€12m nano research facility opened
27 April 2010 14:16
by David Elkin
CRANN, the Trinity College and University College Cork based nanoscience research institute, today opened its TCD based, €12 million Advanced Microscopy Laboratory (AML), a world class nanoscience research facility, which features some of the world’s most powerful microscopes, allowing material to be viewed at the atomic scale.
The CRANN AML will allow Ireland to compete globally to win new research funding and foreign direct investment that previously would have been beyond our capability. Importantly, the facility will also provide direct value to indigenous companies working in the medical device, ICT and pharmaceutical sectors. The CRANN AML, which was funded by the Higher Education Authority and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), was officially opened by the Minister for Labour Affairs, and Public Service Transformation, Mr Dara Calleary, TD.
Minister Dara Calleary said: “The CRANN AML is a national asset driving competitiveness for Irish academia and industry enabling Ireland to leapfrog other countries, moving up the international league tables to attract research, jobs and funding we would have missed out on previously without the appropriate infrastructure.
Of €150 billion in goods and services exported by Ireland in 2008, it is estimated 10% were enabled by nanoscience and related nanotechnologies. By focusing on the area of nanotechnology there is the potential to grow this figure to 20% allowing Ireland to take a significant share of an estimated global market of €3 trillion in 2015. The CRANN AML is a critical piece of the infrastructure that will help us achieve that goal”.
“The vision and joined up thinking by the HEA and SFI in coming together to fund the CRANN AML is to be commended,” the Minister added. “It is an excellent example of how Ireland’s smart economy is enabled through high quality research programmes, state-of-the-art infrastructure and highly trained, technically skilled personnel. In addition it is an example of how appropriate joined up thinking at Government level can enable economic benefits.”
The CRANN AML facility is a national shared access facility open to all researchers from academia and industry. The facility provides these researchers with access to unique state-of-the-art infrastructure which significantly enhances Ireland’s international competitiveness in delivering research firsts and providing added value to industry. The facility will also ensure that every year hundreds of Ireland’s brightest young researchers will be trained on world leading tools, providing a sustainable platform for our smart economy.
The microscopes at the AML are amongst the most powerful visualisation tools available anywhere in the world. They allow researchers to see and manipulate materials at the atomic scale – the very building blocks of nature. For example, the CRANN AML houses a Helium Ion microscope which has enabled CRANN researchers to obtain a unique insight into how blood platelets and cancer cells interact, which leads to the spread of cancer throughout the body.
This work will help the medical community understand how cancer spreads, ultimately leading to improved treatments. Multinational technology company HP has also been working with the CRANN AML to develop flexible displays– next generation screens that have the performance of traditional screens but have the look and feel of paper.
Prof. John Boland, Director of CRANN at TCD, noted: “The value of the CRANN AML facility is that it can deliver short, medium and long term impacts. In the short term we are working with industry, particularly indigenous companies, to improve existing products that are coming to market; in the medium term, working with companies like HP and Intel we will develop next generation products; and in the longer term we are carrying out fundamental research which will lead to improved technologies, electronic and medical devices and potential new patient treatments.
“This focus on collaboration with industry is critical to deriving value from this investment and we look forward to using it as a magnet both to attract FDI as well as supporting indigenous companies who are developing new products for global export.”
The CRANN AML was jointly funded by the HEA and SFI. It comprises a custom refurbished, state of the art 6,000 square foot facility in the Trinity Technology and Enterprise Campus, which was funded by the HEA; this building is located in the new vibrant commercial and cultural development in the heart of Dublin's Docklands. Key instrumentation in the AML including the Helium Ion Microscope, the Scanning Electron Microscopes and the Focused Ion Beam were funded by SFI. The Transmission Electron Microscope was funded by the HEA through PRLTI4 funding awarded to the INSPIRE consortium.