Skip to main content

Research Groups

The Principle Investigators

Associate Professor Tofail Syed Department of Physics/ Bernal Institute
Dr. Christophe Silien Department of Physics/ Bernal Institute
Professor Tewfik Soulimane Department of Chemical Sciences/ Bernal Institute
Mr John Mulcahy Bernal Institute

UL physicists Prof. Tofail Syed and Dr. Christophe Silien are lead researchers in the MOSAIC research group at the University of Limerick.

This year, one of their PhD students, Aimee Stapleton working with a group comprised from MOSAIC, the department, and an international collaboration, made an exciting new discovery of piezoelectricity in the globular protein lysozyme. They reported their results in Applied Physics Letters this October.

Lysozyme is found in egg whites, tears, and the saliva and milk of mammals. This new discovery was widely covered in the national and international media. Aimee Stapleton, the lead author on this paper explains: “While piezoelectricity is used all around us, the capacity to generate electricity from this particular protein had not been explored. The extent of the piezoelectricity in lysozyme crystals is significant. It is of the same order of magnitude found in quartz. However, because it is a biological material, it is non-toxic so could have many innovative applications such as electroactive, anti-microbial coatings for medical implants”.

The MOSAIC group is leading the largest industry Spoke of CURAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Medical Devices involving 6 academic partners and 35 industry partners. CÚRAM’s innovative approach incorporates biomaterials and drug delivery, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, glycoscience and device design to enhance, develop and validate both traditional and new combinational medical devices from molecular design to device manufacturing.

The MOSAIC group has also custom-developed a large number of non-linear optical characterisation techniques including the world's first far-field super resolution infrared nanoscope, a fast infra-red microscope, and a coherent anti Stokes Raman spectroscopy imaging system. The potential for these techniques for personalised and early diagnosis of diseases is very high.

Click here to read more about the MOSAIC group and their projects.

In June of this year, UL physicists Prof. Ursel Bangert and Dr. Andy Stewart launched a remarkable cutting edge multi-million euro microscope, the Titan TEM, that is housed in the Bernal Institute, and funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the University of Limerick.

The new microscope will allow materials to be studied at an atomic level in real-world conditions and is one of only a handful of microscopes with these capabilities worldwide. The Titan Themis is a double-corrected, monochromated Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) and is valued at €6 million. A further €3 million worth of specialist equipment has been added to the UL machine including in-situ microscopy and ultra-fast and sensitive detectors, as well as environmental holders, which allow for the behaviour of materials to be studied in real-time across a range of environments.

The new capabilities of this microscope have already helped the TEMUL group secure EU funding in the future emerging technologies open (FETOpen) Where we are investigating the growth mechanisms of Pharmaceutical crystals in liquids as part of the Magnapharm consortium We are the first group in Ireland to secure Horizon 2020 FETOpen funding. 

We also specialise in using TEM's to investigate ferroelectric and quantum effects in 2D materials and solve unknown nano crystal structures using electron diffraction techniques. 

With the new functionalities provided by the Titan Themis and its supplemental equipment, we have a new window into the structural dynamics of these materials under real-world conditions to explore at the atomic level. 


Professor Ursel Bangert - Bernal Chair of Microscopy and Imaging, Department of Physics, and Bernal Institute

Dr. Andy Stewart - Lecturer, Department of Physics, and Bernal Institute

Research Interests

  • Energy Storage and Grid Stabilisation
  • Optical Monitoring of Vanadium Flow Batteries (VFBs)
  • High Energy Density Electrolyte for VFBs
  • Specialist Reference Electrode for Hostile Environments
  • Anodisation of Semiconductors and Metals (i.e. Porous InP and TiO2 nanotubes)
  • In-situ Stress Analysis during Metal Deposition


