international institutions and develop successful relationships with industry.

The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday, 7 August 2015.

For more information click here or visit

16 June 2015

Professor Werner Blau wins 2015 NANOSMAT Prize

Professor Werner Blau of the School of Physics has won the 2015 NANOSMAT Prize.

NANOSMAT honors and recognizes international scientists who have shown, during the course of their professional career, outstanding achievements in the fields of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. The NANOSMAT Prize was set up in 2009 and since then it has become very popular and very prestigious amongst high calibre senior international scientists.

Professor Werner Blau will deliver his award winning lecture during the 10th NANOSMAT Conference (International Conference on Surfaces, Coatings and Nanostructured Materials), which will be held in Manchester during 13-16 September 2015.

02 June 2015

Damien English TD and Ernest Walton's Daughter Launch Trinity Walton Club

Trinity Walton Club Alpha's Caoimhe Walshe and Veronika Nikulina with Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD, and Marion Woods, daughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Ernest Walton, officially launched the Trinity Walton Club on Saturday May 30th.

The 60 secondary school students who completed the pilot year of the Club showcased their STEM projects at the special event.

Damien English, TD, said: “I commend Trinity and the team for this innovative and exciting initiative dedicated to supporting second level students in their pursuit of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Today more than ever, STEM competencies are in high demand and it is important to provide as many opportunities for young people to engage and enhance their skills in these areas.”

The Trinity Walton Club offers secondary school students the unique opportunity to express, shape and grow their interest in STEM. Commencing in October, 2014, the club ran its pilot programme, which was “challenging but fun,” according to one of its students. The overarching goal of the Club is to complement the science and mathematics education the students receive at secondary school, while supporting them to confidently take ownership of their STEM learning. The Club has been built on the foundation of a collaboration between the schools of physics, education and mathematics at Trinity.

Building on the successful pilot, the unique Club was launched at a special STEM project showcase, where the students – appropriately termed ‘alphas’ after Walton observed alpha particles in his Nobel Prize winning experiments – demonstrated some of their new-found knowledge and skills.

Director of the Trinity Walton Club, and Assistant Professor in the School of Physics at Trinity, Arlene O’Neill, said: “These young STEM pioneers committed their Saturday afternoons, over the past nine months, to broadening and deepening their STEM knowledge and skills. We were here to support and encourage them as they made this journey, and now it is time to commend them.”

Each Saturday, Trinity’s open learning spaces and STEM labs come alive with 14-year-olds eager to learn more about STEM. These students enjoy the unique opportunity to see what goes on in Trinity’s research facilities, work alongside PhD students, and engage with Trinity academics and invited guests.

The TWC was named in honour of Ernest Walton, Ireland and Trinity’s only Nobel Prize winner for science, for his work in splitting the atom. His daughter, Marion Woods, said: “This is such a lovely way to pay homage to my father’s achievements and boost his legacy to science. I hope current and future alphas will continue to benefit from the Trinity Walton Club, which is already inspiring and educating the next generation of scientists.”

Website: Trinity Walton Club
Media Coverage: RTE Radio One, Morning Ireland, Friday May 29th

22 May 2015

Pint of Science - May 18th - 20th

Pint of Science

Devitt's pub on Camden Street was awash with physics this week as some of Trinity's physicists entertained at Pint of Science. Organised by Dr. Eva McGuire and Dr. Hannah Nerl, punters were treated to talks from Prof. Stefan Hutzler, Dr. Shane Bergin and Prof. Arlene O'Neill. In case you missed it, you can watch their talks here:

22 May 2015

Trinity Physicist to Explore Wonderful World of Irish Research in Bright Sparks

Trinity Physicist to Explore Wonderful World of Irish Research in Bright Sparks

Senior Research Fellow in Physics at Trinity, Dr Shane Bergin, will explore how science and innovation in Ireland are changing the way we live as he explores the wonderful world of research in a new eight-part documentary called Bright Sparks. The programme will air on RTÉ Radio 1 at 7pm each Sunday, with the first episode coming this weekend (Sunday May 24).

Dr Bergin is a passionate science communicator, who has won numerous high-profile awards for his outreach, which included the Dart of Physics campaign that saw Dublin’s commuters enjoy a dose of physics on their way to work each morning last year.

