Tag Archives: TCD

The Irish mix up some graphene

There was a lot of excitement (one might almost call it giddiness) earlier this week about a new technique from Irish researchers for producing graphene. From an April 20, 2014 article by Jacob Aron for New Scientist (Note: A link has been removed),

First, pour some graphite powder into a blender. Add water and dishwashing liquid, and mix at high speed. Congratulations, you just made the wonder material graphene.

This surprisingly simple recipe is now the easiest way to mass-produce pure graphene – sheets of carbon just one atom thick. The material has been predicted to revolutionise the electronics industry, based on its unusual electrical and thermal properties. But until now, manufacturing high-quality graphene in large quantities has proved difficult – the best lab techniques manage less than half a gram per hour.

“There are companies producing graphene at much higher rates, but the quality is not exceptional,” says Jonathan Coleman of Trinity College Dublin in Ireland.

Coleman’s team was contracted by Thomas Swan, a chemicals firm based in Consett, UK, to come up with something better. From previous work they knew that it is possible to shear graphene from graphite, the form of carbon found in pencil lead. Graphite is essentially made from sheets of graphene stacked together like a deck of cards, and sliding it in the right way can separate the layers.

Rachel Courtland chimes in with her April 21,2014 post for the Nanoclast blog (on the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers]) website (Note: A link has been removed),

The first graphene was made by pulling layers off of graphite using Scotch tape. Now, in keeping with the low-tech origins of the material, a team at Trinity College Dublin has found that it should be possible to make large quantities of the stuff by mixing up some graphite and stabilizing detergent with a blender.

The graphene produced in this manner isn’t anything like the wafer-scale sheets of single-layer graphene that are being grown by Samsung, IBM and others for high-performance electronics. Instead, the blender-made variety consists of small flakes that are exfoliated off of bits of graphite and then separated out by centrifuge. But small-scale graphene has its place, the researchers say. …

An April 22, 2014 CRANN (the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices) at Trinity College Dublin news release (also on Nanowerk as an April 20, 2014 news item) provides more details about the new technique and about the private/public partnership behind it,

Research team led by Prof Jonathan Coleman discovers new research method to produce large volumes of high quality graphene.

Researchers in AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre headquartered at CRANN, Trinity College Dublin have, for the first time, developed a new method of producing industrial quantities of high quality graphene. …

The discovery will change the way many consumer and industrial products are manufactured. The materials will have a multitude of potential applications including advanced food packaging; high strength plastics; foldable touch screens for mobile phones and laptops; super-protective coatings for wind turbines and ships; faster broadband and batteries with dramatically higher capacity than anything available today.

Thomas Swan Ltd. has worked with the AMBER research team for two years and has signed a license agreement to scale up production and make the high quality graphene available to industry globally. The company has already announced two new products as a result of the research discovery (Elicarb®Graphene Powder and Elicarb® Graphene Dispersion).

Until now, researchers have been unable to produce graphene of high quality in large enough quantities. The subject of on-going international research, the research undertaken by AMBER is the first to perfect a large-scale production of pristine graphene materials and has been highlighted by the highly prestigious Nature Materials publication as a global breakthrough. Professor Coleman and his team used a simple method for transforming flakes of graphite into defect-free graphene using commercially available tools, such as high-shear mixers. They demonstrated that not only could graphene-containing liquids be produced in standard lab-scale quantities of a few 100 millilitres, but the process could be scaled up to produce 100s of litres and beyond.

Minister for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock, TD commented; “Professor Coleman’s discovery shows that Ireland has won the worldwide race on the production of this ‘miracle material’. This is something that USA, China, Australia, UK, Germany and other leading nations have all been striving for and have not yet achieved. This announcement shows how the Irish Government’s strategy of focusing investment in science with impact, as well as encouraging industry and academic collaboration, is working.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the researchers’ paper,

Scalable production of large quantities of defect-free few-layer graphene by shear exfoliation in liquids by Keith R. Paton, Eswaraiah Varrla, Claudia Backes, Ronan J. Smith, Umar Khan, Arlene O’Neill, Conor Boland, Mustafa Lotya, Oana M. Istrate, Paul King, Tom Higgins, Sebastian Barwich, Peter May, Pawel Puczkarski, Iftikhar Ahmed, Matthias Moebius, Henrik Pettersson, Edmund Long, João Coelho, Sean E. O’Brien, Eva K. McGuire, Beatriz Mendoza Sanchez, Georg S. Duesberg, Niall McEvoy, Timothy J. Pennycook, et al. Nature Materials (2014) doi:10.1038/nmat3944 Published online 20 April 2014

This article is mostly behind a paywall but there is a free preview available through ReadCube Access.

