Scientists at AMBER, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research, CRANN and the School of Physics at Trinity College Dublin, have secured investment in a new international collaboration that will focus on reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and tackle climate change challenges.

The project titled ‘Development of a Highly Efficient and Practical Carbon Management System for Improving Qatar’s Sustainability: A Holistic Approach’, will be lead by Qatar University and Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC), alongside teams from the University of Calgary (Canada), Imperial College London (UK); Georgia State University (USA); and Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (Germany) and Trinity College Dublin.The 5 year project has secured €5.4 million from the Qatar National Research Fund and private co-funding.

The project aims to develop an efficient and practical carbon management system. Using innovative materials, the proposed technology aims at having the capacity to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations by capturing excess CO2 directly from the atmosphere, and using the captured gasses to feed agricultural greenhouses and also converting it into value-added products.

Prof. Stefano Sanvito, AMBER, Director or CRANN and School of Physics explains, “We aim at developing new technology for controlling and improving air quality, through CO2 capturing and reconversion. The project will have strong impacts in sustainable energy, health and food security. We are thrilled to work with a consortium covering all aspects of the problem, from the most fundamental physical/chemical ones, to the development of efficient air purification systems, to the evaluation of their economic impact. My team will design new metal-organic molecular structures for CO2 capture using a combination of advanced electronic structure theory and machine-learning methods.”

Extending his congratulations to the team, Executive Director of Qatar National Research Fund, Dr Abdul Sattar Al Taie said: “We believe this cluster project will ensure that Qatar benefits from the research outcomes and strengthen mutually beneficial and constructive collaborations between relevant local and international stakeholders.”

Project lead, Dr Marc Vermeersch, executive director of Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, added: “We are honoured to be leading this project, and I congratulate the team, who showed a lot of effort, resilience and perseverance. This outstanding project will not only contribute to supporting Qatar to tackle its grand challenges in energy, water and the environment, but also build a platform to further enhance collaborations among national stakeholders and promote in-country capacity building through the involvement of graduate students.”

In the early days and weeks of the COVID crisis, there were deep concerns about PPE. Front line workers needed to adjust to the new reality rapidly, adapting to different levels of protection in different clinical situations and scenarios. There was a huge demand on masks.

The most common and most readily available type of mask is a simple paper mask that is secured by elastic loops over the ears. But these have their own problems. Wearing them for long periods of time can cause significant discomfort and chafing around the ears, or at times, the elastic can stretch and the masks became loose. A mask adjuster solves these problems.

As Prof. John M. O’Byrne, Consultant Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon, Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital, explains: “We realised we needed mask adjusters; a small piece of plastic that loops around the elastic loops in facemasks, are cheap to make, and could be rapidly distributed to front line workers across the country. AMBER technician, Alex Conway, improved on an initial design we provided to him and prototyped the new mask adjusters within AMBER Advanced Research Laboratory with specialist 3D printers. The adjustment Alex made allowed for more variation in the tension of the mask making it more secure, more reliable and more comfortable. We are very grateful to AMBER for their contribution”.

To ensure as many front line workers as possible were given access to the mask adjusters AMBER collaborated with a large supplier to rapidly 3D print and distribute thousands of units nationwide.

O’Neills is Irelands largest sportswear manufacturer, and synonymous with Gaelic games. The company has over 100 years experience in developing, and delivering cutting edge sportswear, but with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic saw a way to contribute to Irelands effort against the virus: to produce much needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers.

As Kieran Kennedy , Managing Director, O’Neills, explains “With the COVID-19 outbreak and demand for scrubs, gowns and other PPE O’Neills entered a completely new market overnight. While we are expert in fabric knitting and textile manufacturing moving into the whole area of PPE required rapid upskilling and learning to provide the best possible response to the health sector. We needed support in terms of understanding the machinery, fabric properties, investment and output potential to maximise our response.”

AMBER assisted O’Neills through our Industry-Covid Consultancy response to link the company to our scientists and produce a rapid research report. The report outlined the kinds of materials required to make PPE, the equipment necessary for generating PPE, the cost and capacity output that the business could expect, the raw materials and supply chain for additional equipment for future work.

The impact for O’Neills was significant, as Keiran explains “through the Covid-19 consultancy report, the team at AMBER provided rapid cutting edge information and advice during a time when it was key to move at pace to respond to the needs of our health sector. The report gave us all the information we needed in a very short timeframe, this helped us to understand what investment we needed to make and develop our business case which will support us as the crisis continues. We have no hesitation working with AMBER again and we will recommend the service to other businesses who need scientific research and advice”

Researchers at AMBER, CRANN and the School of Physics at Trinity College Dublin have created an innovative new device that will emit single particles of light, or photons, from quantum dots that are the key to practical quantum computers, quantum communications, and other quantum devices.

The team has made a significant improvement on previous designs in photonic systems via their device, which allows for controllable, directional emission of single photons and which produces entangled states of pairs of quantum dots.

The promise of quantum computers leverages the properties of quantum bits – “qubits” – to execute computations. Current computers process and store information in bits of either 0s or 1s whereas qubits can be 0 and 1 simultaneously. That means quantum computers will have much greater computational powers over and above classical computers.

Scientists are exploring different options and designs to make quantum computing a viable reality. One proposed idea utilises photonic systems, making use of quantum properties of light at the nanoscale, as qubits. The Trinity team explores such a system in their recently published paper in the high-profile journal Nano Letters.Their system utilises single photons of light emitted in a controlled fashion in time and space from quantum emitters (nanoscale materials known as quantum dots). For applications such as quantum computing, it is necessary to control emissions from these dots and to produce quantum entanglement of emission from pairs of these dots.

Quantum entanglement is a fundamental property of quantum mechanics and occurs when a pair or group of particles are quantum-mechanically linked in a way such that the quantum state of each particle of the pair cannot be described independently of the state of the others. Essentially, two entangled quantum dots can emit entangled photons.

Professor John Donegan, CRANN and Trinity’s School of Physics, said: “The device works by placing a metal tip within a few nanometers of a surface containing the quantum dots. The tip is excited by light and produces an electric field of such enormous intensity that it can greatly increase the number of single photons emitted by the dots. This strong field can also couple emission from pairs of quantum dots, entangling their states in a way that is unique to quantum emitters of light.”

The other significant advantage is the mechanism by which the device works over current state-of-art photonic devices for quantum computing applications.

Professor Ortwin Hess, Professor of Quantum Nanophotonics in Trinity’s School of Physics and CRANN, added:“By scanning the metal tip over the surface containing the quantum dots, we can generate the single photon emission as required. Such a device is much simpler than current systems that attempt to fix a metal tip, or a cavity, in close proximity to a quantum dot. We now expect that this device and its operation will have a striking effect on research in quantum emitters for quantum technologies.”

The collaboration between Professors Hess and Donegan began while Professor Hess was at Imperial College London and will continue with his recent appointment to Trinity through the SFI Research Professorship Programme. The team plans to fabricate devices that will demonstrate controlled single photon emission and contribute strongly to the research effort in quantum technologies in Ireland.