  • Prof. D. Noel Buckley Group (VFBs and Semiconductor Technology)
  • Prof. Robert F. Savinell, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio: (Kinetics and Flow Batteries)
  • Schwungrad Energie and RR Projects (Grid Storage)
  • Beacon Power (Flywheel Systems)
  • Prof. Bartek A. Głowacki, TEMPRI Project (Electrode Materials)
  • Dr Ian Clancy, Complex Systems Group, UL (Modelling of Rates and Self-Organised Systems)
  • Prof. Harm Hinrich Rotermund, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia: (In-situ Microscopy)
  • Prof. Arnaud Etcheberry, Institute Lavoisier, Versailles: (Material Science)
  • Prof. Marcin Opałło and Dr. Martin Jönsson-Niedziółka, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw (Biofuel Cells)
  • Peter Ridley and John Ward, RedT Energy Storage Systems (VFBs)
  • Dr. Emmanuel Pican, Cork Institute of Technology (Modelling of Electrical Systems)

All-Vanadium Flow Battery (VFB) Research

Due to the intermittency of non-dispatchable power sources, such as solar and wind, their use is restricted to times of availability. Therefore, unless there is a means of storing the energy they produce in periods of high availability for utilization in periods of limited availability these sources of energy can cause significant reliability issues resulting in the burning of fossil fuels so as to ensure stability of electrical grids.  Vanadium flow batteries (VFBs), also known as vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs or VRBs), are particularly attractive because, in addition to having long cycle life, they use the same chemicals in both halves of the battery (see Fig. 1). Therefore, they are essentially immune to cross-contamination problems due to mass transfer across the membrane that can limit the service life of the electrolyte in other systems.

We are currently performing research on several aspects of VFBs. This research includes research into increasing the energy density and power of VFBs, investigating the kinetics of reactions at carbon electrodes, investigation of production methods of electrolytes for VFBs, fundamental investigation of stability and equilibria of vanadium electrolytes, monitoring of the state of charge (SoC) and development of novel electrodes and designs for VFBs.

Currently, we have four PhD students working on this area of research. Three working on the kinetics of reactions at carbon electrodes and one working on the development of flow-past electrodes for VFBs. Furthermore, in collaboration with Prof. Noel Buckley, we have three post-doctoral researchers working on electrochemistry at carbon electrodes and state-of-charge monitoring of VFBs. The funding for these research projects comes from sponsored research funding from Renewable Energy Dynamics Technology Ltd. (RedT), PhD funding from the Irish Research Council and the Saudi Arabian Government and Commercialisation Funding from Enterprise Ireland (EI).

Electrolyte: The energy density of VFB systems can be increased by increasing the amount of vanadium that can be dissolved in the electrolyte. Recently, through an innovation partnership funded project that was cosponsored by REDT and EI, we have increased the energy density of VFBs from 18 Wh dm-3 to 25 Wh dm-3 (i.e. an increase of ~40%).  Due to the relative low cost and long cycle-life of VFBs, achievements in this outcome will open opportunities for VFBs in municipal and factory transport while also making VFBs more attractive for their current market, e.g. stand-by power, grid stabilisation and isolated renewable energy systems.

Optical Monitoring: Both electrolytes in VFBs are highly coloured; VII, VIII, VIV, and VV have strong absorbance spectra in the visible region.1-5 Thus, ultraviolet-visible (UV-Vis) spectroscopy offers a precise method of independently measuring the state of charge (SoC) of both the positive and the negative half-cell electrolytes. In a fully discharged negative electrolyte all the vanadium is in the form of VIII and during charging this is converted to VII. As the battery charges the absorbance of the mixture estimated as a linear combination of the absorbance of its component VII and VIII is in excellent agreement with the measured absorbance. In a fully discharged positive electrolyte all of the vanadium is in the form of VIV and during charging this is converted to VV. However, it is observed that the absorbance varies with SoC (percentage of VV) in a very non-linear manner. In addition, other parameters, such as vanadium and sulphur concentration, have very significant effects on this degree of non-linearity. Therefore, since both water and vanadium can transfer across the cation exchange membrane in a VFB, there are many practical issues that must be addressed when determining SoC.  Despite all these issues our research allows the SoC of both halves of a VFB to be determined with great accuracy.  The research on SoC monitoring has resulted in a European patent being published and two further related patent applications are currently underway. This research should increase the fundamental understanding of VFB operation and increase the operational state-of-charge range of VFBs (i.e. further increase the useable energy density of these system).

