Research Areas

Overview

AMBER is structured with a hub of fundamental platform activities, around which are collaborative targeted projects with industry (spokes). The platform activities consolidate expertise of the PI team around 3 themes - 2D materials, Heterostructures & Network interfaces and Biomaterials - with supporting platform activity in Computation, Microscopy and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) screening. The platform structure has given rise to a number of multidisciplinary collaborations. For example, expertise in theory and modeling in the computation platform has enabled fundamental understanding of 2D layered materials and composites, particularly related to aggregation during liquid exfoliation (due to formation of stacking orientations) which in turn informed the interpretation of experimental data within the 2D team. Similarly, knowledge of 2D exfoliation techniques has been translated into the biomaterials platform with a project on developing biocompatible dispersions of graphene for incorporation into tissues as a means of producing novel electroconductive biomaterial for heart tissue regeneration. This work is also driving a collaboration with the Fraünhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology where these materials are being tested in-vitro using cardiomyocyte cells with a view to applying the materials for cardiac repair.



3 Important Discoveries

Through the first four years of AMBER, the Centre has seen many significant successes. Our selection of 3 most important breakthroughs is based on an assessment of impact they have had across international science and innovation, as well as economic and societal benefits.



1. Upscaling the production of high quality 2D materials

One of the earliest and most successful projects to take place in AMBER was an industry-academia collaboration between the English chemical manufacturing company, Thomas Swan & Co. Ltd. and Prof. Jonathan Coleman’s research group. The project resulted in a significant breakthrough - the translation of Prof. Coleman’s method for producing graphene by liquid exfoliation into a process for the industrial scale-up of graphene. The outputs included a high impact paper in Nature Materials, (2014), a patent, a license and two new commercial products for Thomas Swan. This work is important as AMBER researchers were the first to perfect large scale production of high-quality graphene. The ability to produce graphene in large quantities is important for those industrial applications which require a good quality commercial source of graphene. Typical applications include advanced food packaging, high strength plastics, foldable touch screens for mobile phones and laptops, protective coatings for wind turbines and ships and printed electronics and batteries with dramatically higher capacity than anything available today. The discovery could change the way many consumer and industrial products are manufactured. Over the longer term, this work has led to further publications on the exfoliation of other 2D materials, two additional licenses, new industrial collaborations and widespread international recognition for both Prof. Coleman’s research and AMBER.

2. The zero-moment half metal

A major breakthrough in AMBER has been the experimental discovery of a new type of magnetic material, with great promise for original applications in spin electronics. The discovery has been followed by an intense period of research activity, which is on-going, aimed at unveiling the unusual magnetic, electrical and optical properties of the new material archetype, which we refer to as ‘MRG’. The significance of this breakthrough by Profs Michael Coey, Plamen Stamenov and teams is not only because this new type of magnet had been predicted over 20 years ago, but never made, but also because it opens a path to chip-to-chip radio communications in the hitherto inaccessible terahertz gap between microwave electronics and far infrared optics.

Prof. Plamen Stamenov has obtained a 2016 FET-OPEN grant, TRANSPIRE, of €4.3 M (€1.7M for TCD), where he coordinates the work with partners in Dresden, Trondheim and Lausanne. This is a first for Ireland in H2020 in this prestigious and extremely competitive program (success rate 3 – 5%). We have also an SFI/NSF Centre to Centre grant on Ultra-Low Energy Electric Field Control of Nonvolatile Magnetoelectric Memory Devices with the NSF funded TANMS centre in Berkeley, UCLA and Queens University Belfast.

3. Clinical translation of a new class of collagen-based biomaterials for bone and cartilage repair.

The development and clinical application of next generation materials for tissue engineering has proven to be a key success of the AMBER Centre since its launch in 2013. Research carried out by AMBER researchers in the Tissue Engineering Research Group at RCSI has led to the development of an off-the-shelf, biomimetic, osteogenic composite scaffold composed of collagen and hydroxyapatite (HA) - the primary constituents of native human bone. This collagen-hydroxyapatite (CHA) scaffold is biocompatible and biodegradable with non-toxic degradation products, and is capable of facilitating and promoting bone regeneration, supporting the body’s intrinsic healing process to restore healthy tissue. A collaboration initiated with the UCD Veterinary School of Medicine led to the clinical assessment of the scaffold in an equine patient, 2 year old thoroughbred filly Annagh Haven, who suffered from a mandibulated aneurysmal bone cyst - a condition where the jaw is at risk of breaking, leaving a horse unable to eat properly and often ending in euthanasia. Annagh Haven returned to training 6 months after the surgery and has since returned to competitive racing, and has won a number of races. The scaffold has now been licensed to SurgaColl Technologies Ltd., a HPSU company from Prof. O’Brien’s lab, now marketed under the trade name HydroxyCollTM. The bone graft substitute received regulatory approval (CE mark) in November 2015 and has since been used clinically in a number of human cases.

