AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded materials science institute headquartered at Trinity College Dublin today announced a significantly extended strategic partnership with Nokia Bell Labs. The partnership is based on a 4 year commitment of €1.1m from Nokia Bell Labs, both cash and in-kind. This includes a number of Nokia Bell Labs researchers-in-residence who are embedded in research groups based at AMBER. Science Foundation Ireland is contributing a further €1.2m bringing the total value of the research collaboration to €2.3m. The main research focus is on novel energy storage technologies and advanced thermal management systems to enable extreme integration of optoelectronics devices.

The announcement was made on the occasion of Minister John Halligan’s visit to Trinity’s Advanced Microscopy Laboratory (AML). The AML houses world-leading microscopy facilities, accessible to Nokia Bell Labs researchers. This state-of-the-art infrastructure, combined with the open interactions between technical experts from AMBER and Nokia Bell Labs, has greatly supported the joint research partnership.

Welcoming the investment, Minister of State with responsibility for Training and Skills, Mr John Halligan T.D., said, “Today’s announcement of a €2.3m investment in AMBER’s growing collaboration with Nokia Bell Labs is a testament to the importance of our ongoing investment in Ireland’s scientific research. We have a wealth of high quality researchers in our academic institutes and my Department, through Science Foundation Ireland, will continue to support industrial partnerships that promote research commercialisation and job growth. The commitment of multinational companies like Nokia, is further recognition of Ireland’s outstanding talent and state of the art infrastructure.”

Prof Michael Morris, Director AMBER said “We are delighted that Nokia Bell Labs is committing long-term to the research here at AMBER, allowing us to investigate advanced materials for thermal management in the next generation of communication, thermoelectric and energy storage devices. This has opened up possibilities of more work for more researchers and potentially greater funding. For example, the number of projects that Nokia Bell Labs is working on with AMBER investigators has increased from 2 to 4 requiring an increase in headcount from 2.5 to 7 fulltime postdoctoral researchers. Six of our Investigators work on Nokia Bell Labs projects, and there have been a number of high impact publications arising from the collaborative work. In addition, we are jointly exploring the potential for European funding for further projects.”

Julie Byrne, Executive Director Nokia Bell Labs in Ireland said, “We are delighted to continue to strengthen the Nokia Bell Labs relationship with our strategic university partner AMBER. Our joint research projects in the area of energy storage, energy harvesting and energy efficiency will provide key technologies to enable Nokia’s Future X Network vision, which will transform human existence through the digitization and connection of everything. We are very excited about the potential of this collaboration which brings together world class researchers from AMBER and Nokia Bell Labs.”

The increase in investment by Nokia Bell Labs is as a result of the success of the joint research collaboration with AMBER over the last 4 years. The mutually beneficial research partnership is based on Bell Labs providing scientific and industry expertise around thermal science and energy efficiency and AMBER providing deep fundamental materials science expertise and world leading characterisation facilities. This has resulted in high impact joint publications in the fields of energy storage and materials for energy efficient optical devices, with more in the pipeline.

For example, a recent publication between AMBER Investigators, Professors Jonathan Coleman, Valeria Nicolosi and Georg Duesberg and Dr. Paul King (Nokia Bell Labs) in the prestigious journal ACS Nano has demonstrated a new type of electrode for lithium ion batteries. This research is aimed at realizing commercially viable batteries with high storage capacity in a substantially lower volume compared to what is possible with current state of the art technology. The work focussed on the novel use of a commercial polymer to replace multiple non-active additives in silicon nanoparticle based negative electrodes.

Prof John Donegan, AMBER Investigator and Trinity’s School of Physics works with Nokia Bell Labs on novel devices and materials for energy efficient optical communications. The team have developed several new techniques for thermal analysis and control of devices required for the massive increase in data transfer rates that the industry expects to experience. He also had a recent publication, based on the development of a new class of perovskite materials that could use their fluorescent properties to keep laser devices cool.

In addition, there has been joint work with Profs Stefano Sanvito and Plamen Stamenov on new, high performance non-corrosive and magnetic shielding materials to extend the range and increase the robustness of Nokia’s technologies. Corrosion is a major issue in the electronics and communications industries and this work is a fundamental study to determine what metals are best suited to achieve high reliability, even in extreme environments.

