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Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

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Research Overview

The Trinity School of Physics has had an outstanding record in research stretching back over centuries, and was home to the only science Nobel Prize winner in the country, E.T.S. Walton, for many decades. It has a well-established international reputation for innovative research in Magnetic, Electronic and Photonic Materials, Nanoscience and Computational Physics, all areas that are highly relevant to the national priority theme of leadership in Information and Communication Technology. Many of our graduates hold important positions in the wider world of physics.

Some researchers have achieved outstanding international recognition - the only four Fellows of the Royal Society (FRS) in Ireland are associated with this department: DJ Bradley (retired), JMD Coey, J Pethica and DL Weaire.

Members of the department publish 100-150 peer-reviewed articles in international journals annually. Nowadays, the impact of research is often measured using citations (references to a particular paper in a subsequent publication). Statistics show that our research output has the greatest international impact of any Physics Department in Ireland.

The European Community's 2003 Report on Science and Technology Indicators confirms TCD as the institution that is most active and the most cited in published physics research.

Ever since the first implements were made our civilization has depended on materials. Their continuous improvement and incorporation in ever more sophisticated devices has preoccupied scientists through the centuries, and has now encountered one of its most exciting phases. Nanotechnology, which concerns the observation, manipulation and construction of structure on the very smallest scale - that of atoms - has emerged as basis for the technology of tomorrow. Within Ireland we will lead this revolution.

Accordingly, most of our research groups bear strongly on this subject from different directions. Several groups have scanning probe microscopes which directly reveal the nanoworld with a clarity that was inconceivable not long ago. Others are concerned with the magnetic properties of the small-scale structures that can now be made: these are already important in hard disk drives, and promise to change much of semiconductor technology. Lasers are used to promote special optical effects in the new materials. Nanotubes, an intriguing form of carbon with many potential uses, are made and investigated. Computer simulations help to understand these and other nano-materials.

Other research in the department is concerned with state-of-the-art techniques for computation and simulation, with radiation in the environment, and astrophysics. We enjoy a close relationship with the nearby School of Cosmic Physics, part of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Technology.

Our international reputation in research is based on major research achievements that include:

  • Exciting new developments in the fabrication and use of nanotubes.
  • Discovery of new magnetic properties in graphite from meteors.
  • Breakthroughs in light amplification by fibres and waveguides.
  • Detection of surface structures on semiconductors using lasers.
  • Advanced computational simulators in molecular dynamics and foam structures. The aquatic centre for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 had a structure based on one of our discoveries!