Press Release

World-first graphene-rubber sensors could be used in medicine, automotive and aeronautical industries, or as early warning system for cot death and sleep apnoea

Researchers at AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre, and the School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin, have discovered a method of creating wearable sensors by adding graphene to shop-bought rubber bands; the first time this has ever been achieved worldwide. Working with researchers from the University of Surrey, their findings have been published in ACS Nano, a leading international nanoscience publication.

The team - led by Professor Jonathan Coleman, one of the world’s leading nanoscientists - infused rubber bands with graphene, a nano-material derived from pencil lead which is 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. This process is simple and compatible with normal manufacturing techniques. While rubber does not normally conduct electricity, the addition of graphene made the rubber bands electrically conductive without degrading the mechanical properties of the rubber. Tests showed that, any electrical current flowing through the graphene-infused rubber bands was very strongly affected if the band was stretched. As a result, if the band is attached to clothing, the tiniest movements such as breath and pulse can be sensed.

The discovery opens up a host of possibilities for the development of wearable sensors from rubber, which could be used to monitor blood pressure, joint movement and respiration. Other applications of rubber-graphene sensors could be in the automotive industry (to develop sensitive airbags); in robotics, in medical device development (to monitor bodily motion), as early warning systems for cot death in babies or sleep apnoea in adults. They could also be woven into clothing to monitor athletes’ movement or for patients undergoing physical rehabilitation.

The discovery was welcomed by Minister for Research and Innovation Damien English TD who said, “This exciting discovery shows that Irish research is at the leading edge of material science worldwide. AMBER is one of a number of research centres funded by the Government to carry out world-class research in collaboration with industry in strategic areas of opportunity for Ireland. Material science underpins a wide range of market opportunities that have the greatest potential to deliver economic return through enterprise development, employment growth and job retention in Ireland. This discovery is a key stepping stone in our strategy of turning good ideas into good jobs. I congratulate Professor Coleman, his team and collaborators at AMBER for this great discovery and wish them well for the future.”

Professor Jonathan Coleman, AMBER, said, “Sensors are becoming extremely important in medicine, wellness and exercise, medical device manufacturing, car manufacturing and robotics, among other areas. Biosensors, which are worn on or implanted into the skin, must be made of durable, flexible and stretchable materials that respond to the motion of the wearer. By implanting graphene into rubber, a flexible natural material, we are able to completely change its properties to make it electrically conductive, to develop a completely new type of sensor. Because rubber is available widely and cheaply, this unique discovery will open up major possibilities in sensor manufacturing worldwide.”

Corresponding author, Dr Alan Dalton from the University of Surrey continued, “Until now, no such sensor has been produced that meets needs and that can be easily made. It sounds like a simple concept, but our graphene-infused rubber bands could really help to revolutionise certain aspects of healthcare.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “Congratulations to Professor Coleman and his team on this discovery. Science Foundation Ireland is committed to funding impactful research which will lead to new products and services of the future. Just over a year since it was established as an SFI Research Centre, AMBER’s researchers are working to address the big issues facing modern society – across healthcare, energy, transport and other areas. It is this type of research that has led to Ireland’s international position as 3rd for nanoscience and 6th for materials science. I look forward to future developments from this team.”

The paper, Sensitive, High Strain, High-rate, bodily motion Sensors based on Graphene-Rubber Composites, written by AMBER researchers along with collaborators from the University of Surrey is available at:

EU Funding

AMBER participates in the Graphene flagship, a €1 billion EU initiative to boost new technologies and innovation during the next 10 years. Professor Jonathan Coleman is a grantee of the European Research Council (ERC), the premier blue-sky funding agency in Europe.

About Prof Coleman
Jonathan Coleman is the Professor of Chemical Physics in Trinity College Dublin. The focus of his research is liquid exfoliation of layered compounds. Exfoliation of these materials gives 2D nanosheets which can easily be processed into thin films or composites from applications from energy to mechanics. He has published approximately 180 papers in international journals including Nature and Science. He was listed by Thomson Reuters among the world’s top 100 materials scientists of the last decade and was named as the Science Foundation Ireland researcher of the Year in 2011.
Prof Coleman’s work in AMBER involves the production of novel 2D nano-materials by liquid exfoliation. Where possible, these materials will be used in a range of applications from photodetectors to electrodes to catalysts. Prof Coleman is also involved in collaborative research with a number of companies including SAB Miller, Thomas Swan and Bell Labs Ireland.

World Leading Researchers and Entrepreneurs in Dublin to Focus on the Business of Science

International line-up of speakers includes Sir John Pethica, Physical Secretary of the Royal Society; President of Nanomechanics Inc. Dr. Warren Oliver; Dr. Erica Lilleodden Helmholtz-Zentrum Geestacht Materials Institute Germany and Prof. Hayden Taylor, University of California Berkeley

AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded materials science centre at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), is hosting a conference on both commercialisation and scientific opportunities within nanomechanics and materials science. The Nanomechanics conference, which takes place on Friday 8th August at AMBER is funded by the Dublin Graduate Physics Programme (DGPP) and aims to encourage the growing culture of business, entrepreneurship and commercialisation amongst AMBER and other Irish researchers.

Organised by Prof. Graham Cross, an Investigator at AMBER and Trinity’s School of Physics, the conference will allow Irish researchers to hear of the experiences of international science entrepreneurs who have successfully turned their research into thriving commercial businesses. Topics for discussion will include how to start a business and how to develop industry partnerships in Ireland and globally.