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Ruth Freeman, Science Foundation Ireland Director for Strategy and Communications said, “The outstanding expertise and infrastructure that has been established at the Science Foundation Ireland-funded AMBER Research Centre provides a fantastic platform, not only for Irish research and development, but also for industrial collaboration. We are delighted to support successful partnerships with multinational companies like Nokia and world-leading research labs like Nokia Bell Labs, reinforcing Ireland’s international reputation for enterprise and innovation.”

Dr Niall McEvoy, a researcher at AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre hosted in Trinity College Dublin, has today been awarded €500,000 over 4 years through Science Foundation Ireland’s prestigious Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) Programme. The award is given to excellent early-career-stage investigators to carry out their own research project and to support excellent scientific research that has potential economic and societal impact. Dr McEvoy’s research will focus on one family of 2-dimensional (2D) materials, known as transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs). Due to their extraordinary properties, TMDs offer exciting opportunities in the fabrication of novel devices and device components, of particular relevance to applications in ICT and energy industries.

Prof Georg Duesberg, AMBER Investigator and Niall’s mentor, said, “I’m delighted for Niall. This is a great opportunity to further his work on producing stacks of different TMDs, with different properties. This is of particular interest to companies in the ICT industry, who may be able to use them to enhance the performance of devices. While a range of 2D materials are ultra-thin, flexible and conductive making them highly promising for future technologies, the pace of material development is somewhat of a hindrance to practical implementation. We see real opportunity with the production method Niall will employ to develop TMDs.”

A recent publication in the internationally renowned journal ACS Nano by Dr McEvoy, Prof Duesberg and their team have demonstrated the potential of one type of TMD, platinum diselenide (PtSe2) to be used by the ICT industry. The team showed how the material could be grown at 400 degrees Celsius, a much lower temperature than 2D materials are traditionally grown, and compatible with industry standards. It could offer better performance than currently used materials such as silicon, due to its greater electron mobility. The funding awarded today will support further research into the development of other types of more efficient TMDs like this. Industry interest in this specific type of research is high amongst the ICT sector.

This same publication also demonstrated that PtSe2 could have further applications, in addition to those within semi-conducting devices. It could be applied within sensors and also solar cells. When PtSe2 was exposed to nitrogen dioxide gas its performance as a gas sensor exceeded those which are commercially available – with a higher sensitivity and faster response time. This material could also have crucial advances within photovoltaics, i.e. generating electric power through solar cells.

Prof Michael Morris, AMBER Director, said, “I want to congratulate Niall on this fantastic achievement. He has demonstrated what is possible for talented, dedicated early-career stage scientists. He has established himself within the field of 2D materials, working within Prof Duesberg’s team for the last 5 years. I wish him success in his transition to an independent researcher and look forward to advances in his research with TMDs, which has already gained interest from our industry partners in AMBER”.

The SIRG programme aims to support excellent postdoctoral researchers who are yet to hold an independent research post in taking the initial steps towards a fully independent research career. The award provides salary to Dr McEvoy for 4 years and also provides funding for a postgraduate student.

Dr McEvoy was awarded of a first class honours degree and gold medal in materials science from Trinity College Dublin in 2005 and completed a PhD in physics in 2011 in Prof Werner Blau’s Molecular Electronics group. Since then, he has worked with Prof Georg Duesberg, Investigator in AMBER and Trinity’s School of Chemistry, where he has worked on different industry funded projects, including Intel and Hewlett Packard, as well as a multi-partner EU funded project, Electrograph. He recently completed an SFI-funded TIDA project focused on the production of cheap and scalable catalysts for the production of hydrogen, a clean alternative fuel source.

Researchers in AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre, hosted in Trinity College Dublin, have created a process to support 3D printing of new bone material. This world first research, led by Professor Daniel Kelly and recently published in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials, could be used to regenerate large defects caused by tumour resections, trauma and infection, as well as inherited bone deformities. Professor Kelly’s research could also have numerous applications in craniomaxillofacial (the whole area of the mouth, jaw, face and skull) and orthopaedic surgery, especially in cases where tissues with complex geometries need to be regenerated, for example cases in the head, jaw or spine.

Worldwide, 2.2 million procedures a year require a bone graft. At present there are currently two methods to provide a bone graft. The first is an autograft, where bone is transplanted from one site to another site within the same person. This type of grafting can be quite painful, and issues can arise at the site of extraction, as it heals. The second, an allograft is where bone is taken from a donor and transplanted. Complications can include donor site morbidity, poor availability of transplantable tissue and disease transfer from the donor to the recipient. AMBER’s new 3D printing method could replace traditional methods and eliminate these difficulties, by enabling the printing of larger and more complex shaped implants. Furthermore, the mechanical properties may be tailored for specific applications, which means bone grafts could be used in more complex cases such as in the head and jaw.

