Tagged: EPFL Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 9:11 am on June 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Lunar mission deep in Zermatt's ice", “We needed to be able to transport the materials and assemble the habitat quickly and work in temperatures of -4°C., EPFL, IGLUNA project, The mission: build and demonstrate a prototype lunar habitat in the ice that could one day support human life on the Moon., The students are also testing out the habitat and robots checking whether the plants grow and conducting scientific experiments., We opted for a brick structure that’s relatively easy to assemble. It took just three days to build.   

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne: “Lunar mission deep in Zermatt’s ice” 

    EPFL bloc

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

    26.06.19

    1
    Zermatt

    On 17 June, students from EPFL and 12 other European universities headed to Zermatt as part of the IGLUNA project.

    2
    Zofingia Bern

    Their mission? To build and demonstrate a prototype lunar habitat in the ice that could one day support human life on the Moon.

    Mankind first set foot on the Moon on 20 July 1969. Five decades on, thoughts have turned to establishing a permanent settlement there. Over 150 students have descended on the mountain village of Zermatt as part of IGLUNA, a project coordinated by EPFL’s Swiss Space Center under the European Space Agency’s ESA_Lab@ initiative. The multidisciplinary teams will all be working toward the same goal: building a “habitat in the ice” that might one day be deployed on the Moon.

    Supporting human life in an extreme environment is no easy task. The students spent the 2018/2019 academic year working on answers to some of the many challenging questions – both human and technological – that such an endeavor raises. How should the habitat be structured? Where will oxygen, food and power come from? How will settlers communicate and carry out research? What about their health and welfare?

    Destination: Zermatt

    The students headed to Zermatt in the Swiss Alps on 17 June for their field work. “The students are very much working as one team, sharing their modules and concepts,” says Tatiana Benavides, who leads the project at the Swiss Space Center. “Put it all together and you can see how people might one day live on the Moon.”

    The students’ work is on display in two separate locations: conceptual and design pieces at the Vernissage Art Gallery (Backstage Hotel), and scientific and technical pieces at the Glacier Palace – Klein Matterhorn. Both exhibitions are open to the public until 30 June. “As well as presenting their work, the students are also testing out the habitat and robots, checking whether the plants grow and conducting scientific experiments,” adds Benavides. “They may not be sleeping under the ice, but they’re operating in real-world conditions all the same.”

    EPFL shoots for the moon

    At EPFL, students from several schools have been busy working on the project since September. The team, led by architect and lecturer Pierre Zurbrügg, built an igloo-like habitat 15 meters below the surface of the Klein Matterhorn glacier, which stands 3,883 meters above sea level. The structure, made from load-bearing and insulating materials, was designed and built by students from the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC) as part of the “Living on Mars” teaching unit. “We had to factor in the practical constraints of the IGLUNA field site,” explains Zurbrügg. “For instance, we needed to be able to transport the materials, assemble the habitat quickly, and work in temperatures of -4°C. We opted for a brick structure that’s relatively easy to assemble. It took just three days to build.”

    What would life be like inside the habitat? “Our team thought long and hard about life support,” adds Zurbrügg. “Simply surviving isn’t enough. We needed somewhere people could actually live.” The students’ idea was to harness the metabolic processes of the people and plants inside the habitat to create a life cycle and keep waste to a minimum. They also produced a complete 3D model of their habitat, with computer-generated images and an interactive animation showing what different parts of the environment would look like.

    A team from GrowbotHub – a joint initiative between EPFL, UNIL and urban farming non-profit Légumes Perchés – designed a fully automated food production system for growing and harvesting fruit and vegetables in extreme conditions. “Our job is to assemble the structure and install the robot inside the habitat,” explains Victoria Letertre, a robotics student at EPFL who was involved in programming the robot. “The SWAG team from Zürich is responsible for the aeroponics systems, and for growing and tending to crops in the lunar environment.”