Kinetics: The research on kinetics at VFB electrodes is fundamental research which is enhancing our understanding of the redox reactions and overpotential behaviour in VFBs. Such knowledge should eventually result in improved electrodes and guidelines for the operation of VFBs. Both of which should increase overall energy efficiency, reliability and cycle life of these systems.

Development and Investigation of a Hybrid Flywheel-Battery System Connected to the ESB Network

Through collaboration with Schwungrad Energie, Yokogowa, Hitachi, FreqCon, Beacon Power and Dr. Pican (at Cork Institute of Technology) we are working on a grid-scale project for the hybridisation of two well established power and energy storage technologies. This work is part funded by Enterprise Ireland (EI), Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) through Innovation Partnership Project IP/2014/0364 cofounded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under Ireland’s European Structural and Investment Funds Programmes 2014-2020. The pilot of this system was officially opened near the end of 2015 (see Fig. 2).  The synergy of flywheels and lead-acid batteries is intended to overcome shortfalls of either technology and addresses the need for additional system service provision, mitigating superfluous fossil fuel consumption: for example, currently up to 4% of fuel consumed by conventional energy generation is dedicated to system service provision. Integrating the hybrid system into the Irish grid – which as an island grid with high wind power penetration faces advanced frequency and voltage control issues – will test the suitability of lead-acid batteries and other battery technologies for such hybridisation and demonstrate the viability of such technology for the stabilisation of the grid. The potential market for this solution is estimated to be about 550 to 600 plants, each of 20 MW.  Hence there is a huge growth opportunity and potential to provide employment.

Micro- and Nano-Sized Porous Structures through Anodisation of Semiconductors and Metals

These projects are focus on nanoporosity in InP (indium phosphide) and the formation of titania nanotubes. The projects involve both lab-based research and modelling work. Through this research we have developed a fundamental understanding of these two systems facilitating much greater control of the growth parameters of such porous structures.

InP Anodisation: Our research on InP focuses on the formation of self-organised porous structures within n-type indium-phosphide electrodes when anodised in aqueous electrolytes. This research concentrates on the mechanisms that control the formation of these structures.  The chemistry at n-InP-KOH interfaces is special since anodisation of the InP causes localised etching resulting in the formation of sub-surface pores in the semiconductor while little or no significant chemical etching occurs in parallel (see Fig. 3).  These pores form as networks that connect back to pits in the surface of the semiconductor material.  The majority of the surface remains virtually un-etched (i.e. the surface maintains its specular reflective properties) while the sub-surface etching creates a highly porous material beneath. The special chemistry of these interfaces was investigated through anodisation of the semiconductor using cyclic voltammetry, constant over-potential and galvanostatic experiments.  Examination of the modification caused by the anodisation of this material has been performed in situusing a novel optical-microscopy technique and ex situ using electron microscopy techniques.

This research has been funded by the IFC and partly by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) through National Access Programmes (NAPs) at Tyndall Institute, Cork for scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of samples.

Titania Nanotubes: This research focuses on understanding and developing TiO2 nanotube layers (see Fig. 4) for dye-sensitized photoelectrochemical-cells and other applications.  These layers of nanotubes are grown through electrochemical anodisation of titanium.  The goal of the project is to discover applications for these porous structures due to their semiconductor nature, superior current-carrier diffusion-length (with respect to other TiO2 nanostructures) and high surface to volume ratio. In particular the research is aimed at applying these properties to solar-cell technology.  Furthermore, we have developed a significant understanding of the mechanisms that govern the formation of these structures.

Other Research

We also have an interest in scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and conducting in-situ electron, atomic-force and optical microscopy. Furthermore, we have significant research in the area of in-situ stress measurement during electrodeposition of metals used in the semiconductor industry.

