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Graphene is a one-atom-thick flat sheet formed by an array of six carbon atoms arranged in hexagons to form a honey-comb crystal lattice. It is the strongest and most conductive material in the world: just one square metre of material weighing only 0.77 mg could support a weight of 4 kg. It is a highly flexible, and chemically very stable, material. It could one day replace silicon, becoming the post-silicon material the electronics industry has been searching for. Using graphene instead of silicon would enable the packing of features more densely into circuits, for example.
Both tropical forests and areas with extensive forest coverage are fundamental in tackling the effects of climate change on Earth. However, the environmental importance of arid, semi-arid and dry-subhumid ecosystems – also referred to as drylands - is less well known. Drylands cover about 40% of the Earth's land surface and support 38% of human population. With his BIOCOM project Dr Fernando T. Maestre, a 2009 ERC Starting grantee from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (Spain), investigates the role of biodiversity in enhancing the ability of drylands to maintain essential functions. Some of these functions have the capacity to combat the consequences of climate change and desertification in drylands worldwide.
illustration © Semiarid landscape in Argentina - Juan Gaitán
The 22nd of March is UN World Water Day. Each year World Water Day highlights the importance of fresh water for global health: water's critical role in food security; its cultural role in shaping societies worldwide; the impact of natural disasters; the significance of clean water supplies in preventing the spread of diseases.
Caption: A young boy drinking the water of the Meghna River near Matlab (Bangladesh), a place where cholera is endemic©Photos by courtesy of Professor Andrea Rinaldo
Significant progress has been made in understanding breast tumour biology. However statistics indicate that the number of breast cancer patients and victims will continue to increase. Dr. Bentires-Alj, ERC Starting Grantee at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel, and his team are studying the roles of the still under-explored family of protein-tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs) in both normal breast development and cancers. In a recent study, published in Nature Medicine in March 2012, Dr Bentires-Alj's team have revealed the fundamental role of the protein phosphatase SHP2 in breast cancer proliferation, invasion and metastasis.
Nanotechnology — the science of making and manipulating the very small — has the potential to transform our lives. With the help of ERC funding, Dr Davide Iannuzzi is building microscopic moving parts on to the ends of optical fibres, leading to better instruments for observing and measuring at the nanoscale.
The genetic heredity a person is born with isn't as impossible to change as one might think. In a study published in Cell Metabolism on 7 March 2012 Juleen Zierath, an ERC Advanced grantee 2008, and her team of researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden showed that when healthy but inactive men and women are made to exercise it actually alters chemical marks on their DNA - in a matter of minutes.
During the economic crisis, these challenges have been made more arduous, as pressures to improve the short-term economic situation tend to put resource sustainability and the environment further down the political agenda.
The Sun provides a steady source of power that could make solar energy a sustainable alternative to conventional sources of energy, provided that technological advances can actually reduce energy production costs. Prof. Michael Grätzel modified the composition of dye-sensitized solar cells to significantly increase their efficiency, including for indoor use. His result laid the ground for paradigm shifts that could revolutionise solar cells technology.Portrait: © Alain Herzog / EPFL image: The Swiss Tech Convention Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, featuring a glass façade made of dye sensitized solar cells to provide electric power to the building, © Alain Herzog / EPFL
Toxic spills can be devastating to humans, animals and to the ecosystem The ERC-funded project CHOBOTIX has successfully created the first prototypes of chemical robots that could serve for "Intelligent Cleaning". These tiny robots could have applications in various fields, from seeking out a source of contamination and neutralise it in toxic waters to treating patients in a more efficient way by delivering them the exact amount of drug without dosing the whole body of patients.