A new £7.5m international research facility has been opened at Queen's University, Belfast.
The facility, called ANSIN, has been funded by the computer company Seagate Technology, which has provided £7.5m worth of equipment.
ANSIN is based in the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's.
Researchers will work on new advanced materials from the micron scale, about one fiftieth the width of a human hair, all the way down to layers of materials just a few atoms thick.
Professor Robert Bowman, director of Queen's Centre for Nanostructured Media, said that the work being carried out at ANSIN could result in major changes to people's lives.
"Twenty-five years ago," he said, "my music collection filled many shelves. Now I have 100 times more music and it fits in my pocket. By the end of the decade, people will have the ability to carry a vast digital library of text, images, music and HD movies with them in the same way."
He said that to make that possible would require revolutionary developments of advanced materials and their exploitation in as yet unimagined ways.
"This is all only possible by understanding and exploiting fundamental physics and materials science questions. This is what we are aiming to do at ANSIN."
Professor Bowman said that not only were Seagate supporting the first major project to be carried out at ANSIN, but the company also wanted to see other partners join ANSIN and use the equipment they had provided.
"We hope that new partners will bring their ideas into ANSIN," he said, "and that this will result in new inventions and improvements to existing products. We are confident that this new facility will encourage further investment by indigenous companies and multi-national corporates in Northern Ireland."
Seagate are also supporting a £1.7m collaborative research project at Queen's which is funding ten research posts at the university.
The company's vice-president of development, Dr Kenneth Allen, said the joint project with Queen's would not only contribute directly to Seagate's research and development learning but would also provide a flow of highly skilled engineers into local industry.
"ANSIN will initially be carrying out work for Seagate," Dr Allen said, "but in the long term, we hope that other companies will become involved, and that it will be a resource which will turn out to be to the long-term benefit of the Northern Ireland economy."