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Humans have wondered at flight since primeval times. Yet despite almost two centuries of designing machines to fly, birds still do it better in many ways. Dr Shane Windsor, a lecturer in Aerodynamics at the University of Bristol, is looking at how birds control their flight in windy conditions with the aim to improve the engineering of small-scale unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) for use in and around urban areas.
When the engines of a plane rev up and we are momentarily plunged into our seats, chances are that propulsion is due to a gas turbine. Although these energy generators are fundamental to industry, especially to aeronautics, their production of harmful exhaust gases is a cause of concern. ERC grantee Aimee Morgans works on making gas turbines greener.
Emulsions play a key role both in natural and industrial processes, as they allow the combination of two liquids that do not normally mix and make the blend stable. Yet, when materials solidify or freeze, the complex interactions that take place and affect the final microstructure of the solidified components, are still poorly understood. ERC grantee Sylvain Deville and his team at CNRS have showed that it is possible to use an optical imaging technique to study the freezing of emulsions while the process takes place, a novel method presented in the prestigious journal Science.
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 inner core of our planet was discovered more than 65 years ago and since then Earth scientists have been investigating to understand more about its precise structure and geodynamic properties. Many fundamental questions still remain unanswered. Supported by the ERC, Dr Arwen Deuss has achieved some impressive results in this field.
Space exploration may one day reveal clues to the origin of the universe and life on Earth. In the meantime, scientific advances in the field have supported “space services” for everyday life such as weather forecasts and satellite navigation on our phones. With his ERC grant, space engineer Prof. Colin McInnes explored the mathematics of new families of orbits around the Earth for spacecraft, from micro-satellites to large solar sails. The objective was to map these orbits and to uncover potential applications for new space technologies in fields as diverse as space science, Earth observation and telecommunications.
A research background in earthquake engineering seems at first sight like an unusual fit with studying tsunamis. But on her return from Sri Lanka in the wake of the 2004 tsunami, Professor Tiziana Rossetto discovered that very little research had been done into the effects of tsunamis on coastal infrastructure and she wanted to find out more. She will be presenting this research to the public at the TEDx Brussels event on 1 December.
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.
The relationship between air temperature and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (pCO2) is a ‘hot’ topic for scientists – as it can help them understand both past and future climate change. Much of the evidence for past climate change is found in the geological record, where varying temperatures and pCO2 may be derived from a variety of isotopic and chemical signals recorded in fossils of past organisms. But how good are these records? Do they faithfully reflect past climates? Can scientists rely on empirical measurements without understanding the biological mechanisms that underpin them? This research will be highlighted during a session of the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting on Tuesday 4th December.