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Two volunteers are the first above-knee amputees in the world to feel their prosthetic foot and knee in real time. Their bionic prosthesis, developed by a European team of researchers, has sensors that connect to residual nerves in the thigh. The resulting neurofeedback reduces physical and mental strain for prosthesis users as well as their phantom limb pain. They can also walk faster and with more confidence. Researchers, partly supported by ERC funds, recently reported on their achievement in Nature Medicine.
ERC grantee Juergen Brugger and his team have developed biodegradable microresonators that can be heated locally with a wireless system. Doctors could soon be using them in implants to control the release of painkillers within tissue.By Laure-Anne Pessina - Originally published on the EPFL website
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.
What if a formation of wind turbines could learn to maximise airflows generated from the movement of other machines to improve their efficiency? What if planes could learn to fly to avoid turbulence? ERC grantee Philippe Chatelain uses artificial intelligence and solutions inspired by nature to answer these questions.
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.
How can we develop new materials that meet the extreme challenges of aerospace applications? Seizing the great potential of magnesium as a lightweight metal or making steels more resistant to failure and corrosion are two engineering challenges whose roots lie deep down at the atomic scale. Using models that bridge across scales from the atomic to the observable level, an ERC funded scientist investigates why materials behave and fail the way they do.
Spacecraft follow the same tendency as our computers to become continuously smaller, but more connected. In his ERC grant “NetSat”, Klaus Schilling, from the Zentrum für Telematik in Würzburg, studies control strategies for small pico-satellites in formation, in order to achieve the best performance through their cooperation.
The deep seafloor covers around 70% of our planet’s surface and is home to a diverse community of microorganisms, mostly bacteria. These single-cell life forms inhabit some of the most extreme places in the world, with freezing waters, permanent darkness, high pressure and little food. ERC grantee Antje Boetius studies these microbes in the abyss and their important role for the Earth’s nutrient cycles.
Honey bees are an important species for ecology and economy, but their population has shrank worryingly. Prof. Philipp Engel focuses on gut microbiota, a critical factor for bee health, to understand how it evolved and diversified over time. His study addresses timely questions about evolution, ecology, microbiology and could eventually contribute to new strategies for managing bee colonies’ health.
Bacteria fight big. When they meet competitors, they are as aggressive and bloodthirsty as they come. ERC grantee Kevin Foster studies how bacteria wage war against each other. His aim is to understand what led to the evolution of such extreme competitive behaviours, and how to exploit them for our own health.