Professor Jonathan Coleman, lead PI at AMBER, the SFI Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research, and the School of Physics at Trinity College, has secured an European Research Council (ERC) Proof of Concept grant worth €150,000.

Fifty-five Proof of Concept grants were awarded to ERC grant holders across Europe this year as top-up funding to explore the commercial or societal potential of their work and to bring their work closer to the market. Prof Coleman is the only Irish recipient. This Proof of Concept project, named Print-SENSE, will examine the economic and technical feasibility of using nanomaterial based inks for high performance sensing applications, particularly within medical diagnostics.

On receiving the award, Prof. Coleman, AMBER PI and Trinity’s School of Physics commented: “I am delighted to be awarded this ERC Proof of Concept grant which gives me the opportunity to develop a market ready prototype based on the discoveries from my ERC funded FUTURE-PRINT grant. We have demonstrated that we can produce a low cost, reliable strain sensor using graphene nanocomposites, and shown that it is a significant improvement on traditional strain sensing technology, now we want to develop this further and ensure society has access to it.”

Stain sensors are incredibly valuable for a range of applications, but the team is focusing on medical diagnostics in particular. Strain sensors measure changes in mechanical strain such as the physical changes measuring pulse rate, or the changes in a stroke victim’s ability to swallow. A stain sensor detects this mechanical change and converts it into a proportional electrical signal thereby acting as mechanical-electrical converter. While there are stain sensors on the market currently, mostly made from metal foil, these have limitations in terms wearability, versatility, and most significantly, sensitivity.

Traditional metal foil gauges have a very limited working range of accurate measurement. This is due to the relative stiffness of metal foil gauges and this makes their integration into emerging technologies such as wearables, which require large working ranges, difficult. Replacing the metal with polymer-based nanocomposite sensor represents a step-change in terms of cost, ease of fabrication and sensitivity. The sensitivity of the stain sensor developed by Prof. Coleman and his team is 50 x more sensitive than the current industry standard strain sensors.

Prof. Coleman intends to build on his research to create a new generation of medical devices: “The work carried out previously by my group has focused on developing ink blends that contain a silicone based polymer and a nanomaterial such as graphene – that has excellent mechanical and electrical properties. We can deposit this ink using a variety of printing methods, from screen printing, to aerosol and mechanical deposition, and once the ink dries, it forms a super flexible polymer-nanomaterial composite film that extremely sensitive to external forces. An additional benefit of our very low-cost system is that we can control a variety of different parameters during the manufacturing process which gives us the ability to tune the sensitivity of our material for specific applications calling for detection of really minute strains. Currently, a research team led by Dr Dan O’Driscoll are exploring specific applications focusing on physical rehabilitation, real time breath and pulse monitors and early labour detection during pregnancy”

Professor Michael Morris, Director of AMBER, commented on the announcement, saying: “The awarding of this Proof of Concept grant to Professor Coleman acknowledges the significance of the research work he and his team are undertaking. This highly innovative area of research sits at the forefront of science globally with considerable potential for translation into economic and societal benefits to Ireland and beyond”.

Profs. Jonathan Coleman, Valeria Nicolosi and Stefano Sanvito, principal investigator at AMBER, CRANN, and Trinity’s School of Physics and School of Chemistry feature in the annual Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers list.

The list recognises 6,389 researchers globally who have demonstrated significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade. Their names are drawn from the publications that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science™ citation index. The methodology underpinning the list draws on the data and analysis performed by bibliometric experts and data scientists at the Institute for Scientific Information™ at Clarivate.

This year, Clarivate have further categorised the 2020 list into two categories: researchers highly cited within a specific topic or subject area, and those that are cross-disciplinary in nature. Prof. Jonathan Coleman appears within the first cohort of 3,896 researchers with exceptional performance in a specific field. Further analysis reveals that Prof. Coleman is one of only 203 scientists featuring in the ‘materials science’ category. Prof. Stefano Sanvito and Prof. Valeria Nicolosi fall within the second cohort of 2,493 researcher categorised as ‘cross-disciplinary’ meaning their research publications and highly cited works can be found in journals across multiple topic areas.

