Material science is concerned with manipulating the properties to matter to create useful materials with novel functionalities that can be exploited for a range of applications. Nanoscience is the ultimate in material science, and involves the engineering of matter at the level of single atoms or molecules. Because of the importance of materials in all walks of life, nano and materials science strongly impacts the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) sector as well as Medical Devices, Sensors, Biotechnology, including the development of new ranges of “smart” or “intelligent” materials.
Nanoscience is the science of very small matter, typically of sizes of less than 100 nanometres (nm). It is a platform science that includes physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, medicine and pharmacology. The exceptional interest in nanoscience originates from the unique ability to control the properties of matter at these small length scales. For example gold, instead of having the usual gold colour can have be any colour you choose simply by controlling its size. What’s more, it can be used to turn exhaust waste gases into fuels, and the kind of fuel you get depends on size of the gold particles used. Researchers at CRANN, Trinity’s flagship nanoscience institute, work at the frontiers of nanoscience developing new knowledge of nanoscale materials, with a particular focus on new device and sensor technologies for the ICT, biotechnology and medical technology sectors, and with a growing interest in energy related research.
Benefits to Society
Nanotechnology underpins many key sectors of the Irish economy – ICT, pharmaceuticals and medical devices among others. It is estimated to contribute 10% of of Ireland’s exports worth €15 BN and is linked to over 120,000 jobs in Ireland. By understanding how nanomaterials behave and interact, researchers can impact new technologies and generate innovations that improve our quality of life in areas such as healthcare, smart electronics and sustainable energy. Across all of these sectors, manufacturing operations rely on improvement of existing material sets or the development of new materials to reduce manufacturing costs, improve existing products and create entirely new products or technologies.
Research at Trinity
CRANN brings together 37 Investigators based across multiple disciplines including Trinity’s Schools of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Biochemistry, Engineering and Pharmacology, UCC's Department of Chemistry and several hundred post-graduate and post-doctorate researchers. CRANN has been identified independently as the primary driver in recent international rankings which place Ireland 6th and 8th globally respectively for the impact of research in nanotechnology and materials science.
CRANN has a strong track record of successful collaboration with industry and of licensing intellectual property to companies for commercial application. We are actively engaged with over 100 companies, from small and medium enterprises to multinationals across diverse sectors, e.g. Intel, Merck-Millipore.
CRANN has two state-of-the art buildings both custom designed and constructed for the purpose of leading edge nanoscience research. The Naughton Institute is a large research facility on the campus of Trinity. Our Advanced Microscopy Laboratory (AML) houses Ireland’s most advanced microscopy instrumentation.
At present CRANN research is focused on the following topics:
- Technologies that enable enhanced memory storage, next generational silicon chips and novel lasers for delivering broadband to the home and advances in mobile computing
- Novel materials for energy harvesting and storage applications
- Multifunctional polymers and composites for critical delivery (drugs) and packaging applications
- Intelligent network materials for sensing and neuromorphic (brain-like) computing
- Next generation smart medical devices and implants
The research champion for this theme is Professor John Boland.