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Today’s Award Brings Professor Valeria Nicolosi’s Total Research Funding To Over €20 Million

Professor Valeria Nicolosi from AMBER, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research, at Trinity College Dublin, has been announced as a recipient of the European Research Council’s (ERC) Proof of Concept grant, worth €150,000. This is a top-up for her ERC Consolidator grant of €2.5 million awarded in 2016 and brings her total research funding awarded in the last 10 years to over €20 million. Professor Valeria Nicolosi is Ireland’s only six-time ERC awardee.

The award will be used to explore the commercial applications of Professor Nicolosi’s research into 3D printed, nanotechnology enabled, energy storage devices in the wearable technology sector.

Proof of Concept grants are awarded to ERC grant holders as top-up funding to explore the commercial or innovation potential of the results of their ERC-funded research. Professor Nicolosi, Professor of Nanomaterials & Advanced Microscopy at Trinity’s School of Chemistry, was awarded an ERC Starting grant of €1.5 million in 2011, a Consolidator grant of €2.5 million in 2016 and 4 additional Proof of Concept grants. Her work examines the processing and characterising of nanomaterials for the development of novel energy storage devices. This grant, her most recent Proof of Concept award, will examine the economic and technical feasibility of using nanotechnology enabled micro-supercapacitors in the wearable device market.

Professor Valeria Nicolosi, said, “I am delighted to be awarded my 4th ERC Proof of Concept grant which will allow me to take my technology from prototype into product. Through my ERC Consolidator grant we have demonstrated that we can manufacture inexpensive and high-performance energy storage devices (supercapacitors) using a nanomaterial based on MXenes inks. These energy storage devices can easily be 3D printed on virtually any substance and on any shape or pattern. With my Proof of Concept grant I want my research to power the next generation of smart wearables and textile-electronics.”

Smart wearable devices refer to items that can perform electronic functions and are perceived as a way to add features into common wearable devices. New smart wearable electronics come to the market with functionalities such as: heat regulation, luminescence, touch, and sensitivity. These functionalities are useful for several applications in different fields such as: healthcare, sports, space exploration, and gaming. The smart wearable market has seen significant growth of late and is due to grow to $51 Billion by 2022. However, the development of such e-wearables has so far been greatly overshadowed by the power supply issue, as a traditional battery is unsustainable and not convenient.

Professor Michael Morris, Director of AMBER, commented on the announcement, saying, “The awarding of this Proof of Concept grant to Professor Nicolosi is an excellent acknowledgement of the research work she and her team are currently undergoing. She is at the forefront of Irish science with 6 ERC awards, and her work will bring economic and societal benefits to Ireland in developing more efficient ways to deal with energy consumption. She is an exceptional asset to the AMBER team and this funding also reaffirms how competitive Ireland is as a place for research.”

New material developed by Irish researchers to aid the development of e-wearables

Researchers from AMBER, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering, at Trinity College Dublin, in collaboration with I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing, at University College Dublin, have today announced how the development of a new material, called MXene inks, will greatly aid the development of the next generation of smart wearable devices – otherwise known as e-wearables and e-textiles.

In a new study, published in Nature Communications*, a leading international science journal, Professor Valeria Nicolosi, AMBER and I-Form lead Investigator on the project, has announced how this new material could address the issue of energy supply for the smart wearable market. The smart wearable market has seen significant growth of late and is due to grow to $51 Billion by 2022. However, the development of such e-wearables has so far been greatly overshadowed by the power supply issue, as a traditional battery is unsustainable and not convenient.

Professor Valeria Nicolosi, AMBER and I-Form lead Investigator on the project, and Professor of Nanomaterials & Advanced Microscopy at Trinity College Dublin, said: “Smart wearables have battery requirements that so far have been fulfilled by detachable batteries (which are usually cumbersome battery packs that limit the size and geometry of these wearables). With our new research, we have demonstrated that we can manufacture energy storage devices (supercapacitors) that can be easily 3D printed on virtually any substance and on any shape or pattern. They are thin, flat, flexible and can take virtually any geometry/design (i.e. be embedded within the particular design of any wearable) solving all the issues related to power-supply in smart wearables.

“This new study effectively demonstrates how a readily scalable technology can be used for the development of inexpensive and high-performance energy storage devices (based on MXenes inks). This could have huge potential for the development of the next generation of smart wearables and even textile-electronics.”

Smart wearable devices refer to items that can perform electronic functions and are perceived as a way to add features into common wearable devices. New smart wearable electronics come to the market with functionalities such as: heat regulation, luminescent, touch, and sensitivity. These functionalities are useful for several applications in different fields such as: healthcare, sports, space exploration, and gaming.

Professor Mick Morris, Director of AMBER and Professor in Trinity’s School of Chemistry, said: “Today’s announcement is another example of excellent research with real potential impact from our AMBER team. At AMBER, we are a world-class centre of scientific excellence and we aim to provide solutions to the challenges facing society and industry. I commend Professor Nicolosi and her team for this new study.”

I-Form Director Professor Denis Dowling, of the UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, said: “The development of the new MXene ink, combined with the ability to process it through 3D printing to form energy storage devices, shows the importance of integrating materials development and processing, which are respectively the core focus research areas of the AMBER and I-Form SFI Research Centres. Professor Nicolosi and her team’s research promises real impact for a multitude of sectors.”