Clarivate state that “The Highly Cited Researchers 2020 list helps identify that small fraction of the researcher population that contributes disproportionately to extending the frontiers of knowledge and gaining for society innovations that make the world healthier, richer, more sustainable and more secure”. They also recognise that in any such analysis there exists inevitable limitations in the analytical approach, and suggest a careful reading of the methodology is required.

Commenting on the achievement of Profs. Coleman, Nicolosi and Sanvito, Dr. Lorraine Byrne, Executive Director, AMBER said, “I wish to congratulate Prof. Coleman, Sanvito and Nicolosi on their achievement. Their internationally acclaimed research ensures that Ireland has a global reputation in materials science and cross-disciplinary research. It is because of our exceptional researchers that the AMBER centre can deliver on our mission of world leading materials science research for economic and societal impact, enhancing Irelands’ credentials as a hub for science and research”.

David Pendlebury, Senior Citation Analyst at the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate said: “In the race for knowledge, it is human capital that is fundamental and this list identifies and celebrates exceptional individual researchers who are having a great impact on the research community as measured by the rate at which their work is being cited by others.”

The full 2020 Highly Cited Researchers list and executive summary can be found online here

The core theme for Science Week 2020 is ‘Science Week - Choosing our Future’ focusing on how science can improve our lives in the future, and in the present. This will explore how science can help us to make positive choices that will impact the environment, our health, and our quality of life.

Our events will take place over zoom, and will use a combination of polls, chat questions and breakout rooms to ensure that your voice is heard, and your questions are answered.

AMBER will run three events for audiences of ALL ages and interests!

You can register by clicking the links below.

The Future of Health

Meet the AMBER team who are developing treatments so that you could regrow your own bone if it gets damaged, who are using 3D bioprinting to create organs, and are developing materials that could reverse sprinal cord injury.

The Future of Energy

What would you like the know about where science and scientsts will take the Future of Energy?Meet the AMBER team who are hydrogen fuel cells for transport and energy storage.

The Great Plastics Debate

Worldwide <5% of plastic is recycled. In Ireland we recycle < 1%. A solution is circularity – that materials are reused, repaired, restored, recycled whilst maintaining value. This workshop will introduce the scientists searching for solutions to problem plastic and their research that could reframe the plastics debate. This event forms part of The Re:Discovery Centre Lets Talk Science Festival

Science Foundation Ireland 2020 Science Awards recognise key leaders in the Irish Research Community. The SFI Industry Partnership Award celebrates a collaboration between an academic research group and industry.

Professor Fergal O’Brien, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, AMBER Deputy Director, received the prestigious award from the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, at the annual SFI Science Summit. for his long standing collaboration with Integra LifeSciences.

Integra’s longstanding engagement with RCSI began in 2005 as a collaborator on a SFI President of Ireland Young Researcher Award received by Fergal. Integra supplied his group with type-1 collagen which has subsequently formed the basis of over 60 high impact publications with more than 40 PhD students and postdoctoral researchers benefitting from the partnership - developing and characterizing biomaterials for a myriad of applications. An engagement in the area of peripheral nerve repair began in 2015 with Integra fully funding an exploratory study coordinated through the SFI Centre for Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research (AMBER) focused on the development of a new regenerative biomaterial. Since 2017, the collaboration has grown to a >€1million AMBER co-funded spoke project led by Prof Fergal O’Brien (RCSI) and Prof Conor Buckley (TCD) as PIs. This SFI AMBER project has successfully developed two unique peripheral nerve repair technologies, both of which have proven highly effective in repairing damaged nerves in pre-clinical trials. These technologies have been protected by three patent filings and transferred to the company under appropriate commercialisation agreements. The AMBER researchers and business development team, supported by the Innovation Team in RCSI and Technology Transfer Office at TCD has worked to rapidly accelerate the development and translation of these biomaterials, helping Integra remain at the cutting edge of nerve repair treatments for the benefit of patients and society.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, congratulated Prof. O’Brien and 10 additional award winners, saying:

“I am delighted to congratulate this year’s award winners on their inspiring success and dedication. The Science Foundation Ireland Awards recognise the expansive contribution that scientists make to our society and economy through innovative breakthroughs, industry collaborations, entrepreneurship, public engagement, and mentorship of the next generation”.