Cookies on The Nenagh Guardian website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. We also use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the The Nenagh Guardian website. However, if you would like to, you can change your cookie settings at any time by amending your browser settings.
Hide Message
  • News

Toome' scientist makes exciting discovery

Friday, 13th October, 2017 1:24pm
Jump to comments
Toome' scientist makes exciting discovery

Aimee Stapleton from Toomevara has discovered that applying pressure to a protein found in egg whites and tears can produce elecrtricity. Photogaph by Sean Curtin, True Media.

Toome' scientist makes exciting discovery

Aimee Stapleton from Toomevara has discovered that applying pressure to a protein found in egg whites and tears can produce elecrtricity. Photogaph by Sean Curtin, True Media.

Toomevara scientist Aimee Stapleton is the lead author of pioneering new research on the generation of electricity from tears.

Aimee is part of a team of scientists that recently made an exciting discovery at the Bernal Institute in Limerick. Applying pressure to a protein found in egg whites and tears to generate electricity, the discovery may have wide-reaching applications and could lead to further research in the area of energy harvesting.


“In our research, we were looking at a protein called lysozyme, which is found in tears, saliva and hen egg-whites,” explained Aimee, daughter of Paddy and Mary Stapleton, Toomevara.


“We were interested to see if it would demonstrate piezoelectricity. Piezoelectricity is a property of some materials which can generate an electrical charge (electricity) if you squeeze them.”


A former student of St Mary's Secondary School in Nenagh, Aimee has just completed her PhD in the Department of Physics and Energy at University of Limerick. She used a number of methods, including Piezoresponse Force Microscopy, to study piezoelectricity in proteins. A report on her groundbreaking discovery – which attracted widespread media attention last week – is contained in the latest edition of the journal 'Applied Physics Letters'.


“Piezoelectric materials have many applications – from the igniter in your BBQ lighter to energy-harvesters that power devices,” Aimee said of the potential uses of her research. “Perhaps in the future, lysozyme might be used as an energy-harvester to power a biomedical device such as a pacemaker. The protein is naturally biocompatible and so lysozyme may be a good alternative to traditional piezoelectrics, many of which are toxic.


“While we are always striving to find new applications for our research, it’s important to understand that realising those applications takes time,” she added.
Aimee's love of maths and physics was inspired by her St Mary's teachers Ms Haugh and Mr O'Sullivan. She studied Applied Physics at UL and was awarded funding for a postgraduate scholarship.


During her degree – for which she received first class honours – Aimee researched laser-based technologies in the Netherlands. Apart from her research activities, she has a keen interest in science communication, as well as teaching and learning. In 2015, she won the Institute of Physics Rosse Medal Award for best communication of postgraduate research.


The Toomevara native is currently based at the Bernal Institute, UL's new science and engineering zone, which is named after John Desmond Bernal (1901-1971) of Nenagh's Brook Watson estate, one of the most influential scientists of the twentieth century.


Professor Luuk van der Wielen, Director of the Bernal Institute, expressed his delight at this breakthrough by Aimee and her team. “The Bernal Institute has the ambition to impact the world on the basis of top science in an increasingly international context. The impact of this discovery in the field of biological piezoelectricity will be huge and Bernal scientists are leading from the front the progress in this field,” he said.

Keep up-to-date with the latest news from around the county with an epaper subscription from €2.20*