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12-12-2013 | Portrait © Liisa Hirvisalo – Aalto University | Illustration © Jukka Pätynen – Aalto University

Sound advice: modelling music halls

Have you ever seen an engineer conducting an imaginary orchestra? We think of scientists working in a lab, but Professor Tapio Lokki, of the Aalto University School of Science in Finland, has spent the last few years visiting concert halls and making meticulous measurements of their characteristics. ‘Karaoke’ is Japanese for ‘empty orchestra’ – and in some ways that is what he has created to help his studies. The research could lead to improved building designs and a form of audio ‘Augmented Reality’ (AR).

29-11-2013 | Portrait: © Prof. Zoltan Takats, Imperial College, London | Illustration: © Imperial College/Youtube

A ‘smart’ knife to fight cancer, crime and contamination

Cancer is one of the most challenging medical issues we face. In the United Kingdom alone, there are 300,000 new cases every year – leading to almost two million surgical operations annually. Thanks to ERC funding, Dr Zoltán Takáts of Imperial College London has developed a ‘smart’ surgical knife that can ‘smell’ the tissues it is cutting through – with the potential to revolutionise cancer treatment, as well as food and drug analysis, and research into the human ‘microbiome’.

28-10-2013 | Portrait: © Bruno Siciliano, PRISMA Lab | Illustration: © Ciro Fusco, ANSA

From pizza maker to physiotherapist: Italian robot's promising skills

Why should people waste their time executing some repetitive time-consuming everyday tasks which do not require creativity and intellectual capacity? Such a reasoning stands behind Professor Bruno Siciliano’s ERC funded project aiming at the creation of a new generation of service robots.

27-09-2013 | Portrait: © Dr Gemma Solomon | Illustration: A schematic view of inelastic scattering in a molecular junction, an electron loses energy and heats the system while exciting a vibrational mode of the molecule, © Dr Gemma Solomon

Developing optimal thermoelectric materials

Molecular electronics has raised increasing interest in recent years, in particular the use of molecules as nano-electrical components for electronic, photovoltaic and thermoelectric devices. With her ERC Starting grant, Dr Gemma Solomon studies how molecules carrying current heat up and cool down, potentially paving the way to new frontiers in power-generating materials.

05-09-2013 | © picture

A brighter future? Anti-ageing treatment for solar panels

Solar power is potentially an almost limitless resource. The sun provides enough energy in one minute to supply the world’s energy needs for one year. But turning this resource into affordable electricity is difficult – silicon-based solar cells still suffer from a decline in their effectiveness over time. Through her ERC-funded SOLARX project, Professor Hele Savin, of Aalto University in Finland, is investigating a possible route to solving this problem.

03-09-2013 | Image: Flood in Tyrol, Austria © ASI / Land Tirol / B. H. Landeck

Understanding river floods and their causes

Major floods around the world have raised questions about the frequency and magnitude of such phenomena. Although changes in climate and land use are known to play a critical role in river floods, how they actually translate into considerable variations in intensity remains unknown. Prof. Günter Blöschl addresses this issue.

02-09-2013 | Illustration: © Shutterstock

Towards next generation e-voting

Providing new directions in the field of security, Dr. Feng Hao’s project aims to devise a secure and publicly verifiable system of e-voting - a “self enforcing e-voting system” - which does not rely on vote-tallying authorities. Awarded an ERC Starting grant in 2013, Dr. Hao is based at Newcastle University (UK).

27-08-2013 | Cells of coccolithophore genera Gephyrocapsa grown in laboratory culture

Marine algae reveal close link between past climate and CO2

The ocean is filled with microscopic algae that take up carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere in order to grow. A new study by researchers from the Geology Department at the University of Oviedo (Spain) shows that the algae may adapt to rising levels of atmospheric CO2 much sooner than previously thought, and in an unexpected way. This study, published today in Nature and co-authored by ERC grantee Heather Stoll, also provides evidence for a much closer link between atmospheric CO2 decrease and cooling and glaciations in the geological past.

16-05-2013 | © picture

Unbreakable materials on the horizon

Since Leonardo da Vinci, scientists and engineers have investigated how things break or irreversibly deform, with a view to discovering unbreakable materials. This issue is at the core of Stefano Zapperi’s research. In 2011, he received an ERC Advanced grant to explore the response of materials when they are exposed to an external driving force. The long-term outcomes of his research could contribute to enhancing the safety of materials and daily products.

24-04-2013 | An artist’s impression of the PSR J0348+0432 binary system. The pulsar is extremely compact, leading to a strong distortion of space-time (illustrated by the green mesh). The white-dwarf companion is shown in light-blue - ©J. Antoniadis/MPIfR

A heavyweight for Einstein: Probing gravity where no one has done it before

An international research team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR, Bonn, Germany) used a collection of large radio and optical telescopes to investigate a newly discovered pulsar, and its white dwarf companion. The observations revealed a system with unusual properties, which weighs twice as much as the Sun, making it the most massive neutron star to date. These findings partly result from the “BEACON” project led by ERC Starting grantee Dr Paulo Freire, and agree with Einstein’s theory on general relativity. They will be published in tomorrow’s issue of Science, April 26, 2013.