Q&A: Ireland on the science map

Science Week runs until Sunday so Science Calling interviewed world-renowned physicist, Prof David Awschalom and recommends events taking place in the next few days.

Q&A with Prof

David Awschalom is a  Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Peter J. Clarke Director of the California NanoSystems Institute. He is also the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of CRANN.

Interview at the Falling Walls Conference, Berlin on 09 November 2012

Q: What, in your opinion, is the perception of Irish science internationally?

Prof: I think Ireland is a major player in information technology now and I think the best way to judge that is to look at the companies that have placed themselves in Ireland like Intel. Intel is driven very much by looking at new technologies.

To me, it’s been very impressive to watch CRANN develop and to build up extraordinary infrastructure in Ireland. With state of the art technologies, they have set themselves up for the future. I think as long as the people and the government embrace this, I think the future looks very bright for Ireland in these areas.

Q: What do you think of recent decisions about science in Ireland? Apologies for noise in background… Imagine a very busy conference!

Prof: I was just there a few weeks ago and I understand times are very tough. Institutes like CRANN represent the future of Ireland and I would hope that people would look at these types of investments which take a long time to build and have reached the international level.

People all over the world in nanoscience know about CRANN and what Ireland has done. It takes a long time to build that and it would take very little time to destroy it. So I think it would be wise to keep that running forward because it’s the future. It’s what’s going to bring all countries whether it’s Ireland or the United States or Germany to the next level economically and it’s the future of education.

Q: How will nanotechnologies be scaled up?

Prof: One thing is to identify new materials that could host these types of interactions. Our own group with others, have been working with theorists to understand why this works in materials like diamond.

They’ve already uncovered a dozen or so new materials in which this should work. One of them is silicon carbide, a very close relative of silicon. You might in fact take silicon and carbon and putting them together to make silicon carbide. That’s an industrial material that people use eight inch wafers to make.

It turns out this physics works just fine in silicon carbide. So that’s already one step towards moving to a technology with an easily available commercially made material versus diamond. It also might be able to get industry to move with novel materials like [diamond]. Whereas silicon carbide, they are comfortable using it. They already know how to process it. They already make devices with it and some of those may already be some kind of quantum devices so we’ll see.

For more information. see the Awschalom Group’s website

Science Calling’s #ScienceWeek Recommendations:

See ScienceWeek.ie for more events nationwide that are taking place throughout November.

Photo: Courtesy of CRANN