For anyone who’s curious about AMBER, here’s more from the About Us page on the CRANN website (Note: A link has been removed),

In October 2013, a new Science Foundation Ireland funded research centre, AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research) was launched. AMBER is jointly hosted in TCD [Trinity College Dublin] by CRANN and the Trinity Centre for Bioenineering, and works in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and UCC. The centre provides a partnership between leading researchers in materials science and industry and will deliver internationally leading research that will be industrially and clinically informed with outputs including new discoveries and devices in ICT, medical device and industrial technology sectors.

Finally, Thomas Swan Ltd. can be found here.

2.5M Euros for Ireland’s John Boland and his memristive nanowires

The announcement makes no mention of the memristor or neuromorphic engineering but those are the areas in which  John Boland works and the reason for his 2.5M Euro research award. From the Ap. 3, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

Professor John Boland, Director of CRANN, the SFI-funded [Science Foundation of Ireland] nanoscience institute based at Trinity College Dublin, and a Professor in the School of Chemistry has been awarded a €2.5 million research grant by the European Research Council (ERC). This is the second only Advanced ERC grant ever awarded in Physical Sciences in Ireland.

The Award will see Professor Boland and his team continue world-leading research into how nanowire networks can lead to a range of smart materials, sensors and digital memory applications. The research could result in computer networks that mimic the functions of the human brain and vastly improve on current computer capabilities such as facial recognition.

The University of Dublin’s Trinity College CRANN (Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices) April 3, 2013 news release, which originated the news item,  provides details about Boland’s proposed nanowire network,

Nanowires are spaghetti like structures, made of materials such as copper or silicon. They are just a few atoms thick and can be readily engineered into tangled networks of nanowires. Researchers worldwide are investigating the possibility that nanowires hold the future of energy production (solar cells) and could deliver the next generation of computers.

Professor Boland has discovered that exposing a random network of nanowires to stimuli like electricity, light and chemicals, generates chemical reaction at the junctions where the nanowires cross. By controlling the stimuli, it is possible to harness these reactions to manipulate the connectivity within the network. This could eventually allow computations that mimic the functions of the nerves in the human brain – particularly the development of associative memory functions which could lead to significant advances in areas such as facial recognition.

Commenting Professor John Boland said, “This funding from the European Research Council allows me to continue my work to deliver the next generation of computing, which differs from the traditional digital approach.  The human brain is neurologically advanced and exploits connectivity that is controlled by electrical and chemical signals. My research will create nanowire networks that have the potential to mimic aspects of the neurological functions of the human brain, which may revolutionise the performance of current day computers.   It could be truly ground-breaking.”

It’s only in the news release’s accompanying video that the memristor and neuromorphic engineering are mentioned,

I have written many times about the memristor, most recently in a Feb. 26, 2013 posting titled, How to use a memristor to create an artificial brain, where I noted a proposed ‘blueprint’ for an artificial brain. A contested concept, the memristor has attracted critical commentary as noted in a Mar. 19, 2013 comment added to the ‘blueprint’  post,

A Sceptic says:


Before talking about blueprints, one has to consider that the dynamic state equations describing so-called non-volatile memristors are in conflict with fundamentals of physics. These problems are discussed in:

“Fundamental Issues and Problems in the Realization of Memristors” by P. Meuffels and R. Soni (http://arxiv.org/abs/1207.7319)

“On the physical properties of memristive, memcapacitive, and meminductive systems” by M. Di Ventra and Y. V. Pershin (http://arxiv.org/abs/1302.7063)

Namdiatream; a European multimodal diagnostics project

I’ve written about lab-on-a-chip projects, point-of-care diagnostics, and other such initiatives on several occasions, most recently in a Mar. 1, 2013 posting about a technique where powder is used to make the diagnostic device more portable. This time it was a Europe-wide project described in a Mar. 4, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,which caught my attention (Note: A link has been removed),

The plan of the EU-funded consortium Nanotechnological toolkits for multi-modal disease diagnostics and treatment monitoring (Namdiatream) is not to cure cancer, per se, but to boost the sensitivity of diagnostics and the ability to monitor progress during treatment. They focused on three types – breast, prostate and lung cancer.

