Trinity College begins construction of Ireland’s First Purpose Built Nanoscience Research Institute

Posted on: 10 February 2005

Trinity College Dublin has announced the commencement of construction of Ireland’s first purpose-built nanoscience research institute, The Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN). The planned 6,000 m 2 research institute, will be known as The Naughton Institute in recognition of a €5m donation from Dr Martin Naughton, who is Chairman of the Glen Dimplex Group and a member of the Board of Trinity Foundation. The Centre will house 150 scientists, technicians and graduate students in a state of the art facility and provide them with the tools required to explore the world of nanoscience. Science Foundation Ireland has committed €21m to CRANN to date, with almost €10m being used to fund research activity and €11m for the construction of specialised vibration-free laboratory facilities. Projected to cost €29m and to be completed by the end of 2006, the Institute will be situated at the corner of Pearse Street and Westland Row. Researchers and scientists at the Institute will be able to develop apparatus and techniques to build new structures and devices atom by atom, which has endless possibilities for biotechnology, information and communications technologies. Dr John Hegarty, Provost of Trinity College stated, “CRANNwas established in 2003 in advance of completion of the new building. Over the last few years Trinity has attracted and built up a critical mass of world-class expertise in nanoscience and we have a number of excellent people in the area who have been externally assessed as one of the best groups in the world. The College is determined to confirm its position as one of the world’s leading universities and the Naughton Institute and its work will go along way to enhance that.” The Institute will have ultra-low vibration, temperature and humidity controlled laboratories to allow highly sensitive measurements of nanoscale structures, state-of-the-art clean rooms where even the finest particles of dust are carefully filtered out to allow high-purity fabrication of nanotechnology devices. There will be specialist laboratories for nanoscale and biomolecular mechanics, magnetics, optics, chemistry and computation. It will also house a Science Gallery which will spearhead an innovative outreach programme. The SFI funded first phase of CRANN’s research focuses on the physics and chemistry of materials, including biomolecules, which may be structured at the nanoscale with the aim of achieving novel device functionality. From nanoscience, technologies are already emerging that will change our lives in the coming decades, and the range of possible future products and applications is constantly growing. Nanotechnologies are set to yield the next generation of microelectronics to meet the ever-growing demand for smaller and faster electronic devices. Novel drug delivery systems are anticipated, which can deliver medication directly to the source of pain or illness. Other potential applications range from medical imaging techniques and prosthetics to computer memory and fuel cells. CRANN’s four major research areas are: 1. Membrane-Fluid Interface – will investigate transport across cell membranes, membrane-surface adhesion, and membrane fusion. 2. Self-Assembled Nanostructures-research on the self-assembly of chemical building blocks into nanostructured arrays and nanodevices. 3. Nanoscale Contacts-will investigate various aspects of the transport of electrons at the contacts between nanoscale objects. 4. Spin Electronics-will examine how spin-polarized currents in nanoscale structures can be manipulated for device design. Provost Hegarty continued, “CRANN is founded on an interplay of the research strengths of its seven senior scientists or Principal Investigators, each a highly respected world-expert in their field. Combining this scientific excellence with the support of Science Foundation Ireland and TCD, the expertise of Intel Ireland and our other industrial partners, and the most generous private philanthropic interest of Dr. Martin Naughton, CRANN will attract outstanding scientists and partners to the country, train research students for Ireland, be a major centre of excellence and an international leader in parts of nanoscience and is set to put Ireland on the map as a global player in this revolutionary new field.” The construction of the Naughton Institute was announced by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mr. Micheál Martin, TD. Notes to the Editor Nanoscience in a Nutshell A nanometre is one million times smaller than a millimetre or one billion times smaller than a metre. It is abbreviated to ‘nm’. * a human hair, for example, is about 80,000 nanometres wide, * a red blood cell about 7,000 nm across, * a typical virus about 100 nm wide, * a strand of DNA about 2 nm wide, and * an atom a mere ¼ nm wide. Such nano-objects are the building blocks of nature and technology. As we explore the Nanoworld, the traditional lines of demarcation between Physics, Chemistry and Biology break down and these three disciplines converge into one exciting field of discovery. ‘Nanoscience’ then is concerned with the study of objects ranging in size from about 100 nm downwards. This often involves looking at and working with individual atoms and molecules or minute particles. Special techniques have had to be developed to allow us to view them; we can map out an image of a nano-object by passing a super-fine pointed tip over its surface for example. Nanoscience involves the study of nanoscale objects that already exist in nature, and also the fabrication of new nanometre-sized structures. This can be done either from the ‘top-down’ where we start with a large object and peel material away to make something very small, or else from the ‘bottom-up’ where we rely on chemical interactions that allow atoms and molecules to assemble themselves into a desired shape. These nanoscale materials behave very differently to their larger counterparts. This is partly because they have a very large surface compared to their tiny volume, but also because on this tiny scale quantum effects are important.