Selected Patents and Publications

  • “Spectroscopic Titration of Pervanadyl Solutions”, D.N Buckley, N. Quill, R.P. Lynch, applying for patent: under review (2016)
  • “Calibration of Optical State of Charge Monitoring System for Vanadium Flow Batteries” N. Quill, J.T. Joyce, S. Albu, C. Petchsingh, D. Ní Eidhin, D. Oboroceanu, C. Lenihan, X. Gao, D.N. Buckley, and R.P. Lynch, in Conference Papers The International Flow Battery Forum 2016, Hamburg, Germany (2016)
  • “Effect of Repeated Oxidation and Reduction of Glassy Carbon on VIV-VV Electrode Kinetics” M. Al Hajji Safi, M. Balandeh, N. Quill, J.A. Murphy, A. Bourke, D.N. Buckley and R.P. Lynch, ECS Transactions xx (x), xx (2016)
  • “Effects of Electrochemical Pretreatments on the Kinetics of FeII-FeIII, VIV-VV and Hydroquinone-Quinone Electrode Reactions on Glassy Carbon” M. Balandeh, M. Al Hajji Safi, A. Bourke, D.N. Buckley and R.P. Lynch, ECS Transactions xx (x), xx (2016)
  • “UV-Vis Spectroscopic Monitoring of State-of-Charge in Vanadium Flow Batteries” D.N. Buckley, R.P. Lynch, N. Quill, J.T. Joyce, D. Ní Eidhin, D. Oboroceanu, and C. Lenihan, ECS Transactions xx (x), xx (2016)
  • “Spectroscopic Measurement of State of Charge in Vanadium Flow Batteries with an Analytical Model of VIV-VV Absorbance” C. Petchsingh, N. Quill, J.T. Joyce, D. Ní Eidhin, D. Oboroceanu, C. Lenihan, X. Gao, R.P. Lynch, and D.N. Buckley, J. Electrochem. Soc., 163, A5068 (2016)
  • “Electrode Kinetics of Vanadium Flow Batteries: Contrasting Responses of VII-VIII and VIV-VV to Electrochemical Pretreatment of Carbon” A. Bourke, M.A. Miller, R.P. Lynch, X. Gao, J. Landon, J. S.Wainright, R. F. Savinell, and D. N. Buckley, J. Electrochem. Soc., 163, A1xxx (2016)
  • “Micromachining Bridges, Shelves and Free-Standing Films on Indium Phosphide”, R.P. Lynch, N. Quill, C. O’Dwyer and D.N. Buckley, ECS Transactions xx(x), xx (2015)
  • “Towards Electrochemical Fabrication of Free-Standing Indium Phosphide Nanofilms”, N. Quill, R.P. Lynch, D.N. Buckley and C. O’Dwyer, ECS Transactionsxx (x), xx (2015)
  • “Propagation of Nanopores and Formation of Nanoporous Domains during Anodization of n-InP in KOH”, D.N. Buckley, R.P. Lynch, N. Quill and C. O’Dwyer,ECS Transactions xx (x), xx (2015)
  • “Use of UV-Vis Absorption Spectroscopy to Measure State of Charge in All-Vanadium Flow Batteries” C. Petchsingh, N. Quill, R. P. Lynch, D. Oboroceanu, D. Ní Eidhin, C. Lenihan, X. Gao and D. N. Buckley, in Conference Papers The International Flow Battery Forum 2015, Glasgow, Scotland (2015)
  • “Electrode Kinetics in All-Vanadium Flow Batteries: Effects of Electrochemical Treatments”, A. Bourke, M.A. Miller, R.P. Lynch, J.S. Wainright, R.F. Savinell, and D. N. Buckley, ECS Transactions xx (x), xx (2015)
  • “In-Situ Optical Monitoring of Vanadium Redox Flow Battery State-of-Charge and Concentration”, N. Quill, X. Gao, C. Petchsingh, D.N. Buckley, and R.P. Lynch, ECS Transactions xx (x), xx (2015)
  • “Effect of Cathodic and Anodic Treatments of Carbon on the Electrode Kinetics of VIV/VV Oxidation-Reduction”, A. Bourke, M.A. Miller, R.P. Lynch, J.S. Wainright, R.F. Savinell, and D.N. Buckley, J. Electrochem. Soc., xx, under review (2015)
  • “Tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane (TRIS) photooxidation on titania based photoanodes and its implication for photoelectrochemical biofuel cells”, M.S. Filipiak, P. Grzeskowiak, A. Zloczewska, R. Lynch, M. Jönsson-Niedziolka, J. Power Sources, xx, accepted awaiting publication (2015)