Speakers include Dr. Warren Oliver, whose publication in 1992 on how to characterise the mechanical behaviour at small scales is the one of the world’s most cited materials science papers. Dr Oliver is now President of Nanomechanics Inc. which creates instruments that measure the mechanical properties of nanomaterials - crucial for the manufacturing industry - and which has a market share of approximately $40 million.

In addition, leading Irish scientist Sir. John Pethica, Physical Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society of London and co-founder with Dr.Oliver of Nano Instruments Inc.; Dr. Erica Lilleodden, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht; Prof. Hayden Taylor, University of California Berkeley and Prof. John Boland, Principal Investigator, AMBER will speak about the importance of industry engagement in scientific research and the opportunities for Irish researchers.

Prof. Cross will also speak about his experiences in spinning out a successful research business from Trinity College Dublin– Adama Innovations Ltd. His company, which was founded in 2013 uses a simple and cost-efficient process for imprinting nanosized patterns on to materials and hard surfaces; with potential uses in anti-counterfeiting technology, labelling and manufacturing.

Speaking in advance of the conference, Professor Cross said, “There is a real opportunity for Irish scientists to turn their laboratory-based research into commercial reality. Industries such as biotech, medical devices, energy, ICT and pharmaceuticals all need excellent scientific research for product and service development, allowing companies to grow their businesses, increase employment and continue to benefit the economy in Ireland and globally. Irish researchers can work with industry and the business community to commercialise their research and ensure continual impact on the manufacturing and development of new products and services. Beyond the scientific topics to be discussed, this conference aims to discuss the possibilities for Irish researchers to tap into the global R&D market and to continue to deliver research that benefits on the economy and wider society.”

Dr. Warren Oliver said, “I am delighted to see such a culture of entrepreurship and innovation already existing in the Irish research community. There is a significant opportunity for Irish scientists, particularly in my own area of nanoinstruments, to contribute to and access a global market which is worth up to $2 billion annually. That delivers good return on investment for the Irish Government and is it is one of the most important ways in which science can have a real impact.”

Job vacancy

We are recruiting:

1. Head of Industrial Engagement and Commercialisation

2. Commercialisation Development Manager

Head of Industrial Engagement and Commercialisation - Post Summary

The Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research Centre (AMBER) and the CRANN Institute, Trinity College Dublin is seeking to appoint a Head of Industrial Engagement and Commercialisation. This senior person will lead the Industrial Engagement and Commercialisation Team as well as be involved hands on with customers and key researchers. This position offers a unique post centrally located in the national agenda. AMBER is a new and national centre for advanced materials and bioengineering research. It is jointly hosted by CRANN Institute and the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering (TCBE), in collaboration with University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and was founded by a €59 million national investment from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) in 2013. It brings together over 90 researchers and PIs in a dynamic, cross-disciplinary and translational research environment which is delivering high-impact and nnovative science. The successful candidate will be a proactive business development and commercialisation expert with proven experience in leading a team and delivering results.The appointee will work with the CRANN and AMBER management team and report to the Executive Director.

Commercialisation Development Manager - Post Summary

The Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research Centre (AMBER), based in the CRANN Institute, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) is seeking to appoint a Commercialisation Development Manager (CDM). The appointee will work with the AMBER team and report to the Head of Industrial Engagement and Commercialisation and is expected to take up his/her duties as soon as possible. The CDM will work closely with the technology transfer offices (TTO) of TCD and will collaborate with the technology transfer office of University College Cork; the Royal College of Surgeons and other technology transfer offices as appropriate.

Post Status: 2-year contract, full-time
Location: Main Campus, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland.
Reports to: Executive Director of CRANN
Salary: Appointment will be made on the Administrative 1 (to the bar) salary scale (€55,196 – €68,476 per annum range) at a point in line with current Government pay policy
Closing Date: 12 Noon on Friday 8th August 2014
Start Date: This post is available immediately

For more details and to apply for either post, please visit and search under Management and Administration.

Job vacancy

Postdoctoral Fellowship/ Research Scientist - Development of Bioactive Therapeutics Harnessing Stem Cell Mechanobiology

The Tissue Engineering Research Group at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland currently has a research position available in the area of tissue engineering, in particular the development of bioactive therapeutics harnessing stem cell mechanobiology. The researcher will work closely with other members of a multidisciplinary project team including principal investigators, postdoctoral researchers, postgraduate students and clinicians. The position will be associated with the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) Centre.

Briefly, the project will entail elucidating the mechanisms behind the effect of previously identified mechanosensitive signalling factors capable of inducing bone regeneration. Furthermore, novel mechanosensitive signalling factors associated with age will be examined as a means of recapitulating the advanced healing capacity of children. The information generated from these analyses will be used to identify potential therapeutics that can be incorporated in tissue engineered scaffolds via suitable delivery platforms. These bioactive scaffolds will then be tested using an in vivo animal model to validate their potential for clinical applications.

Candidates should have a PhD (or equivalent experience) in tissue engineering, bioengineering or related disciplines, ideally with specific experience in mechanobiology, biomaterials, cell culture techniques, biological assays (e.g. proliferation assays, qPCR, microarrays, flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, etc) and histological techniques. Additional experience in delivery platforms (protein, gene and microRNA) and in vivo models would be considered beneficial.

CVs with the names and addresses of three referees should be submitted to:
Prof. Fergal J. O’Brien, PhD
Dept. of Anatomy,
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
123 St. Stephen’s Green,
Dublin 2,
This 3 year position is funded by a Health Research Board grant and is available from October 2014