The Tyndall National Institute at UCC leads Ireland’s high tech future.
Queen Elizabeth II will visit the Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork (UCC) which was named after one of Ireland’s greatest physicists, John Tyndall, who was responsible for being first to explain global warming due to the greenhouse effect, and why the sky is blue. The Institute is part of the university whose first professor of Mathematics, George Boole, developed the algebra that enabled the development of computer science.
Tyndall is the largest research institute in Ireland with ca 450 staff, students, academic and industrial visiting researchers. They undertake internationally-leading research into information and communications technology . Tyndall uses its facilities and expertise to support industry and academia nationally and provides large numbers of highly qualified graduate students, key to the development of our national economy. Tyndall has over 200 industry partnerships and customers worldwide. Several start- up companies in Ireland have been based on technology originating at Tyndall. The Institute’s researchers include 125 PhD and 10 Masters students, and 38 nationalities are represented within the institute at all levels, with its research published in 200 peer reviewed publications last year. Income for 2010 was over €33m.
Our modern way of life is totally dependent upon the use of electronics. From the computers and smart phones which keep us all in touch with each other, the latest information through data transmission and domestic devices to life-saving biomedical implants, we use electronics in an enormous number of ways. Researchers at Tyndall make sophisticated semiconductor and other electronic materials and then turn them into useful devices and systems. Tyndall’s research is guided by and applied to finding commercial solutions for the needs of society in Communications, Energy, Healthcare and Environment through the development of new hardware technology in the fields of Photonics, Micro-Nanoelectronics and Microsystems.
Queen Elizabeth II will be presented with some examples of the high tech research at Tyndall, including:
The power of the modern silicon chip. The incredibly small size of the transistors on today’s chips means that billions can be crammed onto a chip about one centimetre square. The transistors also work very fast and the combination delivers the power of our modern smart-‘phones and laptops. Tyndall recently announced their invention of the first “junctionless” transistor, which promises to make the improvements to chips feasible when transistor dimensions are less than half their current size. The Queen will be shown a 12 inch silicon wafer and examples of silicon chips used in medical applications. These will include a complete radar system on a silicon chip less than 2 millimetres square, that can be used for medical applications such as monitoring heartbeat or respiration, and a chip that is used for measuring the total dose delivered to patients undergoing radiation therapy for cancer.
The way light is used to transmit information over optical fibres. We are all dependent upon the transmission of huge amounts of information, for our computers, ‘phones, financial transactions and entertainment. The vast majority of this is now transmitted over optical fibres, which form the “nerve web” of our modern society. The Queen will be shown a demonstration of Tyndall’s technology being used to deliver the data equivalent of a high definition movie by a fibre-to-the-home system in 20 seconds. This would take 7 hours over today’s broad-band network. She will see examples of Tyndall’s highly-advanced “photonic” component technologies and hear about Intune Networks, a new, highly innovative Irish company that is leading the way in the application of this technology to a new type of advanced network that will underpin the future internet.
The use of Microsystems in energy conservation and healthcare. Tyndall combines the technologies that have been developed to allow us to make silicon chips and photonic devices to solve society’s problems in novel ways. About 40% of the energy we use is consumed in our built environment. We need to put sensors throughout our buildings to collect data on temperature, occupancy, carbon dioxide levels etc, but the installation of wired sensor networks in existing buildings is difficult, disruptive and expensive. The Queen will be shown new, ultra-low-power wireless sensors developed at Tyndall which take all the energy they need from their environment (e.g. ambient light). She will also be shown “microneedle” technology, which promises new ways to deliver drugs and other medical therapies through the skin in a painless way. These have been developed at Tyndall using the same processes that are used to make the silicon chips we use in our computers or smart-‘phones.
Professor Roger Whatmore, CEO says: Tyndall is greatly honoured to have been asked to host this, the final event of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s State Visit to Ireland. We would like our royal visitors to depart from Ireland having seen an image of the country’s future in high technology. That Tyndall has been chosen to do this is a great tribute to the hard work of our scientists and engineers, who have delivered world-beating results and developments, and it reflects the trust placed in us by the Irish government through their major investments in the Institute over many years.
The Tyndall National Institute is one of 39 research centres and institutes in University College Cork. Founded in 1845, the University has four colleges – Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences: Business and Law; Science, Engineering and Food Science; and Medicine and Health. There are over 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate studies. UCC attracts a large number of international students with more than 2,800 students from 100 countries and all five continents currently registered. The University has over 120 degree and professional programmes given through some 60 departments. .
UCC’s research income is consistently amongst the highest in Irish institutions and is home to a number of major national research institutes and centres that have been established over the past few years.
Despite adverse economic conditions, overall research expenditure achieved in 2009/2010 was €83.8 million. 19% of research income (€15.7 million) came from non-exchequer sources and new awards from the EU increased by 275% (to €13.3 million). 2009/2010 also saw continued growth in relation to other key research output areas including the number of enrolled PhD student numbers to 1,135 students, and the frequency with which UCC research is published and cited. Since 2006, UCC researchers have published over 7,000 research articles including 3,500 articles in ISI Web of Knowledge-indexed publications.
In the QS World University Rankings 2010, UCC was placed 184th in the world, up 23 places relative to 2009.
Some recent UCC research highlights include an international team of scientists and physicians led by UCC professor, Louise Kenny, identifying 14 new metabolites that can detect first-time pregnant women’s risk for preeclampsia, a life -threatening condition. These research findings were published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Publishing in Nature Genetics, Professor Mark Achtman of the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) and a multinational team of scientists used genome sequencing to reconstruct past plague pandemics from the time of the Black Death to the most recent pandemic in the late 1800s. Professors Colin Hill and Paul Ross with colleagues from the University of Alberta identified a new antibiotic that is effective against the hospital-acquired pathogen Clostridium difficile. This major breakthrough in the fight against an infection that causes severe diarrhea and death was published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The discovery, by UCC’s Dr Ron Pinhasi and a team of international archaeologists, of a perfectly preserved shoe, 1,000 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza, was the subject of a major publication in the leading journal PLoS ONE and subsequent global media coverage. Dr Pinhasi was the first UCC researcher to be awarded funding by the European Research Council (ERC), a funding body set up by the European Commission to support the very best of research across all fields of scholarship. Success in the ERC is now widely identified throughout Europe as being the newest and most significant barometer of a country’s achievement and ranking in research.
UCC is ranked number two in the world for probiotics research according to a report published by independent international ratings agency Thomson Reuters Science Watch. This ranking was primarily due to publications from researchers in the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC). The report also indicated that six present and former APC researchers rank in the top 20 of more than 15,000 authors globally (namely Prof Fergus Shanahan, Prof Gerald Fitzgerald, Dr Liam O’Mahony and Prof Kevin Collins from UCC, and Prof Paul Ross and Dr Catherine Stanton from Teagasc Food Research Centre).
Dr Michael Murphy, President of UCC says: “ It is an immense honour when any head of state chooses to visit University College Cork, particularly so when the head of state of our nearest national neighbour selects this university as one of a limited number of engagements throughout the region. It holds tremendous historical significance , UCC was originally named Queen’s College Cork after one of the present Queen’s direct ancestors Queen Victoria who visited the university herself in August 1849. It will be an enormous privilege to welcome Queen Elizabeth II to Tyndall and UCC this week on behalf of the whole university community and the wider region.”