Researchers at AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre, and the School of Chemistry, Trinity College Dublin, have developed a solution to increase the speed interaction between processor and memory in computers and other electronic devices.

Instead of each memory cell storing just a single piece or ‘bit’ of information, the team - led by Professor John J. Boland with researchers Curtis O’Kelly and Jessamyn Fairfield has developed a multilevel memory in which it is possible to programme a number of stored bits into a single cell. Multilevel memory increases communication speed by reducing the number of memory cells.

Whether your favorite app runs on a mobile phone or a supercomputer, performance no longer depends solely on the brain power or so-called processor speed. To function, the processor has to communicate efficiently with memory on the chip. The properties of the metal wires connecting the processor and memory provide a fundamental speed limit.

Professor John Boland, AMBER, explained: “Processors and memory communicate using the clunky language of binary code. Conventional on-chip memory stores information as ‘1’s’ and ‘0’s’, which reflects the presence or absence of charge at the memory location. For example, 2014 in binary language requires 11 cells of memory. It take time for the computer to access such a large number of cells and so the overall performance is impaired. The new process reduces the number of cells required.”

The scheme proposed by the AMBER researchers operates on a different principle; the resistance to charge flow, known as resistive memory which ultimately leads to more streamlined processing with fewer cells but with each having multiple memory levels. A particular advantage of the new approach is that it is possible to arbitrarily tune the number of memory levels within each cell.

Professor John Boland, AMBER, said, “The discovery opens up a host of possibilities for the consumer leading to smaller, cheaper and faster electronics. Having demonstrated six memory levels per cell, we believe the technology can be developed to display even more memory levels per cell. A memory language with greater density can increase the efficiency and speed of desktop and mobile technology by reducing the number of memory locations.”

Professor Boland concluded, “Further research will be focused on integrating this technology with existing industry fabrication capabilities, so that society can continue to reap the benefits with new and improved technology.”

The paper, A Single Nanoscale Junction with Programmable Multilevel Memory is available at:

Alan Ryan, PhD student at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), has been awarded a prestigious scholarship from one of the world’s largest professional bodies for engineers, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Alan is a student working with Prof Fergal O’Brien, Deputy Director of AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre.

Alan has been awarded one of the IET’s largest scholarships – the 2014 Postgraduate Scholarship for an Outstanding Researcher, worth £10,000. Alan was recognised for his work in tissue engineering, where he has developed a novel artificial blood vessel from a natural polymer biomaterial. Currently, Alan’s research focuses on utilising the natural polymers, collagen and elastin, as a basis for growing blood vessels in the lab using tissue engineering techniques.

Alan said, “I am absolutely delighted to be awarded this scholarship. I hope to continue to undertake postdoctoral research in a world class institute such as AMBER so that I remain at the forefront of this exciting field and further develop my own research niche. My career objectives are to combine my passion for engineering, science, technology, and teaching, with aspirations to become a principal investigator and university lecturer in the future.”

Alan’s supervisor, Prof Fergal O’Brien, who is Deputy Director of AMBER and Professor of Bioengineering & Regenerative Medicine at RCSI said, “This is a fantastic achievement by Alan, and is a testament to the quality of his work in the development of biomaterials that could be used as alternatives to current vascular bypasses for the benefit of patients suffering from cardiovascular disease - the leading cause of death worldwide.”

Trevor Grimshaw, Chair of the IET Scholarships Committee, said: “Every year we receive a very high calibre of applications, and this year has been no exception. The scholarship recipients have demonstrated outstanding talent as well as real engineering potential, and I look forward to seeing the results of their inspirational work.”

The IET’s Postgraduate Scholarship for an Outstanding Researcher is given annually to an accomplished PhD researcher working on a project that aims to enhance people’s lives through advancing knowledge in science, engineering and technology.

In 2013, the IET provided over £1,000,000 in awards, prizes and scholarships to celebrate excellence, innovation and encouragement of the next generation of engineers and technicians. The IET will maintain this investment in 2014 with its portfolio of awards, which includes Diamond Jubilee scholarships, Apprentice and Technician awards, scholarships in India, the Present around the World competition and the IET A F Harvey Engineering Research Prize.

