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News - 2018

Dr. Ramesh Babu and Prof. Jonathan Coleman from School of Physics both awarded Inventors of the year at the Trinity Innovation Awards 2018

20 Dec 2018

The Inventors award is presented to those academics whose innovative research has led to the creation of intellectual property and has subsequently licensed to Industry. The award this year was presented to Professor of Chemical Physics Johnny Coleman, recognising his breakthrough work in practical solutions with graphene and to Dr Ramesh Babu Padamati who has had many successful engagements with industry working in polymer technologies. Both are principal investigators at the AMBER Centre.

Dr. Ramesh Babu on receiving his inventor of the year at the Trinity Innovation Awards 2018 Prof. Jonathan Coleman on receiving his inventor of the year at the Trinity Innovation Awards 2018

School of Physics Principal Investigator, Professor Jonathan Coleman, features twice on Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited 2018 researcher list

30 Nov 2018

This list recognizes world-class researchers selected for their exceptional research performance, demonstrated by production of multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year in Web of Science. One of the greatest measurable ways of knowing what makes a great researcher is the number of times their work has been cited in other research. Clarivate Analytics has published its 2018 list documenting the top 1pc of world researchers based on the number of citations.

School of Physics and AMBER Principal Investigator Professor Jonathan Coleman is featured twice on the list for his work in the fields of material science and chemistry. This is a significant achievement which reflects the breadth of his contribution to science. Professor Coleman is only one of two Irish researchers to appear twice on Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited 2018 list.

Professor Coleman is internationally renowned for his contribution to 2D nanomaterials research, in particular for his team’s discovery of a scalable method to produce defect-free graphene. He is also the deputy leader of one of the work packages that make up the Graphene Flagship-a €1billion project which is one of Europe's biggest ever research initiatives.

A total of 6,000 researchers come under this list of ‘highly cited researchers’, of which featured 33 Irish researchers. The list was based on papers published and cited between 2006 and 2016 and, for the first time, included a cross-field research category for those whose work spans more than a single field. Read the full list of Irish researchers (8 of which are from Trinity College Dublin) here.

For more on graphene listen to Professor Coleman’s recent interview on Newstalk or read more on Professor Coleman and his team here.

Prof Aline Vidotto has won prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant awards valued at €2 million.

29 Nov 2018

Prof Aline Vidotto has won prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant awards valued at €2 million. Prof Vidotto will quantify how streams of gas that pour out from stars influence the loss of atmospheres of planets outside our own solar system (exoplanets), which orbit close to their stars.

Project ASTROFLOW will see Prof Vidotto use her expertise in stellar wind theory and 3D simulations to produce next-gen models that account for the major underlying physical processes of atmospheric losses in exoplanets.

"The numerical modelling that my team will develop will enable us to interpret observations with Hubble and, in the future, with CUTE, and also to guide observers towards exoplanets where we could more easily observe these leaking atmospheres. We want to understand what happens to the atmospheres of these big close-in exoplanets when they collide with the very intense outflows from their host stars.

Although the exoplanets we will focus on in the project are very unlikely to host life—they are way too hot due to the close proximity to the star—understanding the extreme environments of these exoplanetary atmospheres can shed some light in our big quest to understand the potential for exoplanets to develop life."

Ballistic tracks in graphene nanoribbons

30 Oct 2018

A collaboration between TCD computational physicist Dr. Stephen Power, and leading European groups from Germany, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, has shown for the first time how to create multiple perfectly-conducting current channels in graphene-based heterostructures, opening the way for novel quantum devices.

A critical obstacle to faster and more powerful computers is their resultant energy use and wasted heat, which not only damages the environment but also limits further miniaturisation of components. A possible way out of this dilemma involves the use of ballistic conductors, which have no electrical resistance and do not produce heat.

Such conductors can be realised in graphene -- a carbon-based material whose incredible strength and unique electronic properties have captivated material scientists for the past decade. The experimental physics group of Prof. Christoph Tegenkamp at Chemnitz University of Technology (Germany) has pioneered the growth of narrow strips -- called "nanoribbons" -- of graphene at the edges of silicon carbide crystals. Together with experimental researchers at the University of Twente (Netherlands) and the MAX IV Laboratory in Lund (Sweden), they have used a combination of microscopic and electronic measurement techniques to fully characterize and map the flow of current in these nanoribbons.

Using quantum transport simulations, Dr. Power, together with theoretical colleagues at the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology (Spain) and the Technical University of Denmark, explored the underlying physics behind the experimental measurements, and confirmed a hitherto unknown phenomena in this system: current flow in a single ribbon was dictated by multiple independent channels which did not influence each other. Furthermore, this behaviour could be connected to the unique environment in which the ribbons form, and in particular to an asymmetry between the two edges of the ribbon.