He said: “Making Bright Sparks has been an incredible experience. Irish scientists are making global impact and the stories behind what inspires and drives them may change your perception of science. Connecting people with science is an important aspect of my own research. I believe that the life-enhancing potential of science and technology cannot be realised unless the public in general comes to understand science, mathematics and technology and to acquire scientific habits of mind - I hope Bright Sparks will play a role in helping this."

Bright Sparks will feature discussions with a number of researchers – a great number of whom work at Trinity – over the duration of the series, as listeners are invited to consider what happens when you allow bright people to follow their curiosity and solve the world’s problems.

The series explores how Irish researchers and their work is tackling contemporary issues, from climate change and antibiotic resistance to the future of food and seeking solutions for dementia, cancer and motor neurone disease.

Trinity-based guests will include Professor of Chemical Physics and nanotechnology industry leader, Jonathan Coleman, Professor of Biochemistry, Luke O’Neill, Professor of Genetics, Aoife McLysaght, and Assistant Professor in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Conor McGinn, who designs robots to care for the elderly and disabled in their homes.

Bright Sparks reveals the depth and scale of Irish research from genetics to space and also looks at the legacy of research investment in the last 15 years, questioning whether those advances are being undermined by research cuts and a short-term mission for outcomes.

Dr Bergin added: “Scientists are curious people who wish to explore the world around them. Their ideas are sparked by shared conversations. Bright Sparks invites you to listen in on those conversations and understand the root of ideas, discovery, invention and how science works.”

Visit for more informatoin.

11 May 2015

Scientists in Ireland and Qatar discover mystery behind new solar energy harvesting material

Professor Stefano Sanvito

Professor Sanvito this week publishes research which could lead to revolutionary new solar energy harvesting materials.

Dublin, 11th May 2015: Professor Stefano Sanvito, (Principal Investigator at the School of Physics and Acting Director at AMBER) in collaboration with researchers at the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, have discovered how hybrid organic/inorganic perovskites, which have been used as highly efficient solar harvesting materials, really work. These are compounds where an inorganic crystal (like a standard semiconductor or metal) is interposed with organic molecules, also arranged in a crystal-like structure. While it has been known in recent years that solar energy harvesting is extremely efficient in these materials, scientists did not understand how they worked. Now AMBER researchers have the answer, by using state-of-the-art material modelling simulation tools (a process that involves creating and analysing a digital prototype of a physical model or material to predict its performance in the real world) and focusing specifically on the electronic properties of these materials, the researchers have revealed that the light is “captured” by the inorganic crystal alone. What makes this material different to other solar harvesting materials, however, is that the electronic structure of these inorganic crystals is changed because of the motion of the molecules.

This discovery will now allow researchers to design even more efficient solar harvesting materials, using the knowledge gained from being able to map these materials. This research has this week been published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications and was done in collaboration with AMBER and QEERI, the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute. The two groups have been working together for a year and the AMBER research team has visited QEERI for a total of 3 months.

Professor Sanvito, AMBER and the School of Physics’s Professor of Condensed Matter Theory said: “Every hour the Sun irradiates the Earth with as much energy as that used by the entire planet in one year. Harvesting such enormous energy in an efficient and cost-effective way would mean abundant green energy for the entire human race. Developing and improving our knowledge of solar energy harvesting is crucial. This is an exciting discovery. Now that we understand how these new materials work we can design new compounds to use for solar energy harvesting. A further advantage is that the materials can be grown chemically and not with expensive high-temperature processes.”

The full paper can be viewed here.

01 May 2015

What have science, maths and music got in common?

What have science, maths and music got in common?

On April 25th, staff and students from the Schools of Physics and Education at Trinity College Dublin ran exciting workshops for young people at the National Concert Hall exploring the links between worlds of quadratics and quavers. Dr. Shane Bergin (Physics) and Marita Kerin (Education) worked with Dr. Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain (from UCD’s School of Mathematical Sciences) to bring the links between music, maths and science alive for the children attending. Undergraduate students from physics and music-education smashed wine glasses with sound, questioned why musical instruments have their special shapes and pared the science of music right back to the anatomy of a simple sound wave.