  • “In-Situ Improvement of Energy Efficiency of Flow Battery”, R.P. Lynch, N. Quill, A. Bourke, D.N Buckley, applying for patent: under review (2015)
  • “Investigation of Positive and Negative Half-Cells in a Vanadium Redox Flow Battery” A. Bourke, N. Quill, R.P. Lynch and D.N. Buckley, in Conference Papers The International Flow Battery Forum 2014, Hamburg, Germany (2014)
  • “Towards optical monitoring of vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs): An investigation of the underlying spectroscopy”, D.N. Buckley, X. Gao, R.P. Lynch, N. Quill, and M.J. Leahy, J. Electrochem. Soc., 161, A524 (2014) doi: 10.1149/2.023404jes (2 citations)
  • “Effect of Pretreatment on the Rate of the VO2+/VO2+ and V2+/V3+ Reactions at a Carbon Electrode”, A. Bourke, N. Quill, R.P. Lynch and D.N. Buckley, ECS Transactions 61 (37), 15 (2014) doi:10.1149/06137.0015ecst
  • “Effect of Polarization Pretreatment of Glassy Carbon on the Kinetics of the Redox Reactions in Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries”, A. Bourke, R.P. Lynch, R.P. Lynch, and D. N. Buckley, ECS Transactions xx (x), xx (2014)
  • “Factors Affecting Spectroscopic State-of-Charge Measurement”, M. O’Mahony, X. Gao, R.P. Lynch, N. Quill, D. Oboroceanu, C. Lenihan, C. Petchsingh, D.e Ní Eidhin, M.J. Leahy and D.N. Buckley, ECS Transactions xx (x), xx (2014)
  • “Spectroscopic Monitoring of State of Charge of Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries”, X. Gao, R.P. Lynch, M.J. Leahy, A. Bourke, G. Flynn, EP 13195315 (Application Date: 2nd December 2013)
  • “Propagation of Nanopores during Anodic Etching of n-InP in KOH”, R.P. Lynch, N. Quill, C. O’Dwyer, S. Nakahara and D.N. Buckley, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 15, 15135 (2013) (1 citation)
  • “Pore Propagation Directions and Nanoporous Domain Shape in n-InP Anodized in KOH”, R.P. Lynch, C. O’Dwyer, N. Quill, S. Nakahara, S.B. Newcomb and D.N. Buckley, J. Electrochem. Soc., 160 (6), D260 (2013) doi:10.1149/2.107306jes
  • “Effect of Current Density on Pore Formation in n-InP in KOH Compound Semiconductor Nanostructures”, N. Quill, R.P. Lynch, C. O’Dwyer and D.N. Buckley,ECS Transactions 58 (8), 25 (2013) doi:10.1149/05330.0059ecst
  • “Effect of Electrode Pretreatment on the Cyclic Voltammetry of VO2+/VO2+ at a Glassy Carbon Electrode”, A. Bourke, R.P. Lynch and D.N. Buckley, ECS Transactions 53 (30), 59 (2013) doi:10.1149/05808.0025ecst (1 citation)
  • (Invited) “Cessation of Porous Layer Growth in n-InP Anodised in KOH”, R.P. Lynch, N. Quill, C. O’Dwyer, M. Dornhege, H.H. Rotermund and D.N. Buckley,ECS Transactions 53 (6), 65 (2013) doi:10.1149/05306.0065ecst
  • “Dependence of Current on Porous Layer Structure during Anodization of n-InP in Aqueous KOH Electrolytes”, R.P. Lynch, N. Quill, C. O’Dwyer and D. N. Buckley, ECS Transactions 50 (37), 191 (2013) doi:10.1149/05037.0191ecst
  • “Electrochemical Formation of Ordered Pore Arrays in InP in KCl”, N. Quill, R.P. Lynch, C. O’Dwyer and D. N. Buckley, ECS Transactions 50 (6), 377 (2013)doi:10.1149/05006.0377ecst (3 citations)
  • “Mechanism that Dictates Pore Width and <111>A Pore Propagation in InP”, R.P. Lynch, N. Quill, C. O’Dwyer, S. Nakahara and D. N. Buckley, ECS Transactions 50 (6), 319 (2013) doi:10.1149/05006.0319ecst (2 citations)
  • “Spectroscopic Study of Vanadium Electrolytes in Vanadium Redox Flow Battery (VRFB)”, X. Gao, R.P. Lynch, M. Leahy and D. N. Buckley, ECS Transactions 45 (26), 25 (2013) doi:10.1149/04526.0025ecst (3 citations)