This work is reported in the journal Nature Communication in its current issue, and the authors are certain that this type of system is also interesting for topological effects in other 2D materials and may lead to new ways of designing future quantum devices. Dr. Power's contribution began at ICN2, Barcelona under the P-Sphere Marie Skodowska-Curie programme, and was completed at Trinity College Dublin, where he is supported by an Irish Research Council Laureate award.

In the tiny graphene wire with a width of 40 nanometers, the electrons on the "coloured highways" move ballistically, ie in a straight line, without scattering or mutual influence. Graphics Credit: TU Chemnitz / Johannes Aprojanz

Prof Coey collaboration with Magrow working toward more efficient spray technologies

09 Oct 2018

An exciting research collaboration between School of Physics PI Prof. Michael Coey and MagGrow, an Irish SME based in Dublin has been announced. The overall goal of the jointly funded project is to investigate the physical basis for the magnetic effects attributed to the MagGrow spraying technology.

At the moment 70% of pesticide spray does not reach the target crop. MagGrow’s innovative sprayer technology gives better coverage than conventional crop spraying systems, resulting in increased coverage of the target plant, and reduced water usage. It reduces drift of the spray chemicals targeting them exactly where they are needed with benefits to the health of agricultural workers and soil. The MagGrow technology, which has been researched and developed over the last six years, uses permanent magnets to achieve these results. Prof. Coey and his colleagues will investigate under field and laboratory conditions the magnetic effects underpinning MagGrow technology, as it exists today, and the potential it offers to create new innovative solutions for agriculture, irrigation, and other industrial applications in the future.

The aim of this project is to investigate the physical basis for the magnetic effects of the MagGrow magnet-assisted agricultural sprayer technology, using both field and laboratory-based research. After initial characterisation of the effects of MagGrow technology in the field, a working rig, comprising representative components and associated magnets, of the MagGrow boom-based sprayer system will be set up at TCD. This will be used to investigate systematically the influence of the magnets on spray characteristics, droplet size distribution, and spray coverage, with a view to optimizing the magnetic and fluidic circuit designs in relation to drift, coverage and efficacy of chemical usage. This work will involve an interplay of experiment and finite-element computer modelling. The very detailed scientific information derived through this study will provide MagGrow with the foundational theory to optimise existing products and develop the technology for other applications. Prof. Michael Coey, AMBER and School of Physics, Trinity College, said: “Our collaboration with MagGrow has the potential to improve the delivery of pesticides and other agricultural sprays. The expertise in magnetism of our research team in AMBER and the School of Physics is internationally recognized and we have excellent research facilities which can benefit this engagement. I am looking forward to working with MagGrow on this project, which we expect to shed light on the physical basis of the effects of rare earth magnets on crop spraying, a technology that is vital for feeding the planet.”

“This strategic collaboration builds on the work of our Research and Development teams in Ireland and the UK and will help us gain more of an understanding of the science around our technology, optimise our existing product set and help us identify new areas of product development,” said Gary Wickham, Chief Executive Officer, MagGrow. “The research team at MagGrow, led by Professor Anthony Furness, is delighted to be working with Professor Mike Coey and his team at Trinity on this collaboration. These industry-leading experts will help accelerate the optimisation and development of MagGrow products that are helping to fix large global issues right now, namely a scarcity of water, the waste associated with poor application of pesticides and the environmental damage that can result from spray run-off and spray drift.”

MagGrow, an Irish company, was set up in 2013, employs over 25 people and currently operates across four different regions; the USA, Canada, South Africa and Europe. MagGrow is a patented, proprietary technology for droplet formation that yields superior drift reduction of over 70% and spray coverage performance of up to 40% compared to conventional spraying. MagGrow has many other benefits to drift reduction and coverage such as significant reduction in water usage by up to 50%, extended spray windows, and reductions in labour.

The MagGrow system has no moving parts, is easy to install and maintain, and can be fitted to a new or existing crop sprayer. There is an increasing demand on food & water, and MagGrow’s technology is supporting a more sustainable approach to primary food production. While prompted by competitive demands and the global challenge of meeting the needs for future food production, MagGrow’s primary focus is on meeting customer needs, and satisfaction based on results.