The team of academics and students will develop these fascinating connections when they return to the National Concert Hall in the autumn.

22 April 2015

TCD Physics Focus on Women in Light: UNESCO International Year of Light 2015 Event

Prof. Julieta Fierro - Photo courtesy of Bededict Shegog

Prof. Julieta Fierro, Institute for Astronomy at UNAM, Mexico's National University, lived up to her reputation as a force of nature, when she gave a seminar and a Masterclass in TCD School of Physics. She gave a public lecture on Astronomy in Mesoamerica showering her audience with flying gifts and a glimpse of astronomy from 600BC to the 16th century.

Julieta is credited with encouraging swathes of aspiring scientists to study Science in Mexico and elsewhere. In her Masterclass focusing on Tools for Success in a career in Light, Julieta suggested that women do less rather than more, that perfection in every single area of life is not a realistic goal for most humans. She made a great connection with her audience - the Mexican ambassador proved an excellent demonstration volunteer!

This event was supported by the School of Physics Women in Physics and Solar Physics groups with sponsorship and support from the Dean of FEMS, The Dublin Mexican Embassy, Women in Technology and Science (WITS), WiSER, IOP Women in Physics Group committee and the national committee for the International Year of Light 2015.

13 April 2015

Trinity Researchers Invent Intelligent Mouthguard to Record our Daily Grind

Teeth gnashing effects up to half a million Irish people on a daily basis

A team of researchers, Dr. Ramesh Babu and Dr. James Doyle from School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin and Dr. Padraig McAuliffe and Prof. Brian O’Connell in the Dublin Dental Hospital have today announced that their new spin‐out company, SelfSense Technologies Ltd has licensed sensor technology from Trinity College, and secured €100k investment from NDRC. The company has unveiled a novel intelligent mouth guard device called SmartSplint, which accurately records and monitors teeth grinding (bruxism) of patients and allows their dentists to help them manage the condition more effectively.

SelfSense Technologies Ltd will develop diagnostic and monitoring sensors for tooth‐grinding and SmartSplint will be brought to market in autumn this year by the Trinity College spin‐out company. The company is currently taking part in the NDRC VentureLab programme for scitech start-up companies.

SelfSense Technologies has secured a licence to technologies developed with over €700k in grant funding from EI, SFI and HRB at Trinity College Dublin and the Dublin Dental Hospital. The team is seeking to raise investment in the next 6‐9 months and continues to work in close collaboration with the world class research and clinical facilities at Dental Hospital, the School of Physics and the AMBER Centre at Trinity College Dublin.

Tooth grinding or clenching is a very common issue affecting up to half a million Irish people on a daily basis. The nightly grinding of teeth goes far beyond that of a minor inconvenience. This can be a chronic condition, leading to severe facial pain and headaches, dental wear and damage to dental restorations such as crowns, veneers and implants. The cost of repairing teeth damaged by bruxism can run into the thousands or even tens of thousands over time but can be greatly reduced by wearing a night guard (splint). Unfortunately, because bruxism mainly occurs at night, many patients don’t realise that they are grinding. Some don’t use the splints appropriately and the tooth damage and long‐term repair costs continue to mount. SmartSplint will be able to deliver up to date, personalised information about bruxism right to the patient’s phone and help them to understand their condition better and perhaps point to how they could modify their lifestyles to reduce how much they grind.

Dr. Ramesh Babu, Senior Research Fellow, School of Physics and a Principal Investigator at AMBER, Trinity College and co-founder of the new company, said: “SelfSense Technologies brings together a team with expertise in materials science, and profound knowledge and experience in the dentistry sector to help resolve an issue that affects up to half a million Irish people daily. We are pleased SelfSense Technologies has been so successful in its funding applications so far, with over €800,000 having been raised to date. At present we have hired two scientific researchers and as we push forward with our second round of funding applications we will look to hire further researchers and expand the team.“

