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Our immune system recognizes and fights infections in a constantly changing environment, where new pathogenic threats emerge. At the crossroad between physics and biology, Prof. Aleksandra Walczak investigates the fascinating process that allows the immune system to be always ready to adapt and evolve to face new dangers.
“The internet of things” is said to be the next big frontier for technology firms. A variety of small devices are always on and always connected. These devices permeate our lives at an ever increasing rate, bringing with them a demand for new and innovative mobile energy sources. One of the most promising candidates is thermoelectric power; a technology that would allow us to harvest one of the most ubiquitous energy sources available to us, our body heat.
The EU-funded HYMAGINE project has combined conventional electronic transistors with new magnetism-based ‘spintronic’ devices to improve information processing speeds and reduce energy consumption.
In an early application of a new discovery in semiconductor physics, EU-funded researchers have developed a silicon infrared detector that is simpler and cheaper than conventional detectors. The ultimate goal is a silicon-based laser.
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.
Plants form a key interface between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere by exchanging carbon, water and energy with their environment. They also release chemicals called “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) in the atmosphere. However, the overall impact of these gas compounds is poorly understood. Ülo Niinemets and his team look at the role of plants in large-scale Earth processes and how they affect air quality and the Earth surface temperature, solar radiation and precipitation.