… The prototype devices being developed during the four-year project will detect common cancer cells much earlier and, with timely treatment, improve the chances of recovery.

According to the project leader, Professor Yuri Volkov of Trinity College Dublin’s School of Medicine, the portable nanodevices are based on innovative lab-on-a-chip, -bead and -wire technologies applicable in different settings – clinical, research, or point of care (i.e. hospitals). These lab-on-x technologies exploit the photo-luminescent (‘glow-in-the-dark’ light emitting), plasmonic (‘light-on-a-wire’), magnetic and unique optical properties of nanomaterials.

Volkov offers some insight into how the project started and its current state of evolution (from the news item),

This is ground-breaking work made possible thanks to advanced technology but also to EU funding for cross-border investigations. Teams across Europe were doing related but fragmented research, suggests Prof. Volkov. This risked leaving a team dangling if their approach failed or lacked funding.

“So we integrated our research and identified joint strengths to help one another develop the best technological approaches in case something didn’t work in one, or synergies were identified, thereby increasing the chances of wider success.”

At its half-way stage, notes Prof. Volkov, Namdiatream underwent a natural evolution when it became clear that by merging and refocusing work in some areas – i.e. in fluorescent nanomaterial technology and magnetic nanowire barcodes – it would speed up industrial implementation efforts.

“Now, work on the preclinical prototype devices is well under way,” he confirms. But one of the many remaining challenges is to calibrate their sensitivity, so that they do not give false readings, for instance.

The Namdiatream (Nanotechnological Toolkits for Multi-Modal Disease Diagnostics and Treatment Monitoring) home page offers more detail about the project,

Namdiatream is a truly interdisciplinary and Pan-european consortium that builds around 7 High-Tech SMEs [small to medium enterprises], 2 Multinational industries and 13 academic institutions. NAMDIATREAM will develop nanotechnology-based toolkit to enable early detection and imaging of molecular biomarkers of the most common cancer types and of cancer metastases, as well as permitting the identification of cells indicative of early-stage disease onset. The project is built on the innovative technology concepts of super-sensitive “lab-on-a-bead”, “lab-on-a-chip” and “lab-on-a-wire” nano-devices.

Interestingly, this too was on the home page,

The ETP Nanomedicine documents point out that nanotechnology has yet to deliver practical solutions for the patients and clinicians in their struggle against common, socially and economically important diseases such as cancer. Therefore NAMDIATREAM results will firstly aim to deliver to the diagnostic and medical imaging device companies involved in the consortium, and the clinical and academic partners. This could further provide the basis for cancer therapeutics as it will be possible to accurately assess the kinetics of cancer cell destruction during the course of appropriate therapy.

Better beer in plastic bottles

This innovation in beer bottling was developed in Ireland and I’m pretty sure the Irish have themselves braced for the humourous comments sure to follow given the legends about the Irish and beer.

Here’s more about the nanotechnology-enabled plastic beer bottles from the Sept. 18, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

Scientists at CRANN [Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices], the Science Foundation Ireland-funded nanoscience institute based at Trinity College Dublin, have partnered with world-leading brewing company SABMiller on a project to increase the shelf life of bottled beer in plastic bottles. The new deal will see SABMiller invest in the project over a two year period.

Professor Jonathan Coleman and his team in CRANN are using nanoscience research methods to develop a new material that will prolong the shelf-life of beer in plastic bottles. Current plastic bottles have a relatively short shelf life, as both oxygen and carbon dioxide can permeate the plastic and diminish the flavour.

The new material, when added to plastic bottles will make them extremely impervious, meaning that oxygen cannot enter and that the carbon dioxide cannot escape, thus preserving the taste and ‘fizz’.

The Sept. 18, 2012 CRANN news release does not include many more details about the technology,

The team will exfoliate nano-sheets of boron nitride, each with a thickness of approximately 50,000 times thinner than one human hair. These nano-sheets will be mixed with plastic, which will result in a material that is extremely impervious to gas molecules. The molecules will be unable to diffuse through the material and shelf life will be increased.

As well as increasing the shelf life of the beer itself, less material is required in production, reducing cost and environmental impact.