Dentists understanding and ability to manage the condition will also be greatly improved. Dr. Padraig McAuliffe, co‐founder of SelfSense Technologies, said: “As a dentist, it can be very difficult to know whether an individual patient has bruxism until we see that some damage has been done. By then it’s too late. Early diagnosis and prevention of damage are key. We developed SmartSplint because there were no bruxism tests available that we considered suitable or practical for widespread use at an affordable price. The success of treatment for tooth decay and gum disease were revolutionised by the development of simple tests and we hope that SmartSplint can do the same for bruxism.“

Dr. James Doyle, a former School of Physics researcher, and now the Commercialisation Development Manger in the AMBER centre, said: “Having pursued both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the School of Physics, I am keenly aware of the strong ethos which exists within the school to translate world class research into commercial products. Working within this positive environment has been crucial in achieving our success to date. Our mission statement is perfectly aligned with that of the School of Physics - to provide a positive impact on society and the Irish economy alike. SelfSense Technologies has already created 5 jobs that didn’t exist at the beginning on the year.“

Article courtesy of AMBER

10 April 2015

Just How Bright Are We? Trinity Astrophysicist Outlines Astronomical Costs of Light Pollution

An astronaut image of Dublin City Centre obtained just after midnight on 26th January 2008. A considerable amount of detail is visible with the grow lights at Croke Park, Busarus and the Custom House, as well as the Dail and Government Buildings areas being clearly visible. Credit: Image courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center.

Astrophysicist, Professor Brian Espey, will present the shocking facts and figures at the Making Light Work symposium, open to the public, during Trinity Week.

​Light pollution is costing us hundreds of thousands of euro each year, as well as impacting environmental processes and affecting our health. That is according to Professor in Physics at Trinity College Dublin, Brian Espey, whose work has moved from monitoring the heavens to protecting our skies as part of our natural heritage.

Public lighting is estimated to account for 15% to 35% of a local authority’s energy use, while figures show that the 420,000 or so streetlights in Ireland use a total of 205 GWh of electricity annually, which costs €29 million and produces 110,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. But as much as 20-30% of this energy could be wasted through poorly designed or inefficient lighting and the illumination of areas where light is not needed.

To estimate the potential energy and economic cost of light waste, Professor Espey and colleagues measured light falling on the ground at locations away from directly illuminated areas (e.g. away from streetlights), and recorded the light scattered back onto the ground from the air. Measurements were taken on clear nights over a 1,000 square km area from Dublin City Centre southwards into the Wicklow Hills.

Light from Dublin City dominates the natural sky background even in heritage sites such as Glendalough, some 45 km away, as well as other parts of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. Using these data, Professor Espey and his team estimate that over 2.2 GWh (2.2 million “units”) of electricity is wasted in providing diffuse illumination of areas such as back gardens, public parks, woods and mountains at an estimated cost of €300,000 annually.  Scaled up by the light emission of other Irish cities, this amounts to a cost of 3.3 GWh, or an annual Property Tax burden of €460,000, but these measurements underestimate the true figures as light escaping directly to space has not been factored into these calculations.

“When we look at images from the International Space Station, such as those tweeted by Cmdr. Chris Hadfield when he flew over Ireland, we generally do not think that the light that a few astronauts see at 400 km above the Earth is just a small sample of the total that is outgoing to space, never to return,” said Professor Espey.

We can, however, get some appreciation of this amount through the simple observation that both the sky and our back gardens are much brighter when overcast. Clouds act like mirrors, reflecting back light that would normally escape from the Earth. When the sky is clear in the City Centre the scattered light coming back down is 30-40 times the natural sky background, but this increases to 400–1,000 times during overcast conditions.

Work has begun to extend the estimates through using a combination of ground- and space-based observations. The NASA SUOMI spacecraft, which flies over the island of Ireland at half-past midnight every night, has allowed the team to compare the upward light from towns in the Republic with similar-sized towns in the North. Northern Ireland has managed to reduce light waste by roughly a third, on average, so we could expect similar savings here, although differences may be due to a combination of lighting efficiency and the reduction of light after midnight due to difference lighting practices.

Professor Espey added: “County Councils are aware of light waste and pollution, but there is still room for improvement and more could embrace improved light pollution controls as part of their environmental agenda. Most public lighting in Ireland is unmetered and uses relatively old technology, but the push towards newer lighting types such as LED technology in full cut-off lamps, and improved lighting practices such as “trimming and dimming” could see the situation improve in the medium term.”