  • “Current-Line Oriented Pore Formation in n-InP Anodized in KOH”, N. Quill, R.P. Lynch, C. O’Dwyer and D. N. Buckley, ECS Transactions 50 (37), 143 (2012)doi:10.1149/05037.0143ecst (1 citation)
  • “Spectroscopic Study of VO++/VO2+ Electrolytes” X. Gao, A. Bourke, R.P. Lynch, M.J. Leahy and D.N. Buckley, in Conference Papers The International Flow Battery Forum 2013, Dublin, Ireland (2013)
  • “Pore Formation in InP Anodized in KOH: Effect of Temperature and Concentration”, N. Quill, R.P. Lynch, C. O’Dwyer and D. N. Buckley, ECS Transactions 50(37), 131 (2012) doi:10.1149/05037.0131ecst (1 citation)
  • “Protein-Mediated Synthesis of Antibacterial Silver Nanoparticles Deposited on Titanium Dioxide Nanotube Arrays”, Y.-Y. Song, T. Yang, J. Cao, Z. Gao and R.P. Lynch, Microchim. Acta 177 (1-2), 129 (2012) doi:10.1007/s00604-012-0769-6 (5 citations)
  • “Multistage Coloring Electrochromic Device Based on TiO2 Nanotube Arrays Modified with WO3 Nanoparticles”, Yan-Yan Song, Zhi-Da Gao, Jian-Hua Wang, Xing-Hua Xia and Robert Lynch, Adv. Funct. Mater. 21 (10), 1941 (2011) doi:10.1002/adfm.201002258 (44 citations)
  • “The Effect of Linker of Electrodes Prepared from Sol–Gel Ionic Liquid Precursor and Carbon Nanoparticles on Dioxygen Electroreduction Bioelectrocatalysis”, K. Szot, R.P. Lynch, A. Lesniewski, E. Majewska, J. Sirieix-Plenet, L. Gaillon and M. Opallo, Electrochimica Acta 56 (28), 10306 (2011)doi:10.1016/j.electacta.2011.03.139 (5 citations)
  • “Electrochemical Formation of Nanoporosity in n-InP Anodes in KOH”, D.N. Buckley, C. O’Dwyer, R.P. Lynch and N. Quill, ECS Transactions 35 (8), 29 (2011)doi:10.1149/1.3567735
  • “Preparation and Adsorption Properties of Pd Nanoparticles Supported on TiO2 Nanotubes”, A. Honciuc, M. Laurin, M. Sobota, S. Albu, R. Lynch, M. Amende, P. Schmuki and J. Libuda, J. Phys. Chem. C 114 (47), 20146 (2010) doi:10.1021/jp107791r (12 citations)
  • “Anodic Growth of Self-Ordered Magnesium Oxy-Fluoride Nano Porous/Tubular Layers on Mg Alloy (WE43)”, M.C. Turhan, R.P. Lynch, H. Jha, P. Schmuki and S. Virtanen, Electrochem. Commun. 12 (6), 769 (2010) doi:10.1016/j.elecom.2010.03.036 (13 citations)
  • “Influence of Ca Ions and Temperature on the Corrosion Behavior of WC-Co Hardmetals in Alkaline Solutions”, F.J.J. Kellner, R. Lynch and S. Virtanen, Int. Journal of Refractory Metals & Hard Materials 28, 370 (2010) doi: 10.1016/j.ijrmhm.2009.12.001 (6 citations)
  • “A Photo-Electrochemical Investigation of Self-Organized TiO2 Nanotubes”, R.P. Lynch, A. Ghicov and P. Schmuki, J. Electrochem. Soc., 157 (3), G76 (2010)doi:10.1149/1.3276455 (47 citations)
  • “TiO2 Nanotubes: Efficient Suppression of Top Etching during Anodic Growth”, Y.-Y. Song, R. Lynch, D. Kim, P. Roy, and P. Schmuki, Electrochem. Solid-State Lett. 12 (7), C17 (2009) doi:10.1149/1.3126500 (37 citations)
  • “Effect of Acidic Etching and Fluoride Treatment on Corrosion Performance in Mg Alloy AZ91D (MgAlZn)”, M.C. Turhan, R. Lynch, M.S. Killian and S. Virtanen, Electrochimica Acta, 55 (1), 250 (2009) doi:10.1016/j.electacta.2009.08.046 (26 citations)
  • “Electron Beam Induced in-vacuo Ag Deposition on TiO2 from Ionic Liquids”, P. Roy, R. Lynch and P. Schmuki, Electrochem. Commun., 11 (8), 1567 (2009)doi:10.1016/j.elecom.2009.05.051 (21 citations)
  • “Deconvolution of the Potential and Time Dependence of Electrochemical Porous Semiconductor Formation”, N. Quill, C. O’Dwyer, R. Lynch, C. Heffernan, and D. N. Buckley, ECS Transactions 19 (3), 295 (2009) doi:10.1149/1.3120709 (6 citation)