Irish astronomers gain access to world-class facilities

04 Oct 2018

The 1st October marks the start of a new era for Irish astronomy now that the country has become the sixteenth member of the European Southern Observatory organisation. Prof. Brian Espey has been one of a small number of Irish astronomers who have been actively campaigning the government for ESO membership for since 2003. “I’m absolutely delighted that the campaign has come to a successful conclusion – it’s been a long road but we got there in the end. We now have access to world-class facilities including the 39m diameter European Extremely Large Telescope which will be the largest telescope in the world,” said Prof. Espey. “The Birr telescope was the largest telescope in the world in the nineteenth century - now we again have access to the largest instruments in the world. Following on Irish membership of the LOFAR international collaboration last year, this is a great time for Irish astronomy.” The signing was celebrated by the astronomical community with members of the ESO at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

ESO’s Director General, Xavier Barcons, and John Halligan T.D., Irish Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, sign the Accession Agreement that led to Ireland joining the European Southern Observatory. Credit: ESO Members of the Irish astronomical community in high spirits after the signing of the ESO accession documents at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation on 26th September. Prof. Brian Espey of the School of Physics with Dr. Xavier Barcons, Director-General of the European Southern Observatory at the celebration to mark Ireland’s accession to membership of the European Southern Observatory.

Professor Mauro Ferreira has received the Order of Rio Branco

10 Sep 2018

Professor Mauro Ferreira has received the Order of Rio Branco, a honorific title awarded to Brazilian and foreign nationals in recognition for their outstanding achievements in the representation of Brazil abroad. This is a well deserved recognition for Mauro's numerous connections with Brazilian Universities and Research Centres. Having trained a large number of PhD students and postdoctoral scientists originated from Brazil, he has a wide network of collaborators in South America. These collaborations continue to generate an impressive output of high-quality research that is of huge value to both Ireland and Brazil.

In the picture, Professor Mauro Ferreira is seen receiving the Order of Rio Branco from the Brazilian Ambassador to Ireland, Ms Eliana Zugaib.

New stamps to celebrate Irish scientific discoveries

10 Sep 2018

School of Physics New form of light features on four €1 stamps which highlight recent scientific discoveries made by scientists in Ireland.

The 'Irish Scientific Discoveries' collection was introduced at the international Schrodinger at 75 Conference, organised by Trinity College Dublin and hosted by the National Concert Hall.

The science-based stamps represent new areas of research, which are generating knowledge, technology and enterprise. They represent four topics: new forms of light, fighting superbugs, emissions adsorption and predicting neonatal seizures. An Post says these are examples of "innovative and impactful academic research" being carried out in academic institutions around the country.

Recent scientific discoveries made by scientists in Ireland

Original discovery piece from 2016

Physicists from Trinity College Dublin’s School of Physics and the CRANN Institute, Trinity College, have today announced the discovery of a new form of light. The discovery will impact our understanding of the fundamental nature of light.

One of the measurable characteristics of a beam of light is known as angular momentum. Until now, it was thought that in all forms of light the angular momentum would be a multiple of Planck’s constant (the physical constant that sets the scale of quantum effects). Now, Professor Paul Eastham, from Trinity College Dublin’s School of Physics, and Professor John Donegan, from CRANN and AMBER, have demonstrated a new form of light, where the angular momentum of each photon (a particle of visible light) takes only half of this value. This difference, though small, is profound. These results were recently published in the online journal Science Advances.

Commenting on their work, Assistant Professor Paul Eastham said “We’re interested in finding out how we can change the way light behaves, and how that could be useful. What I think is so exciting about this result is that even this fundamental property of light, that physicists have always thought was fixed, can be changed.”

Professor John Donegan said “My research focuses on nanophotonics, which is the study of the behaviour of light on the nanometer scale. A beam of light is characterised by its colour or wavelength and a less familiar quantity known as angular momentum. Angular momentum measures how much something is rotating. For a beam of light, although travelling in a straight line it can also be rotating around its own axis. So when light from the mirror hits your eye in the morning, every photon twists your eye a little, one way or another. Our discovery will have real impacts for the study of light waves in areas such as secure optical communications.”

Professor Stefano Sanvito, Director of CRANN, said “The topic of light has always been one of interest to physicists, while also being documented as one of the areas of physics that is best understood. This discovery is a breakthrough for the world of physics and science alike. I am delighted to once again see CRANN and Physics in TCD producing fundamental scientific research that challenges our understanding of light.”

In order to make this discovery, the team involved used an effect discovered in the same institution almost two hundred years before. In the 1830s, mathematician William Rowan Hamilton and physicist Humphrey Lloyd found that, upon passing through certain crystals, a ray of light became a hollow cylinder. The team used this phenomenon to generate beams of light with a screw-like structure. Analysing these beams within the theory of quantum mechanics they predicted that the angular momentum of the photon would be half-integer, and devised an experiment to test their prediction. Using a specially constructed device they were able to measure the flow of angular momentum in a beam of light. They were also able, for the first time, to measure the variations in this flow caused by quantum effects. The experiments revealed a tiny shift, one-half of Planck’s constant, in the angular momentum of each photon.

