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Will spacecraft follow a similar evolution to computers? While information processing in the last century was performed by large mainframe computers, today, networked smart phones dominate the market. In spacecraft engineering a similar paradigm shift is apparent: from traditional single, large, and multifunctional satellites towards groups of very small satellites that cooperate together. Professor Klaus Schilling, in his ERC project “NetSat”, addresses crucial challenges to enable small satellite formations to self-organise. This offers innovative application perspectives in areas like Earth observation, science exploration or telecommunications.
Epithelial tissues cover all body surfaces and line most of our organs, internal cavities and passageways, including the digestive tract. Prof. Elena Martínez is engineering intestinal epithelial tissues that mimic the physiological characteristics of human intestinal tissue with the aim of advancing the in vitro modelling of diseases, the preclinical screening for drug efficacy and toxicity, and the understanding of organ development.
Nature is a major source of inspiration for scientists. ERC grantee Giulia Lanzara is one of them. The unique sensing and shaping abilities of birds, dolphins and other living creatures inspired her to engineer novel multifunctional materials which could make a difference in a wide variety of industrial fields.
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.
Metal fatigue and ice-layer accumulation are challenges faced by the aviation industry and prove costly in terms of fuel waste. Sometimes nature can provide solutions to problems such as these. ERC grantee Nicola Pugno combines biological observations with nanotechnology to create some of the most remarkable materials in the world.
Prof. Nicolosi received a BSc with honors in Chemistry from the University of Catania, Italy, and Ph.D. in Physics from Trinity College Dublin. Today she is Professor of Nanomaterials & Advanced Microscopy at the School of Chemistry, Trinity College Dublin, and principal investigator at the Centers for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) and for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering (AMBER). Her interdisciplinary research focuses on low-dimensional nanomaterials, including graphene. She received three top-up ERC Proof of Concept grants to commercialize her findings.
Originally published in March 2017 as part of the multimedia campaign "ERC - 10 years – 10 portraits."
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.
How can we guarantee the integrity of existing buildings while continuing to develop urban spaces? Professor Debra Laefer's ERC-funded project tackles fundamental problems at the interface between new engineering undertakings and building conservation. The research team will draw on a largely unmined data source to create a system to predict the degree of damage likely to be sustained by buildings as a result of tunnelling.
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.