In addition to the financial burden of light pollution, the impact on animals from bats to insects is well-known, but human health also suffers in a variety of ways in the presence of excessive light levels; some studies even suggest that increases in cancers occur in neighbourhoods that are overly lit at night.

Humans - just like other animals and plants - have been conditioned over millions of years to rely on circadian rhythms, which are controlled by natural light-dark, day-night transitions. If the environment remains brightly lit then the night-time mode of repair and replenishment cannot occur as is required, and potentially harmful free radicals build up in our systems.

Professor Espey added: “Before the next cycle of building commences we should be considering just how bright we are to pay astronomical sums to send energy out into the countryside and, even worse, out into the cosmos. Like everything, this excessive lighting has costs – in this case, pretty serious environmental, economic, and health-related ones.”

Professor Espey will present the shocking facts and figures to fellow researchers and members of the public at next Wednesday’s “Making Light Work” Symposium, which is one of the many events expected to draw crowds to Trinity College’s annual Trinity Week. This year’s theme is ‘Light’, to coincide with 2015 being the International Year of Light. The symposium runs between 9:45 am and 5:00 pm in the Schrödinger Lecture Theatre

Media Coverage:
Irish Independent, April 10th, 2015
Irish Examiner, April 10th, 2015
The Journal, April 10th, 2015

Media Contact:
Thomas Deane, Press Officer for the Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Science | | 01 896 4685

20 March 2015

2015 €15 Coin Honours Nobel Laureate Ernest Walton

2015 €15 Coin Honours Nobel Laureate Ernest Walton

A €15 limited edition silver proof commemorative coin to honour Nobel Laureate Ernest Walton, former graduate and professor at Trinity College Dublin, and his ground-breaking achievements in the field of physics has been launched by the Central Bank of Ireland.

It is the second in the Central Bank of Ireland’s Science and Invention series. Ernest Walton, with John Cockcroft, shared the 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics for their pioneering work on the transmutation of a nucleus by artificially accelerated atomic particles. The coin, designed by Rory Breslin, gives an artist’s impression and explanation to the equation E=mc2.

Ernest Walton graduated with joint honours in mathematics and physics in 1926 and obtained his Masters degree at Trinity in 1927 after which he went to Cambridge to do his PhD. It was in Cambridge that the momentous collaboration between Walton and his fellow physicist, John Cockcroft, began which exploited linear acceleration methods to induce nuclear disintegration by artificial means, as observed by Ernest Walton, on April 14th, 1932. It was the first time that Einstein's E=mc2 was verified directly in a nuclear reaction. His and Cockcroft's success, using artificially accelerated particles for experimenting on the atom, meant the research into the nature and structure of the atom was no longer restricted by having to rely on natural sources of radiation. In 1934 Walton returned to Trinity College and was the Erasmus Smith's Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy from 1946 until his retirement in 1974.

The coin launch took place in Trinity in the Fitzgerald Building named in honour of another great Trinity physicist, George Francis Fitzgerald, who in 1889 made an important contribution to what became the theory of relativity. Walton worked and researched in this building when he returned from Cambridge.

Just outside the Fitzgerald building is the sculpture ‘Apples and Atoms’ by Eilís O’Connell, RHA, commemorating the experiment for which Walton won the Nobel Prize. The sculpture was commissioned in 2012 to mark the 80th anniversary of the experiment and to commemorate Walton as a significant figure in the history of the College and in the development of science globally. It reinforces Trinity's special connection with him and is an opportunity to honour him as a scientist as well as a champion of science education, an academic and an Irishman. The sculpture, like the coin, is a way of honouring Walton, and making him a household name.

Ernest Walton generously presented his papers to the college library in 1993 and his family subsequently donated his Nobel medal. This has helped make Trinity a centre for Walton research - Professor Emeritus in Physics, Vincent McBrierty, has written and lectured extensively on Walton’s life and work.