Theoretical physicists since the 1980s have speculated how quantum mechanics works for particles which are free to move in only two of the three dimensions of space. They discovered that this would enable strange new possibilities, including particles whose quantum numbers were fractions of those expected. This work shows, for the first time, that these speculations can be realised with light.

Researchers discover new solution to problem plastic

Researchers at AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for materials science at Trinity College Dublin and the BEACON Bioeconomy Research Centre, the SFI funded Research Centre led by University College Dublin, have discovered a blend of biodegradable plastic that completely degrades under typical home-composting conditions. Their research was published this week in the prestigious American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Of the hundreds of millions of plastic bottles, films and cartons produced everyday in the world, it is estimated that fewer than 15% end up being recycled, with most destined for landfills or littering our environment. Ireland is not immune to this problem with more than 80% of Irish coastal areas and inland waterways polluted with plastic litter, causing issues for people and wildlife. Plastic waste ends up in our environment as a result of poor recycling options. One potential solution to this problem is the introduction of biodegradable plastics. Biodegradable plastics do exist and offer new waste prevention and management options which have the potential to fight against litter and environmental damage but until now no one had studied the conditions under which biodegradable plastics decompose.

The research was a collaboration between Professor Kevin O’Connor, BEACON and UCD’s School of Biomolecular & Biomedical Science, Dr Ramesh Babu School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin, and European collaborators on EU funded projects (SYNPOL and P4SB). The collaborative team studied 15 different biodegradable plastics and mixtures of these plastics to see which had the most potential to biodegrade across a range of different environments – including standard home composting and industrial composting facilities where current brown bin material are taken. The research team tested blends of biodegradable plastics because often plastic packaging is made of a blend of plastics. They found that blends of biodegradable plastics can create new possibilities for managing plastic waste. Polylactic acid (PLA) is one of the well adopted biodegradable plastics on the market, but it requires high temperatures for breakdown and is not home-compostable. But surprisingly, a blend of PLA and polycaprolactone (PCL) degraded completely under typical home-composting conditions.

Dr Ramesh Babu School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin

Professor Kevin O’Connor, BEACON Bioeconomy Research Centre and UCD’s School of Biomolecular & Biomedical Science, said: “Imagine putting your waste plastic packaging into a household composting bin that breaks down the plastic and produces compost for your garden or into your brown bin so waste collection companies are able to mix plastic with unavoidable food waste and produce biogas to run their fleet or power your home, that’s the future this study suggests.”

Dr Ramesh Babu, AMBER and Trinity’s School of Physics, said: “Going forward we will see massive shift in use of biodegradable polymers and our research opens up new and exciting possibilities that biodegradable plastics offer to society. We have shown for the first time that you can blend plastics together to make them more biodegradable but still keeping the strength and performance of the plastic. This opens up huge opportunities to create novel sustainable plastics that perform in multiple positive ways for society.”

Dr Tanja Narancic, UCD’s School of Biomolecular & Biomedical Science and BEACON, a co-author on the publication said “Apart from providing opportunities to return carbon to soil as compost and to create clean energy (biogas), biodegradable plastic can be managed with other organic waste, rather than separated, making management easier.”

This research establishes new possibilities for waste management because if such biodegradable plastics were introduced as packaging and collected in the standard household brown bin this disposal treatment would result in their safe biodegradation and production of useful large scale by-products such as compost which can be used to grow plants, or biogas which can be used directly as fuel or upgraded to natural gas-quality biomethane, a renewable energy.

However, Professor O Connor warns that the study also found that “only two of the 15 biodegradable plastics tested, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) and thermoplastic starch (TPS), broke down completely under standard soil and water conditions. Therefore, biodegradable plastics are not a panacea for plastic pollution and post-consumer biodegradable plastic must be managed carefully to avoid pollution and bring benefit to society.”

The paper entitled “Biodegradable plastic blends create new possibilities for end of life management but they are not a panacea for plastic pollution” is available online here.

Orientation for incoming students in new Physical Sciences TR063

Orientation for incoming students in new Physical Sciences TR063 is at 12 noon in the Schrödinger Lecture Theatre, Fitzgerald building on Monday 3rd September. The new Physical Sciences (TR063) course welcomes its first entrants in the course-specific Orientation meeting on Monday 3rd September at 12 noon, taking place in the Schrödinger Theatre in the Fitzgerald building. The new students will first be address by Prof Aine Kelly, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Science Education, and then by Prof. Cormac McGuinness the Physical Sciences Course Director.

All students can see their orientation timetable at

The full details can be found in the Physical Sciences course handbook can be downloaded from: - a copy of which will be distributed at the Physical Sciences Orientation.

The School of Physics's Fitzgerald building can be found via this map reference:,-6.252406&z=19&t=m&hl=en-US&gl=US&mapclient=apiv3&cid=12583023585929788007

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