We design novel architectures and assemblies based on the directed self-assembly of nanoscale building blocks (molecules, monolayers, nanoparticles, and proteins) in collaboration with leading experimental and industry partners in European Framework, Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland funded projects.  Atomic-resolution modelling of assemblies containing up to a few million atoms is performed using high performance computing facilities at the Bernal Institute UL, the Irish Centre for High End Computing and supercomputing centres throughout mainland Europe.

We use modelling techniques including molecular and periodic density functional theory, replica exchange, metadynamics, and steered molecular dynamics to compute properties such as binding free energies, diffusion coefficients, and electron transport, and use more coarse-grained models where necessary to approximate larger length (micron+) and time (millisecond+) scales.

Click here to see all of our published research. 

Dr Fernando Rhen,

Science Foundation Ireland Investigator.

Department of Physics, University of Limerick,


The Nanoscale Physics and Energy group is focussed on the investigation of novel materials for technological applications in physics, chemistry, ICT and energy related sectors. The group has expertise on synthesis of nanostructured alloys based on transition metal, electrodes for fuel cell, noble metals catalyst and magnetic materials. The group has been funded by Science foundation Ireland, Irish Research Council and local Industry.

Our areas of interest also include: Nanoscience and nanotechnology, Device fabrication/characterization, materials science, characterization of physical/chemical properties of materials, scientific instrumentation, energy conservation and energy conversion, energy efficiency nanoscale magnetism/magnetic related phenomena, spin dynamics and spin manipulation, modelling and computer simulation, and low temperature physics.

Click here to see a full list of our publications.

Contact: Dr. Vincent Casey
Dept. of Physics, University of Limerick
Tel. +353-61-202257


Dr Vincent Casey’s research interests focus on microelectromechanical (MEMS) structures and their use in the measurement of contact pressures, typically between living tissue and medical pressure applying parts such as bandages, tourniquets and surgical instruments. Such interfaces and the pressures arising at them are also of interest in human swallowing. Recent work has focused on the development of wearable human swallow monitoring equipment and associated signal acquisition and analysis apps. The ultimate objective is to develop a simple tool that could be used in the screening and treatment of human swallow disorders. A number of patents have resulted from this work. There is also growing interest in the veterinary sector in interface pressure measurement and some fruitful cross-over work has yielded promising results particularly in the area of equine welfare.”

