The use of intense, tunable and polarized radiation beyond the visible, extending either to ultraviolet and x-ray energies (and consequently to lower wavelengths) or alternatively towards infrared and terahertz regimes (and longer wavelengths), is what drives researchers across all of the science disciplines to seek to use accelerator based light source facilities such as Synchrotron Radiation (SR) light sources or Free Electron Laser (FEL) light sources. It is only at these facilities that many new advanced tools, techniques and equipment exist as a result of the unique properties of the light deliverable at the many differing experiments permanently situated as beamlines at these facilities.
Equally other investigations into materials may require beams of neutral particles to probe the structure or dynamics within systems, these then utilise the substantially different set of tools and techniques associated with Neutron Beam (NB) facilities, or indeed the “heavy electrons” generated at Muon Beam (MB) facilities.
All of these SR, FEL, NB and MB facilities exist outside of the island of Ireland and often represent very significant capital investments by their host nations. Fortunately these facilities are open to all researchers to use and the time at these facilities is “gifted” to the users. Allocation of the time for experiments at any individual beamline is always based on the quality of the science proposed which is reviewed by peer review committee and that are judged to be the best; in allocation periods typically of every six months.
The research of the Irish research group user community can be roughly broken down into three thematic areas where almost all groups specifically address one or more of the previously identified Priority ares in the Irish National Research Priorisiation Exercise.
Physical and Chemical Sciences
Environmental chemistry, the future safe storage of reprocessed nuclear materials, self-assembly of novel graphene nanoribbons from organic molecule semiconductors, the physics of intense photon-matter interactions and fundamental atomic and molecular physics are just some of the topic explored by Irish research groups who use synchrotron radiation facilities and x-ray free electron lasers in this theme.
Semiconductor materials and novel ways of investigating defects in these materials, and investigations into new semiconductor device structures, the magnetic structure of new alloy materials, bimetallic catalysis of materials for low temperature fuel cell operation are but a few of the topics pursued by researchers in the materials sciences area where these groups use the entire range of synchrotron radiation facilities, free electron lasers and neutron and muon beam facilities for these investigations.
An example from the Materials Sciences of Prof. Patrick McNally’s work on silicon wafer defect metrology is presented in the sidebar.
Life and Health Sciences
Protein and macromolecular crystallography as well as the functionality of cell membranes are among the key areas which are explored by some of the Irish research groups that utilise both synchrotron radiation facilities and the newer x-ray free electron lasers.
An example from the Life Sciences of Prof. Martin Caffrey’s work on human transmembrame proteins is presented in the sidebar.
Details of each individual groups research focus can be found on their pages which are hosted here with links to their institutional group home pages.