If you are lucky enough to have a subscription or have some other access to Science magazine, you can read more about Coleman’s and his team’s work on boron nitride and thin films. Here’s the citation and abstract for the article,

Two-Dimensional Nanosheets Produced by Liquid Exfoliation of Layered Materials by Jonathan N. Coleman, Mustafa Lotya, Arlene O’Neill, Shane D. Bergin, Paul J. King, Umar Khan,  Karen Young, Alexandre Gaucher, Sukanta De, Ronan J. Smith, Igor V. Shvets, Sunil K. Arora, George Stanton, Hye-Young Kim, Kangho Lee, Gyu Tae Kim, Georg S. Duesberg, Toby Hallam, John J. Boland, Jing Jing Wang, John F. Donegan, Jaime C. Grunlan, Gregory Moriarty, Aleksey Shmeliov, Rebecca J. Nicholls, James M. Perkins, Eleanor M. Grieveson, Koenraad Theuwissen, David W. McComb, Peter D. Nellist, and Valeria Nicolosi in Science 4 February 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6017 pp. 568-571 DOI: 10.1126/science.1194975

If they could be easily exfoliated, layered materials would become a diverse source of two-dimensional crystals whose properties would be useful in applications ranging from electronics to energy storage. We show that layered compounds such as MoS2, WS2, MoSe2, MoTe2, TaSe2, NbSe2, NiTe2, BN, and Bi2Te3 can be efficiently dispersed in common solvents and can be deposited as individual flakes or formed into films. Electron microscopy strongly suggests that the material is exfoliated into individual layers. By blending this material with suspensions of other nanomaterials or polymer solutions, we can prepare hybrid dispersions or composites, which can be cast into films. We show that WS2 and MoS2 effectively reinforce polymers, whereas WS2/carbon nanotube hybrid films have high conductivity, leading to promising thermoelectric properties.

This announcement comes during Ireland’s Nanoweek 2012 (Sept. 14 – 21, 2012) which I mentioned along with other nano-themed events currently taking place in Ireland in my Sept. 14, 2012 posting.

Future of Film & Video event being livestreamed from Dublin’s Science Gallery July 13, 2012

As I’ve noted previously (my April 29, 2011 posting) Dublin is celebrating itself as a ‘City of Science’ this year. As part of the festivities (e.g. the Euroscience Open Forum [ESOF} meetings are now taking place in Dublin), the Future of Film & Video at the Science Gallery will be livestreamed on Friday, July 13, 2012 from 1800 to 1930 hours (10 am - 11:30 am PST), from the event page,

Join Academy award winners Anil Kokaram and Simon Robinson, and BAFTA award winner Mark Jacobs as they discuss the future of film and video, from today’s cutting-edge 3D tech, to tomorrow’s innovations being imagined in labs across the world. You’ll never look at a screen the same way as these visionaries show that in the film and video industry you should expect the unexpected.

This event is part of the UCD Imagine Science Film Festival, and is part of Dublin City of Science. We are grateful for the support of Google Dublin, the Chrome-Media Group at Google, Mountain View, the Sigmedia Group in the Engineering Dept, Trinity College Dublin and also Science Foundation Ireland."

Simon Robinson

Academy Award winner, Simon Robinson is a Founder and the Chief Scientist of The Foundry, one of the most well recognised names in the creation of visual effects software. His technology has touched most of the blockbusters that reach our screens today e.g. Oscar Winning titles Hugo, Rango and effects laden works such as The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings and Avatar. In 2007 he was awarded a SciTech Academy Award for his influence on motion picture technology and in 2010 he was ranked in the top 100 most creative people in business in the fast Company’s annual ranking. His company has made the Sunday Times tech track top 100 list for two years in a row. The Foundry now numbers over 100 employees and speaking to the FT recently Simon is quoted as saying , “We never wanted to grow beyond six staff. We never thought we would sell it. We never thought we would buy it back. We are often wrong."

Mark Jacobs

Mark Jacobs is a BAFTA award winning Producer/Director with a unique track record in innovation. His extensive experience of more than 25 years in broadcasting, with the BBC and other organisations, ranges from traditional programme making and commissioning, to delivering cutting edge innovation. Mark pioneered some of the first applications of 3D animation for both the BBC and Discovery and in 2000 he joined the BBC's R&D arm to help pioneer new ways of using multimedia content.  Mark has recently produced a 40 minute, multi-screen interactive film for the Natural History Museum with David Attenborough and led the BBC’s series of natural history documentary trials for stereo 3D production. He has a BAFTA for Interactive TV/ Mobile and introduced some of the first tests in computer graphics and augmented reality into the BBC. He has produced many award winning films for BBC series, ranging from Wildlife On One and Supersense to landmark series on the natural history of Polynesia and Central America and also a programme on the Dingle Dolphin!