Contact: Dr. Ning Liu

Lecturer in Nanophysics,

Department of Physics,


Information and communication technology (ICT) has been driven by constant miniaturisation to achieve smaller and faster devices. The industry has reached a fundamental material barrier as feature size decreases below 10 nm. In this regime the conventional material properties needed for electron transport are fundamentally changed due to the parasitic capacitance and signal propagation delay. To sustain our rapidly increasing need for processing power, light is proposed to transport information on-chip. Light can carry more information by offering much larger signal bandwidth via parallelism of wavelength division multiplexing at very high clock rates. However, conventional optical components cannot reach the same integration density as that for integrated electronics due to diffraction limits of light.

The current research interests of the group is to develop novel materials and exploit new concepts to realize optical computation in a scalable and cascadable manner with low energy consumption, without compromising the integration density. One solution to the above problem is to use propagating surface plasmons to carry the optical information. Surface plasmons can meet the large bandwidth demands by high-performance computation while still maintain high integration density.

The group tries to accomplish the above goal by endeavouring in the following four aspects: (1) Exploit the new concept of ‘hot’ electron transfer at metal-insulator-semiconductor surface to realize low threshold signal amplification in plasmonic waveguides; (2) Use MOCVD and patterned self-assembly methods to fabricate high-gain heterogeneous waveguides for gain-assisted applications; (3) Explore surface plasmon enhanced energy conversion through nonlinear process; (4) Utilize these novel materials as building blocks to construct multi-terminal plasmonic networks to perform logic functions with low energy consumption.



  1. 1.  N. Liu, H. Wei, J. Li, Z. X. Wang, X. R. Tian, A. L. Pan, and H. X. Xu, ‘Plasmonic Amplification with Ultra-High Optical Gain at Room Temperature’, Scientific Reports 3, 1967 (2013).
  2. 2. N. Liu, Z. P. Li, and H. X. Xu, ‘Polarization dependent study on propagating surface plasmons in silver nanowires launched by a near field scanning optical fiber tip’, Small 8, 2641 (2012).
  3. H. Wei, Z. P. Li, X. R. Tian, Z. X. Wang, F. Z. Cong, N. Liu, S. P. Zhang, P. Nordlander, N. J. Halas, and H. X. Xu, ‘Quantum dot-based local field imaging reveals plasmon-based interferometric logic in silver nanowire networks’, Nano Lett11, 471-475 (2011).

Contact: Dr. David Corcoran
Dept. of Physics 

State-of-the-art electronic devices, sand and even plate tectonics all share something in common, they are all systems where noise and disorder effects can dominate. Yet despite the Nobel award winning work of de Gennes in 1991" for discovering that methods developed for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalized to more complex forms of matter", the application of statistical mechanics to complex out of-equilibrium systems is still today only in the development stage. We therefore investigate a broad spectrum of systems which exhibit what we term disorder dynamics including electromigration in thin metal films, earthquakes, and sheared granular media using experimental and computational modelling techniques 

By borrowing the tools of statistical mechanics and by focussing explicitly on the role of fluctuations/noise we are developing new approaches in describing, understanding and ultimately predicting complex disordered systems. A particular area of interest has been exploring the possible mechanism that explains the wide variety of spatial and temporal fractals seen in nature i.e. self-organised criticality.

Fractals are known to occur at or near a so-called critical phase transition and in the late 1980s the concept of self-organised criticality gathered rapid popularity, when a simple computer model appeared to automatically generate certain fractal effects. At a critical point there is an infinite size scale and this scale divergence would explain spatial fractal effects. In addition, as there would also be an associated absence of time scale the mechanism would explain the ubiquity of fractal 1/f noise visible in systems from tides to jazz music.

Earthquakes are held by many to be a self-organised critical phenomenon, and earthquake fault lines and earthquake magnitude frequency are typically fractal. We have recently studied the criticality[1] in a well known earthquake model, the so-called Burridge-Knopoff model and demonstrated that rather than self-organisation the system must be tuned to criticality.

[1] "Criticality in the Burridge-Knopoff model", Clancy, I and Corcoran, D., Phys. Rev. E. 71 046124 (2005)