US-Irish team to develop mobile batteries that are ultra-efficient

9 Mar 2015

Dr Paul Hurley of the Tyndall National Institute with an example of Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (TMDs). Image via Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

A collaborative scientific effort between Irish and American researchers will see the starting of a project aiming to reduce power consumption and increase battery life in mobile devices.

Leading researchers from the Ireland (Tyndall National Institute & Dublin City University), Northern Ireland (Queens University Belfast) and the US (University of Texas at Dallas) – each of which is funded by their respective government agencies – have come together to establish the UNITE project: Understanding the Nature of Interfaces in Two-Dimensional Electronic Devices.

As part of their effort, the team plan on creating and testing the properties of atomically-thin, two-dimensional layers of semiconductors called known as Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (TMDs).

With a width that is 100,000 times smaller than the smallest viewable object by the naked eye, the properties of these TMDs to-date suggest that they could make significant strides to developing extremely efficient power usage and high-performance computing.

As for its potential, one of the most obvious things it could power are mobile phones and other portable gadgets that, depending on the phone, can vary wildly with current technology.

Aside from the training of five new graduates, the project has received funding amounting to €343,000 from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), stg£319,859 from INVEST Northern Ireland and US$420,000 from the National Science Foundation in the US.

Tyndall’s lead researcher on UNITE, Dr Paul Hurley, said of the project, “Materials that we are currently reliant on, such as silicon, are soon expected to reach the limit of their performance. If we want to continue to increase performance, while maintaining or even reducing power consumption, it is important to explore these new TMD materials.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic