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29-11-2013 | Portrait: © Prof. Zoltan Takats, Imperial College, London | Illustration: © Imperial College/Youtube 3 mins read

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’.

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 3 mins read

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.

23-09-2013 | © picture 3 mins read

Silencing your inner voices

Hallucinations have been the seeds of inspiration of legendary filmmakers such as Luis Buñuel, Terry Gilliam or David Lynch. Auditory hallucinations are a major symptom of schizophrenia. These inner voices people hear in the absence of any external acoustic input can be very disruptive for health and for social life. Professor Kenneth Hugdahl, who holds an ERC Advanced grant, has developed an iPhone app to help patients to re-focus their attention. Based at the University of Bergen in Norway, he participates in the “Horizons for Social Sciences and Humanities” conference in Vilnius on 23 and 24 September 2013 and exposes the first results of his ERC project.

05-09-2013 | © picture 3 mins read

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.

16-05-2013 | © picture 3 mins read

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 3 mins read

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.

25-02-2013 | ©Andrzej Udalski 2 mins read

New frontiers in observational astronomy

As empirical experiments are almost impossible in astronomy, research in this field relies heavily on observation. Prof. Andrzej Udalski set new frontiers in observational astronomy, in particular in the search for extra-solar planets, using a cutting-edge gravitational microlensing technique which enables the study of celestial objects irrespective of the light they emit.

 

14-01-2013 | © Valeria Gazzola 3 mins read

Vicarious brain: In search of how your brain feels

Do you remember Dr. No, the first James Bond film? When the tarantula crawled on the hero’s chest, what did you see? The flickering of pixels on the screen? No, you most likely saw a scared secret agent with an itching chest that tries to kill a spider. Somehow your brain transformed the pixels into hidden states that are not visible to the eye, namely intentions and emotions.