*https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-09398-1

Researchers from AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering, the School of Physics and the CRANN Institute, at Trinity College Dublin, have today announced the development of a new method to majorly improve conductance in materials (otherwise known as two-dimensional 2D systems). This discovery could have significant impacts in the fields of ultra-fast electronics and, possibly, energy.

Conductance is the degree to which an object conducts electricity. It is a property that some materials such as metals have naturally making them highly valued in modern electronics. To make a material more conductive two strategies can be taken: the material can either have a lot of charge carriers, increasing charge-carrier density; or the material can have a high charge-carrier mobility, meaning the charge carriers move more efficiently. By increasing the carrier density of a two dimensional material, the charged impurity increases largely. This often results in electron-electron scattering, meaning a decrease in efficiency and mobility of the charge. In this latest breakthrough, Professor Stefano Sanvito and his team at AMBER have discovered that the surface state of Weyl semimetal NbAs can overcome such a limit and maintain a high mobility even in the presence of a high carrier density.

Combined with the high mobility value, a record-high surface sheet conductance was achieved up to 5~100 S/□. This far exceeds that of conventional 2D electron gas, quasi-2D metal films, and topological insulator surface states.

The new study is published in Nature Materials* a leading international science journal. The study was led by AMBER researchers at the School of Physics and CRANN Institute, Trinity College and scientists at Fudan University, China.

Professor Mick Morris, Director of AMBER and Professor in Trinity’s School of Chemistry, said: “Fundamental research is the cornerstone of AMBER’s work and today’s announcement further enhances our proven track record of pushing the boundaries of science to discover real solutions that can improve people’s lives. AMBER is home to some of the world’s leading scientists, engineers and investigators - leaders in their fields - who use their vast knowledge and expertise to discover, improve and exploit materials science. I wish to congratulate Stefano and his team on this exciting development and its publication in Nature Materials, the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal.”

Professor Stefano Sanvito lead AMBER Investigator on the project, Professor in Trinity’s School of Physics and Director of the CRANN Institute, commented: “This discovery builds on our previous work on the Quantum Hall effect based on Weyl orbits in cadmium arsenide. We attribute the origin of the ultra-high surface conductance to the disorder-tolerant nature of the Fermi arcs. Our results present the first transport evidence for the low-dissipation property of Fermi arcs in Weyl semimetal NbAs surface states and establish it as an excellent 2D metal with supreme conductivity for both fundamental studies and potential electronic applications. I would like to thank my colleagues at Fudan University in China for their collaboration on this project and of my former student, Dr. Narayan, with whom I have developed the theory. Given the complexity of the phenomena investigated, it would have been extremely difficult to perform the study within a single research group.”

In order to study its surface transport properties, the scientists in Fudan first developed a new approach to synthesise the high-quality nanostructures of Weyl semimetal NbAs with tunable Fermi levels. Because of their large surface-to-bulk ratio, the 2D surface state exhibits dominant quantum oscillations with multiple large Fermi surfaces that give rise to a high sheet carrier density, even though the bulk Fermi level locates near the Weyl nodes. The Irish team in AMBER provided the theoretical support to explain the results and interpret the data.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41563-019-0320-9


New partnership between AMBER and Northeastern University Boston to develop joint research, education and strategic opportunities in sectors including climate change.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton T.D., has announced the signing of a new agreement between Northeastern University, Boston and AMBER, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering, at Trinity College Dublin.

This initial five-year research and education collaboration agreement aims to foster partnership between the two institutions through the development of research and education programmes promoting academic exchange between Northeastern and AMBER. It marks a significant partnership which will see the development of research and innovation in the field of materials science to address scientific, societal and clinical challenges in the context of the UN Sustainable Development goals and to advance resilience in the face of 21st century risks.

Speaking at a Science Foundation Ireland event in Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Minister Bruton said: “In the face of growing global challenges, there are huge opportunities for international research collaboration to bring diverse talents together to forge economic and social progress which is compatible with the sustainability of our planet.”

“Breakthroughs in materials technologies underlie many of the advances of modern society,” said David Luzzi, Senior Vice Provost for research at Northeastern University. “Through this cross-Atlantic partnership, AMBER and Northeastern will cooperate to advance materials-science-based technologies and train the next generation of materials innovators. We are delighted to enter into this partnership with AMBER and look forward to a bright future.”

Prof Mick Morris, Director of AMBER and Trinity’s School of Chemistry said “Today represents an important step in building AMBER’s international profile and developing a robust relationship with another world-renowned institution. At AMBER we drive research to impact society and the economy. This partnership will not only foster a research and education collaboration, but will strengthen our impact and amplify academic excellence in important areas of research. By working together across topics such as medical diagnostics, sustainable resource use, as well as more efficient manufacturing and industrial processes, we will be enabling each other to develop and produce cutting edge research in those fields. I look forward to further planning with Northeastern; identifying more of these collaborative research areas and the exciting work our joint teams will produce.”

Commenting on the announcement, Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Science Foundation Ireland supports world class researchers that are seeking to fully realise their potential without borders. International collaborations are a key mechanism for Institutes to gain access to broad insights and collectively further knowledge for addressing global challenges and I congratulate AMBER and Northeastern on this partnership, which I am sure will produce research opportunities through joint vision, ambition, excellence and impact.”

The Vice President of Global Relations at Trinity College Dublin, Prof Juliette Hussey, welcomed the possibilities for student exchanges that this partnership will bring, saying: “Increasing mobility opportunities for students is a main theme of our recently launched Global Relations Strategy at Trinity College.”