World’s first prof of crystal engineering at new Limerick hub

21 Nov 2016

Materials science. Image: Shutterstock/Sappasit

University of Limerick’s new €86m Bernal Institute opens today (21 November), as a national push towards advanced materials picks up speed.

Aiming to become a world-renowned research centre, the Bernal Institute at University of Limerick (UL) has laid down quite a scientific marker.

With Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD, in attendance, the facility – which cost a total of €86m – will see the team claim the world’s first professor of crystal engineering as one of the main features.


In total, there are 200 Bernal Institute members (academic staff and researchers), with over 70 industrial partnerships already in place through a dedicated ‘Bernal project’, originally created in 2013.

More than €25m has been secured by the six chairpersons of the group. At UL, the Bernal Institute team has access to 20,000 sq m of high-quality, multi-purpose research space.

One of the goals of the whole project is to drive innovation at UL’s faculty of science and engineering; with outputs such as attractive career paths for research graduates, strong performing citation rates for scholarly publications, and meaningful contributions to the development of industry and prosperity in Ireland and the Shannon region.

In total, six ‘Bernal chairs’ have been revealed:

  • Bernal chair of crystal engineering – Prof Michael Zaworotko
  • Bernal chair of fluid mechanics – Prof Harry Van den Akker
  • Bernal chair of microscopy and imaging – Prof Ursel Bangert
  • Bernal chair in pharmaceutical powder engineering – Prof Gavin Walker
  • Bernal chair of composite material – Prof Paul Weaver
  • Bernal chair of biomedical engineering – Prof Jacques Huyghe

Irish interest in materials science is nothing new. Earlier this month, the Trinity College-based Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) centre landed yet another major research project.

AMBER has found itself on the end of a number of research contracts in the past, including the recent extension to its Nokia Bell Labs partnership and separate 2D-materials study, worth a combined €3m.

It has now been chosen as one of the 22 Horizon 2020 research submissions – out of a total of 544 – that will receive a research contract worth more than €4.4m under the Future and Emerging Technologies Open programme.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic