Ireland’s first NanoFab launched as part of Nanoweek 2015

CRANN, Ireland’s leading nanoscience institute, based at Trinity College Dublin, has today announced the arrival of the Zeiss NanoFab - a multi-beam ion microscope, the most advanced machine of its kind available for imaging and machining at the nanoscale. This technology has several advantages over the traditional scanning electron microscope. The gallium, neon and helium ion beams integrated in a single instrument enable very high resolution imaging combined with nanomachining, making it possible to obtain qualitative data not achievable with conventional electron microscopes.

The new NanoFab will be housed in CRANN’s Advanced Microscopy Laboratory (AML) located in the Trinity Technology and Enterprise Campus and is the first of its kind in Ireland. There are approximately 40 of these NanoFabs worldwide, with 12 in Europe. The arrival of the microscope marks the launch of Nanoweek 2015, Ireland’s national awareness week of nanoscience and materials science which takes place from 19th to 24th October.

The NanoFab will improve our vision at the nanoscale, allowing us to see things we could never see before. The instrument combines very high resolution imaging of 0.5 nanometres (1 nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre) with the ability to machine nanostructures of less than 10 nanometres with speed and precision.

The ability to image, understand, and manipulate materials on shorter length scales is important in a huge range of research disciplines, from Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Medicine, Engineering and Natural Sciences. Microscopy is also critical to the development of new products and process improvements.

Professor Valeria Nicolosi, Principal Investigator at CRANN, said: “NanoFAB offers Irish researchers and industry the most advanced tool of its kind worldwide for working with nanomaterials, including graphene, nanowires, and also biological samples such as cancer cells and tissues. There is a growing reliance on advanced microscopy for the most demanding research in materials and life sciences. Ultimately, our new instrument will enable our industry and academic users to accelerate their innovations. It’s a tool that will allow us to see things that were never before visible, it offers new insights with images that have 5 to 10 times greater depth of field when compared to images acquired previously.”

In addition to providing high image resolution, the system can mill or remove a section out of a nanomaterial. It can do this nanomachining at great speed and achieve high throughput. Drilling precise pores into nanomaterials, such as graphene, in a way that retains its conductivity could be useful for applications such as faster DNA sequencing or other sensor applications. Creating precise lines of under 20 nanometres is also useful for future integrated circuit development.

Bernie Capraro, Research Manager, Intel Research and Development Ireland Ltd, said: “Intel welcomes the installation of the new Zeiss Nanofab in the Advanced Microscopy Laboratory. The possibilities of fabricating devices at length scales beyond state of the art is something that is important for the continued advancement of semiconductor technologies - adding to that the capability of imaging insulating materials at high resolution is an important development and we are excited to have access to such an advanced fabrication instrument.”

The NanoFab will be open for use to a range of researchers including those in AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded national materials centre based at CRANN as well as other SFI national centres across the country. It will also be open to academics in Europe as well as to industry.

For initial enquiries about industry or academic access, contact the Central Equipment Facilities manager, Cathal McAuley,

AMBER (the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research Centre), the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre based at Trinity College Dublin, has today announced that Prof. Bruce Murphy and Gillian Gunning are the first researchers in the world to “pull on heart strings” to measure the fatigue strength of chordae tendineae - cord-like tendons in the heart.

Their research has been successful in measuring the length of time for which chordae tendinae can endure repeated stress, before rupturing. These results will not only help in understanding the life span of chordae tendinae, but will help the scientific community to understand further the impact of both disease and age on the heart. This research was recently published in the leading scientific journal Acta Biomaterialia.*

Chordae tendineae are contained within the mitral valve, which lies between the left atrium and left ventricle (chambers) of the heart and allows normal blood flow. AMBER’s research analysed the rupture of these chordae tendineae which is one of the primary causes of, among other heart conditions, severe mitral regurgitation (MR) or ‘leaking valves’. Severe MR can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, tiredness, dizziness and chest pain, and it can lead to pulmonary hypertension and even heart failure. AMBER’s research tested the amount of stress the chordae tendineae could endure before rupturing, and could lead to options to help prevent severe MR in the future.

Professor Bruce Murphy, Investigator at AMBER and Deputy Director of the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering, said: “Heart disease is one of the most prevalent conditions in Ireland, with approximately 1 in 4 people dying from heart attack or stroke each year**. Our research investigates the amount of stress heart tendons – or chordae tendinae – can endure and for how long, prior to rupture, which can lead to a number of conditions. This is known, in engineering terms, as fatigue strength and is useful for measuring how quickly something that endures repeated stress, will fail. These results are important because although there are predictor scales or models correlating stress levels with specific diseases, we have to date been missing the link relating those stress levels to the time before rupture occurs. With our study we have completed this missing link.”

The next stage of this research will be to measure the fatigue strength of different types of chords - natural (porcine) or mechanical - to determine which is more suitable for heart valve transplants in the future.

Gillian Gunning, PhD candidate at AMBER and the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering, said: “The next stage of our research will look at the differences between different types of mitral valves used in transplants. Usually either porcine (from a pig) or mechanical (an artificial valve) valves would be used for transplants. As part of this research we were testing the chordae tendinae of a pig’s heart. Porcine mitral valves are often used for transplants, however, compared to transplanted mechanical valves, porcine valves degrade quickly. The next stage of our research will be to measure the fatigue strength of the chords in a range of treated porcine mitral valves that are used or being considered for use in transplants. This could potentially help determine the best options for mitral valve transplants.”