11 March 2015

Prof Michael Coey wins prestigious Gutenberg prize, bringing to €300k total funding for his novel “Lab on a chip” technology

At a ceremony at the University of Strasbourg in late January 2015, Prof Michael Coey, Investigator in AMBER and Trinity’s School of Physics, was named one of three winners of the 2015 Gutenberg prizes. He will use €50k of the total €60k award to help support a project on ‘Microfluidics without walls’ in collaboration with Bernard Doudin of IPCMS, Strasbourg and Thomas Heremans of ISIS, Strasbourg.

Together with his French colleagues, Michael Coey has secured a further €250k from the University of Strasbourg Institute of Advanced Study for the project which aims to revolutionize microfluidics, an emerging technology that handles minute quantities of liquid reagents in channels about 100 microns wide for applications like in vitro diagnostics and new drug discovery. By using magnetic liquid confinement instead of solid walls to define the fluid channels he expects to overcome the main drawbacks of the technology – clogging, sluggish mixing and inflexible operation, thereby giving birth to a novel transformation of the ‘Lab on a Chip’.

The president of the Cercle Gutenberg, Professor Pierre Braunstein, announced the winners at the University of Strasbourg. The Cercle Gutenberg, consisting of Nobel Laureates and Members of the French and other Academies of Science based in Alsace, has selected three Laureates every year since 2007. The two other awardees were Veronique Dimier of Université Libre de Bruxelles whose project is on the ‘Influence of former British and French colonial administrators on the EU’s development policy in Africa’ and Giovanna Guidobon of the University of Indiana, whose project is on ‘Mathematical modeling of the circulation of blood in the brain’.

12 Feb 2015

AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science goes to Irish Scientist - Shane Bergin

American Association for the Advancement of Science awards Dr Shane Bergin the first non-American Award recipient.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has honoured Dr Shane Bergin, Lecturer at the School of Physics and CRANN, Trinity College, with the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science.  The award recognises Dr. Bergin’s contribution to communicating science in an engaging and attractive way with the public and promoting meaningful dialogue between science and society.

The award will be presented today to Dr. Bergin, the first non-American Award recipient during the AAAS 2015 Annual Meeting in San Jose, California. 

Jeanne Braha, Public Engagement Manager, American Association for the Advancement of Science, said: “The AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science was established in 2010 to recognise early-career scientists and engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science activities.  Bergin’s work on the “DARTofPhysics”, the Pitch Drop, radio programming, and public programming serves as an example and inspiration to other early career scientists to share with – and learn from  - members of the public.”

‘Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science’ was awarded to Dr Shane Bergin, who led an eye-catching poster campaign about physics called "DARTofPhysics" in the Dublin metro. Shane’s physics posters zapped commuters’ curiosities with statements like ‘The Spire is shorter when the weather is cool’ or ‘Everyone on this train is attracted to you….Gravitationally’.  Having zinged commuters’ interests, they were encouraged to continue their physics journey on the campaign website – For his campaign, Bergin enlisted the support of some 200 undergraduate physics students, 50 Ph.D. candidates, and 50 staff members from the physics and education departments of Trinity College Dublin.

On receipt of the award Dr. Bergin said: “I’m delighted. I invented DARTofPhysics to spark physics conversations across Dublin.  Irish people love to chat and I wanted to encourage them to chat, argue, debate and laugh about physics.”

Prof. James Lunney who nominated Dr. Bergin for the award said: “DARTofPhysics is a fantastic vehicle to bring the beauty of physics to an entire city.  Shane is connecting an entire university department with the public, confronting them with beautiful physics, appealing to the natural curiosity to resolve the leading physics ads, and sparking a city-wide conversation about physics.”

Though still at an early stage of his career, Bergin has developed many other educational and communication-focused activities, including the Trinity College Pitch Drop. In 2013, he used a video camera to capture a rare physical event: a drop of pitch (tar) falling from an antique funnel. The resulting video, which dramatically illustrates the effects of viscosity, has been viewed more than 2 million times.

