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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.
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.
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.
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.
Forget USA, Japan; the field of transparent electronics has put Portugal well and truly on the map thanks to Professor Elvira Fortunato and one of the largest grants awarded to a Portuguese scientist. The European Research Council grant contributed to the installation of the recently opened NOVA Nano-Fabrication Laboratory, of which Prof Fortunato is the Director.
Preventing excess waste is a challenge and the need to recycle and produce sustainable materials is increasing. ERC-funded project PARADIGM could influence the design of future plastic-like materials that would break down in the environment the way natural materials do. This innovative technology will also be used for body repair by creating materials that mimic our native tissues and organs.