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Over the past months, a sudden influx of ‘Pokémon Go’ players could be observed across the globe. Youngsters, people of all ages scrutinise their surroundings silently, using their smartphones to catch those digital creatures with unlikely names. How could such a phenomenon take over the world so fast? Part of the answer may be the game’s strong interaction with the real-world and its impressive mapping, offering a whole new virtual experience of spaces that seem to be familiar and yet so different.
Stronger than steel, conducting electricity better than copper and heat better than diamonds: these are some of the promises held by carbon nanomaterials. Although not as well-known as graphene, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) show these properties – offering also a great advantage: they can be produced in larger quantities. Prof. Michael De Volder now explores new ways to manufacture CNTs-based devices with optimal features, potentially opening the way to their broader commercial use.
The Earth is made of layers, just like a big onion, composed of different materials. However, the compounds forming these layers are not static, flowing from one stratum to another, following patterns still not entirely understood. Prof. Patrick Cordier tries to model the real conditions minerals are subjected to beneath the Earth’s crust. His aim is to understand the forces driving tectonic plates so we can better comprehend phenomena like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Researchers supported by the ERC have sampled magmatic gases derived from the Earth's mantle in the Eifel region in Germany. Their analysis of xenon, a rare and inert gas, sampled in bubbling mineral water could bring new insights into the origin of volatile elements, water and gases, that allowed life to develop on Earth.
Is a precise answer always better than a slightly less detailed one? Not necessarily. Some problems could take forever to compute and tie up vast IT capacity. Where solutions are needed urgently, e.g. in business or manufacturing, near-enough can be more than enough. ERC-funded research has produced a library of fast, powerful approximation algorithms.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Vaccination has achieved huge success in controlling many devastating infectious diseases. However, there are still many such diseases, or ‘pathogens’, against which we cannot generate life-long protective immunity. On the eve of Croatia’s accession to the EU, Professor Stipan Jonjic’s ERC-funded research into new vaccines to offer better protection– is already underway. Prof Jonjic is the first Croatian ERC grantee to base his project in Croatia.