DARTofPhysics has won a number of awards over the last year and in addition, recently received funding from Science Foundation Ireland to run a second campaign in Dublin this year.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science ( as well as Science Translational Medicine (, Science Signaling (, and Science Advances (, a new digital, open access journal. AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The nonprofit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

For more information on AAAS awards, see

05 Feb 2015

Prof. Valeria Nicolosi has been awarded €150,000 in funding through the ERC’s Proof of Concept grant

Prof. Nicolosi has won top-up funding for her project entitled 'Ink-Jet printed supercapacitors based on 2D nanomaterials'. This is the third grant that Prof. Nicolosi has received from the ERC to date. Prof. Nicolosi’s nanotechnology project will hone in on enabling new 2D-based nanomaterials to one day potentially pioneer ultra-thin, flexible supercapacitors manufacturing for the aerospace and automotive industry. Prof. Nicolosi is one of two successful Principal Investigators in the AMBER project to receive in Proof of Concept grant. Prof Fergal O’Brien (Deputy Director of AMBER and Deputy Director of Research and Head of Tissue Engineering Research Group in the Royal College of Surgeons) also received funding through the Proof of Concept grant.

Prof. Valeria Nicolosi, Professor at the School of Physics and the School of Chemistry, Trinity College Dublin and Principal Investigator at AMBER, said “At the moment there is huge societal need to move towards sustainable and renewable energy resources. As a result, we are seeing an increase in renewable energy production from sun and wind, as well as the development of electric vehicles or hybrid electric vehicles. Energy storage systems like batteries and super capacitors are starting to play a larger part in our lives. Unfortunately, accidents can occur due to the high corrosion, toxicity and flammability of the electrolytes used, coupled with the high instability of lithium under normal conditions. We expect the development of high performing, ultra-thin, ultra-light, non-hazardous and chemically stable energy storage devices will have huge societal and economic impact in all these sectors.”

“The aim of this project is to determine the economic and technical feasibility of using readily scalable technologies for the development of inexpensive and high performance ultra-thin, flexible films of two dimensional nanosheets for supercapacitors manufacturing for the aerospace and automotive industry. Through this funding, our hope is to be able to license this technology or to open a spin-out very soon. We are exploring both possibilities at present, as a direct result of the ERC funding.”

Prof. Stefano Sanvito, Acting Director of AMBER, commented on the announcement, saying “Since its launch, AMBER has grown significantly, this European funding will allow us to bring these projects to the next level, from fundamental to more applied horizons. I’d like to congratulate Professor Nicolosi and Professor O’Brien on successfully securing ERC awards. The awards demonstrates both the excellence and also the quality of the research team that has been built in AMBER.”

16 JAN 2015

TCD Physicists Lead European Space Weather Forecasting Project

Astrophysicists from Trinity College Dublin are among a group of leading scientists awarded €2.5 million by the European Commission to study the origins of solar storms and build a highly accurate solar storm forecasting service for Europe. This service, called FLARECAST, launches today.

The Flare Likelihood and Region Eruption Forecasting (FLARECAST) consortium also comprises teams based at the Academy of Athens in Greece, the Universita degli Studi di Genova and Consiglio Nazionale delle Recerche in Italy, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Universite Paris-Sud in France, the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz in Switzerland, and the Met Office in the UK. Solar storms are huge explosions of hot gas from the Sun that, when they impact the Earth, can damage satellite electronics, interrupt radio communications and navigation systems, and even cause instability in electrical power distribution systems.

FLARECAST project scientist, Dr Shaun Bloomfield, who is based at Trinity, said: “The project brings together European expertise in fundamental solar physics, artificial intelligence and neural networks, and state-of-the-art data-mining techniques to characterize the sources of solar storms – sunspots – and to upgrade flare forecasting to unprecedented levels of precision.”

Associate Professor in Physics in Trinity's School of Physics, and fellow FLARECAST scientist, Dr Peter Gallagher, added: “The project, which will also use state-of-the-art image-processing techniques, will provide a highly accurate, near real-time flare-forecasting service, which is the first of its kind in the world.”

The FLARECAST service will give, for end-users, the ability to choose from a range of flare-forecasting techniques and to fuse single techniques or combinations of techniques with selected artificial intelligence algorithms to improve the skill scores of solar flare prediction. An integral part of the project is exploratory research that will push the envelope of current knowledge and even the development of new and promising forecasting techniques. As such, FLARECAST will form the basis of the first quantitative, physically motivated and autonomous active region and flare forecasting system, accessible to European and international space weather researchers.