The second product developed by AMBER researchers in the TERG group at RCSI is a novel bioactive multi-layered scaffold optimised to repair the complex heterogeneous structure of the native articular joint. This product, (now marketed under the trade name ChondroCollTM) is now also licensed, manufactured and being commercialised by SurgaColl Technologies. Regulatory approval is anticipated in the coming months. It is hoped that ChondroColl will eventually be routinely used in young active patients, delaying the need for more invasive surgeries including arthroplasty.

Selection of publications

2017

Kelly, A. G. et al. All-printed thin-film transistors from networks of liquid-exfoliated nanosheets. Science 356, 69-72, doi:10.1126/science.aal4062 (2017).



2016

Boland CS, Khan U, Ryan G, Barwich S, Charifou R, Harvey A, Backes C, Li Z, Ferreira MS, Möbius ME, Young RJ, Coleman JN. Sensitive electromechanical sensors using viscoelastic graphene-polymer nanocomposites. Science. 2016; 354(6317):1257-60.

Annett, J. & Cross, G. L. W. Self-assembly of graphene ribbons by spontaneous self-tearing and peeling from a substrate. Nature 535, 271-+, doi:10.1038/nature18304 (2016).

Betto, D. et al. The zero-moment half metal: How could it change spin electronics? Aip Advances 6, doi:10.1063/1.4943756 (2016).

Levingstone, T. J. et al. Cell-free multi-layered collagen-based scaffolds demonstrate layer specific regeneration of functional osteochondral tissue in caprine joints. Biomaterials 87, 69-81, doi:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2016.02.006 (2016).

Daly, A. C. et al. 3D Bioprinting of Developmentally Inspired Templates for Whole Bone Organ Engineering. Advanced Healthcare Materials 5, 2353-2362, doi:10.1002/adhm.201600182 (2016).



2015

Hanlon, D. et al. Liquid exfoliation of solvent-stabilized few-layer black phosphorus for applications beyond electronics. Nature Communications 6, 8563, doi:10.1038/ncomms9563 (2015).

Ryan, A. J., Gleeson, J. P., Matsiko, A., Thompson, E. M. & O'Brien, F. J. Effect of different hydroxyapatite incorporation methods on the structural and biological properties of porous collagen scaffolds for bone repair. Journal of Anatomy 227, 732-745, doi:10.1111/joa.12262 (2015).

Thiyagarajah, N. et al. Giant spontaneous Hall effect in zero-moment Mn2RuxGa. Applied Physics Letters 106, doi:10.1063/1.4913687 (2015).



2014

O'Kelly, C., Fairfield, J. A. & Boland, J. J. A Single Nano scale Junction with Programmable Multilevel Memory. Acs Nano 8, 11724-11729, doi:10.1021/nn505139m (2014).

Paton, K. R. et al. Scalable production of large quantities of defect-free few-layer graphene by shear exfoliation in liquids. Nature Materials 13, 624-630, doi:10.1038/nmat3944 (2014).



2013

Nicolosi, V., Chhowalla, M., Kanatzidis, M. G., Strano, M. S. & Coleman, J. N. Liquid Exfoliation of Layered Materials. Science 340, 1420-+, doi:10.1126/science.1226419 (2013).





Non-exchequer funding

The Centre has a strong track record in winning non-exchequer funding. As of May 2017, AMBER investigators have been awarded €29.5M. AMBER holds more European Research Council (ERC) awards than any other Centre in Ireland, with 11 ERCs awarded to 8 AMBER investigators. Prof. Valeria Nicolosi is Europe’s only five time ERC awardee with Profs O’Brien, Kelly and Coleman also holding multiple ERC awards. AMBER Investigators are participating in 21 EU initiatives and are coordinators of four.

One example is the TRANSPIRE program coordinated by Prof. Plamen Stamenov. This is Ireland’s first success in the highly competitive European funded “Future and Emerging Technologies - Open” (FET Open) programme. The project, funded in 2017, has received a total of €4.3M from the EU of which €1.7M will come to Trinity. TRANSPIRE aims to develop a new class of magnetic materials that could enable new, on-chip and chip-to-chip data links at least 100 times, possibly 1000 times faster than current technology. Personal and substance security screening, medical spectrometry and imaging, geophysical and atmospheric research and the Internet of Things will all benefit from ultra-fast data transfer.