This research was funded by the Graduate Research Education Programme in Engineering (GREP-Eng), a PRTLI Cycle 5 funded programme. PRTLI is 50% co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund.

* The full paper, “Characterisation of the fatigue life, dynamic creep and modes of damage accumulation within mitral valve chordae tendineae” can be accessed here.

**Research from the Irish Heart Foundation

New Irish Lab Offering Quicker Drug Product Shelf-life Determination for the Pharmaceutical Industry

Prof. Anne Marie Healy, Head of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Trinity College Dublin and AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research Centre, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre) Principal Investigator, has recently launched AmTrin ASAP Laboratories. AmTrin ASAP Laboratories is a partnership between Amebis Limited and Trinity College Dublin, providing Accelerated Stability Assessment Programme (ASAP) and ASAP related services to the pharmaceutical industry. ASAP is an accelerated ageing process allowing faster and more accurate prediction of product shelf-life – 15 of the 20 largest world-wide global pharmaceutical companies are using the ASAP technique.

AmTrin ASAP Laboratories is the first European service provider with dedicated ASAP laboratories for performing contract ASAP studies and researching new applications. The benefits of AmTrin’s services, in addition to faster shelf life prediction time, include improved understanding of packaging, formulation and process choices and faster submissions into clinical trials for new drugs. An ASAP study can be performed, and the shelf life of a product determined, in as little as three weeks compared to the standard for ICH testing of 2 to 6 months.

Prof. Anne Marie Healy, Head of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Trinity College Dublin and AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research Centre) Principal Investigator, said: “AmTrin’s services for the pharmaceutical industry can set the shelf life for products including tablets, capsules, gels, creams and ointments. Companies can save both time and money by building an accurate stability prediction model for their products and AmTrin can support all ASAP requirements from protocol design to study conduct.”

AmTrin combines the expertise from researchers within both Amebis, AMBER and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Trinity College Dublin with state-of-the-art equipment to refine and research new applications for the ASAP technique. The first stage involves exposing the test material to a range of environmental conditions. AmTrin employs the Amebis system to accurately measure the temperature and relative humidity test conditions. The aged test material is then analysed using a range of equipment and finally ASAP modelling software is used to build the prediction model.

AmTrin ASAP Laboratories has been set up as a partnership between the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Trinity College Dublin and Amebis Ltd. The consultancy is spear-headed by Prof. Anne Marie Healy, AMBER Investigator and Head of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Dr. Nigel McSweeney, Managing Director of Amebis Ltd. Prof. Anne Marie Healy has become the Chief Scientific Advisor and Dr. Nigel McSweeney is the Head of Business Development for AmTrin ASAP Laboratories.

World-first magnetism research has today been published by Professor Michael Coey at AMBER (the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research Centre based at Trinity College Dublin) together with researchers from The Netherlands, Singapore, and the USA in the prestigious journal Science.* Researchers have discovered that magnetism can be suddenly switched on by adding an extra layer just one atom thick to a thin film of a specific oxide material. This is not only important for materials science, as researchers have detected a surprising new type of behavior within the material, but it is also a significant discovery that could have potential for storing the World’s big data. Besides, it is a step towards the goal of new, oxide-based electronics. Researchers from the University of Twente, the National University of Singapore, Stanford University, the University of Nebraska and AMBER in Trinity College Dublin all contributed to this body of research.

All the information we download every day from the Internet is stored magnetically on the hard disks in server farms dotted across the World. Magnetism in layers of nanomaterials less than 50 atoms thick has been a key enabler of the big data revolution. One of the major challenges is to increase the density of storage in the discs, which is where the new, ultra-thin magnetic oxide layers may help.

The researchers discovered the unusual magnetic effect in nanolayers of a material, LaMnO3 (an oxide of lanthanum and manganese). When thin layers of this material were grown, it was discovered that the magnetism was sensitive to the slightest change in layer thickness. Below 5 layers of these atoms, the material is non-magnetic, but magnetism is switched on abruptly when the number of layers changes from 5 to 6 (or more). Such an abrupt transition has never been seen before.

This discovery could have a significant impact on data storage. 2.7 Zetabytes of data exist in the digital universe today (where 1 zetabyte is the equivalent of one sextillion (or 10 to the power of 21) bytes), and that amount is doubling every year. Only with new ideas and new materials can we continue to progress at this pace.**

Professor Coey, a Principal Investigator at AMBER and Emeritus Professor in Trinity’s School of Physics, is an authority on magnetism and its applications, was the first Irish member of the European Academy of Science and has received many honours and awards. On today’s announcement he said: “The discovery of such a tiny change to a material for the appearance of magnetism makes it possible to define magnetic structures on a nanoscale. The work shows how the addition of just one extra atomic layer can utterly change the magnetism. Now, the team are planning to use pinpoint electric fields or special molecules to turn on the magnetism of our 5-layer films, and explore potential applications in big data storage.”

* The full paper, “Imaging and control of ferromagnetism in LaMnO3/SrTiO3 heterostructures” by X. Renshaw Wang, C.J. Li, W.M. Lü, T.R. Paudel, D.P. Leusink, M. Hoek, N. Poccia, A. Vailionis, T. Venkatesan, J.M.S. Coey, E.Y. Tsymbal, Ariando en H. Hilgenkamp has appeared in the August 14, 2015 issue of Science.

** According to IBM Big Data Platform