For more information about IET Awards, please visit

Press Release

Adama Innovations Ltd, an early stage company focused on deploying nanotechnology to common manufacturing processes, has secured €750,000 in seed-funding. The investment will enable Adama to scale up production of their first product, a nano-scale probe fabricated from diamond, used in atomic force microscopy (AFM), which images, measures, and manipulates matter at the nanoscale.

Owing to their fabrication in solid diamond, Adama’s industry leading probes hold clear advantages for many applications, uniquely combining the highest levels of performance and durability. They will be instrumental in solving current and future challenges in high-tech manufacturing allowing industry to understand better the surfaces of their materials at the nanoscale, to improve their products and prevent defects.

Adama Innovations was spun out from AMBER in 2013 by co-founder Prof Graham Cross, Principal Investigator in Trinity’s School of Physics and is based in Dublin. The investment syndicate included Enterprise Ireland, NDRC VentureLab and Irrus Investments.

Dr. Brian O’Neill, Manager High Potential Start-Ups, Industrial & Lifesciences from Enterprise Ireland said, “Adama Innovations has shown great progress since being established in 2013. We are delighted to fund a company at this early stage, with plans to exceed €2 million in revenue and create 10 high-tech manufacturing jobs in the next 3 years. Their offering is a remarkable one, as their diamond probes will provide a greater understanding of materials, both man made and biological. This has innovative uses such as giving insight into how antibiotics or other drugs interact with cells in the body.”

This is the second large scale investment the company has received in the past twelve months, having been selected last year to receive almost €400,000 in funding from the European Commission’s FP7 FaBiMed project, which aims to fund nanoscience research to develop advanced manufacturing techniques for medical devices. As part of FaBimed, Adama Innovations is examining how this micro-patterning could be used in moulds and coatings for the fabrication of medical devices, increasing their capability and reducing the cost of manufacture.

Declan Scanlan, Managing Director of Adama Innovations Ltd, said, “This investment is great news for Adama Innovations. Our team brings together expertise in materials science, high-tech fabrication, and business growth in order to deliver the highest quality product. Almost anything that is solid can be analysed by an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), this includes cancer cells, viruses, plastic composites, metals, ceramics and biological surfaces. The AFM allows researchers, scientists and engineers to look at the surface of objects at the atomic level, which offers benefits to the medical devices and pharmaceutical industries, and cancer research, among others.

Declan Scanlan, added: “The first benefit of our AFM probes is that they offer the maximum level of atomic resolution, uniquely combining this with a longer lasting, hard diamond tip which ultimately provides cost savings for industry. Other advantages are that they enable significantly faster scanning of samples and at a much higher accuracy and precision than what has been possible to date, and with highly conductive diamond, they allow electrical AFM scanning, which is a rapidly growing application”


13th to 15th November

We’re co-presenting the Smashing Science programme with Insight, UCD Science Expression and Happenings to host a series of films, discussions and interactions with scientists across the fields of materials science, sports analytics and physics.

Come and join us in the CHQ Building for fun fact packed evenings of film, discussion and exploration. Each event kicks off with an inspiring short film to introduce the theme of the evening and warm up the audience for the dynamic post screening panel and audience discussion with leading scientists and thinkers.

Tickets for all events can be booked in advance and there will be a number available at the door on the evening.


Saturday 15th November 18:30, CHQ

On Saturday we look to the past and how science, invention and innovation were presented in the clever and often dark comedy The Man in the White Suit. In the 1951 Ealing Studios film, a timid Sidney Stratton, played by Sir Alec Guinness, is a brilliant research chemist and Cambridge scholarship recipient. Stratton is determined to create an ever-lasting fibre that repels dirt. His invention troubles the establishment, big business and the fearful public. Stratton goes on the run trying to outwit his detractors and defend his invention. Our post screening discussion will take a lively review of the film, materials scientists from AMBER will discuss where we are now in the race to create fantastic materials of the future through the wonders of nano science and technology.

Details on post screening discussion to follow.