Anil Kokaram

Academy award winner, Anil Kokaram is a Professor at Trinity College Dublin with a long history in developing new technologies for digital video processing and particularly in the art of making old movies look like new. He started a company called GreenParrotPictures in 2004 which specialised in translating cinematic effects tools into the semi-professional and consumer space. In 2007 Anil was awarded a SciTech Academy award for his work in developing motion estimation technology for the cinema industry in collaboration with Simon Robinson.  GreenParrotPictures was acquired by Google in 2011 and Anil now heads a team of engineers in the Chrome Media Group in the Googleplex, Mountain View, California developing new video tools for Chrome and YouTube.  He continues to collaborate with his research group www.sigmedia.tv in Trinity College Dublin.


Paccar Theatre


Free - prebooking essential  [go to event page to prebook]

I’m hoping this will be focussed on something other than the future of 3D technology.

Transforming flat screens with P-type conductors at CRANN

I’m not sure about window-integrated flat screens as one of the applications for this technology breakthrough at Trinity College Dublin’s (TCD) CRANN (Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices). I think there’s enough signage and video being beamed at me everywhere I go but all indications are that more and more surfaces are going to become display and/or communication devices and these researchers seem to have found a way to speed that process.

From the March 21, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

Researchers at CRANN, the Science Foundation Ireland funded nanoscience institute based in Trinity College Dublin (TCD), have discovered a new material that could transform the quality, lifespan and efficiency of flat screen computers, televisions and other devices (see paper in Applied Physics Letters: “Magnesium, nitrogen codoped Cr2O3: A p-type transparent conducting oxide”).

The research team was led by Prof Igor Shvets, a CRANN Principal Investigator who has successfully launched and sold two spin out companies from TCD and who is involved in the Spirit of Ireland energy project. A patent application protecting the new material was filed by TCD. Commenting on the research, Prof Igor Shvets said, “This is an exciting development with a range of applications and we are hopeful this initial research will attract commercial interest in order to explore its industrial use. The new material could lead to innovations such as window-integrated flat screens and to increase the efficiency of certain solar cells, thus significantly impacting on the take-up of solar cells, which can help us to reduce carbon emissions.” [emphasis mine]

The application for solar cells sounds a lot more appealing to me. CRANN issued a March 21, 2012 press release which included some technical details,

Devices that the new material could be used with such as solar cells, flat screen TVs, computer monitors, LEDs all utilise materials that can conduct electricity and at the same time are see-through.  These devices currently use transparent conducting oxides, which are a good compromise between electrical conductivity and optical transparency. They all have one fundamental limitation: they all conduct electricity through the movement of electrons. [emphasis mine] Such materials are referred to as n-type transparent conducting oxides. Electricity can also be conducted through as p-type materials.  Modern day electronics make use of n-type and p-type materials.  The lack of good quality p-type transparent conducting oxides, however, led the research team to develop a new material – a p-type transparent conducting oxide.

I wish I better understood the fundamental limitation of an n-type transparent conducting oxide and how the new p-type transparent conducting oxide addresses that limitation.

After reading the description of p-type materials, it seems to me that electrons also move in that material. From the Wikipedia essay on p-type materials,

The dopant atom accepts an electron, causing the loss of half of one bond from the neighboring atom and resulting in the formation of a “hole”. Each hole is associated with a nearby negatively charged dopant ion, and the semiconductor remains electrically neutral as a whole. However, once each hole has wandered away into the lattice, one proton in the atom at the hole’s location will be “exposed” and no longer cancelled by an electron. [emphasis mine] This atom will have 3 electrons and 1 hole surrounding a particular nucleus with 4 protons. For this reason a hole behaves as a positive charge. When a sufficiently large number of acceptor atoms are added, the holes greatly outnumber thermal excited electrons. Thus, holes are the majority carriers, while electrons become minority carriers in p-type materials.

Well, I am interpreting the “wandering away” bit as a type of movement so I find the descriptions just a bit confusing. As for the holes being the majority carrier in p-type materials, perhaps the electrons in the n-type materials are the majority carriers?

If there’s anyone out there who could help lift the veil of confusion, I would much appreciate it.

For those who don’t need as much handholding as I do, you can find out more about Shvets and his work here.