AMBER researchers’ method consists of using 3D bioprinting technology to fabricate cartilage templates which have been shown to assist the growth of a complete bone organ. The AMBER team used 3D bioprinting to deposit different biomaterials and adult stem cells in order to engineer cartilage templates matching the shape of a segment within the spine. The team implanted the templates under the skin, where they matured over time into a fully functional bone organ with its own blood vessels. During skeletal development many of our bones are formed by a process in which cartilage templates are transformed into a vascularised and functioning bone organ.

Professor Daniel Kelly, Investigator at AMBER and Director of the Trinity College Centre for Bioengineering, said: “This is new approach to tissue and organ engineering and we’re very excited. 3D bioprinting is a rapidly expanding area in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. While the technology has already been used to engineer relatively simple tissues such as skin, blood vessels and cartilage, engineering more complex and vascularised solid organs, such as bone, is well beyond the capabilities of currently available bioprinting technologies. Our research offers real hope in the future for patients with complex bone trauma or large defects following removal of a tumour. In addition, this bioprinting approach could also be used in the development of the next generation of biological implants for knee and hip replacements. Our next stage of this process is to aim to treat large bone defects and then integrate the technology into a novel strategy to bioprint new knees.”

Professor Kelly will be presenting his research at the 5-Year Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI) Symposium on Monday September 5, where leading bioengineers, cancer scientists, clinicians and immunologists will discuss their next-generation research projects. For a full agenda of speakers, see:

A short video of the process can be found here, A short video of the process can be seen here, The paper can be found in full here:

An international team of researchers have for the first time, discovered that in a very high magnetic field an electron with no mass can acquire a mass. Understanding why elementary particles e.g. electrons, photons, neutrinos have a mass is a fundamental question in Physics and an area of intense debate. This discovery by Prof Stefano Sanvito, Trinity College Dublin and collaborators in Shanghai was published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications this month.

While the applications of this discovery remain to be seen, this represents a significant breakthrough in fundamental physics. It could inspire work in high-energy physics, such as the collision experiments carried out in particle accelerators like CERN. This is the third joint publication between the group in Trinity and Prof. Faxian Xiu at Fudan University in Shanghai, who approached Prof Sanvito to provide theory support for their experimental activity based on his previous publications and international reputation in the field of theoretical physics.

Prof Stefano Sanvito, Principal Investigator at the Science Foundation Ireland funded AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research) centre based at Trinity and the CRANN Institute and Professor in Trinity’s School of Physics said, “This is a very exciting breakthrough because until now, nobody has ever discovered an object whose mass can be switched on or off by applying an external stimulus. Every physical object has a mass, which is a measure of the object’s resistance to a change in its direction or speed, once a force is applied. While we can easily push a light-mass shopping trolley, we cannot move a heavy-mass 6-wheel lorry by simply pushing. However, there are some examples in Nature of objects not having a mass. These include photons, the elementary particles discovered by Einstein responsible for carrying light, and neutrinos, produced in the sun as a result of thermonuclear reactions. We have demonstrated for the first time one way in which mass can be generated in a material. In principle the external stimulus that enabled this, the magnetic field, could be replaced with some other stimulus and perhaps applied long-term in the development of more sophisticated sensors or actuators. It is impossible to say what this could mean, but like any fundamental discovery in physics, the importance is in its discovery.”

He continued, “It has been very satisfying to continue to work with Prof Xiu in Shanghai. While his group are experts in growing and characterizing materials such as ZrTe5 which are very difficult to make, my group has the expertise in the theoretical interpretation. The measurements were carried out in Fudan and at the Wuhan National High Magnetic Field Center in China, while the Dublin team provided the theoretical explanation for the finding. This has been a very fruitful collaboration and we have a number of other publications in progress”.

The team studied what happened to the current passing through the exotic material zirconium pentatelluride (ZrTe5) when exposed to a very high magnetic field. Measuring a current in a high magnetic field is a standard way of characterising the material’s electronic structure. In the absence of a magnetic field the current flows easily through ZrTe5. This is because in ZrTe5 the electrons responsible for the current have no mass. However, when a magnetic field of 60 Tesla is applied (a million times more intense than the earth’s magnetic field) the current is drastically reduced and the electrons acquire a mass. An intense magnetic field in ZrTe5 transforms slim and fast electrons into fat and slow ones.