    The EPFL team considered various other aspects of life on the Moon. For instance, they used 3D laser shock peening – a technique developed at the Laboratory of Thermomechanical Metallurgy (LMTM) – to design a saw capable of cutting through the ice. In another collaboration, this time between the Swiss Space Center and EPFL’s Computer Vision Laboratory (CVLAB), cameras were installed to monitor human behavior inside the igloo. Motion-capture algorithms were used to analyze the footage and identify where habitat design and safety improvements could be made.

    An ongoing human and scientific endeavor

    “Our fascination with space comes from our natural curiosity and our desire to push the boundaries of human knowledge,” says Benavides. “Living on the Moon is an immense challenge. Yet the technologies that the students have developed could have applications here on Earth, too – in extreme environments or in the aftermath of natural disasters, for example.”

    As IGLUNA 2019 draws to a close, the Swiss Space Center is preparing to run the project again next year. “It’s been an incredible learning experience on both the human and technology fronts,” adds Benavides. “Some of the teams are planning to continue honing their prototypes next year. We’re also looking forward to receiving new proposals.” The IGLUNA 2020 call for proposals closes on 21 July 2019.

    “For me, IGLUNA is a dream come true. I never imagined I’d be working on a robot that could one day be sent to the Moon,” says Letertre. “And if an opportunity arose for me to go into space, I’d be there in a heartbeat!

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    EPFL campus

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university. It receives students, professors and staff from over 120 nationalities. With both a Swiss and international calling, it is therefore guided by a constant wish to open up; its missions of teaching, research and partnership impact various circles: universities and engineering schools, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and gymnasiums, industry and economy, political circles and the general public.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:44 pm on March 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How fluid viscosity affects earthquake intensity", , EPFL, Induced seismicity as opposed to natural seismicity where earthquakes occur without human intervention, , , Subsurface exploration projects such as geothermal power injection wells and mining all involve injecting pressurized fluids into fractures in the rock- Read: fracking   

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne: “How fluid viscosity affects earthquake intensity” 

    EPFL bloc

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

    3.22.19
    Sarah Perrin

    1
    A young researcher at EPFL has demonstrated that the viscosity of fluids present in faults has a direct effect on the force of earthquakes.

    Fault zones play a key role in shaping the deformation of the Earth’s crust. All of these zones contain fluids, which heavily influence how earthquakes propagate. In an article recently published in Nature Communications, Chiara Cornelio, a PhD student at EPFL’s Laboratory of Experimental Rock Mechanics (LEMR), shows how the viscosity of these fluids directly affects an earthquake’s intensity. After running a series of laboratory tests and simulations, Cornelio developed a physical model to accurately calculate variables such as how much energy an earthquake needs to propagate—and, therefore, its strength—according to the viscosity of subsurface fluids.

    The study formed part of wider research into geothermal energy projects which, like other underground activities, can trigger earthquakes – a process known as induced seismicity, as opposed to natural seismicity, where earthquakes occur without human intervention.

    “Subsurface exploration projects such as geothermal power, injection wells and mining all involve injecting pressurized fluids into fractures in the rock,” explains Cornelio. “Studies like this show how a better understanding of the properties and effects of fluids is vital to preventing or attenuating induced earthquakes. Companies should factor these properties into their thinking, rather than focusing solely on volume and pressure considerations.”

    Like soap

    Cornelio ran 36 experiments, simulating earthquakes of varying intensity, and propagating at different speeds, in granite or marble, with fluids of four different viscosities. Her findings demonstrated a clear correlation between fluid viscosity and earthquake intensity.

    “Imagine these fluids working like soap, reducing the friction between your hands when you wash them, or like the oil you spray on mechanical parts to get them moving again,” explains Marie Violay, an assistant professor and the head of the LEMR. “Moreover, naturally occurring earthquakes produce heat when the two plates rub together. That heat melts the rock, creating a lubricating film that causes the fault to slip even further. Our study also gives us a clearer picture of how that natural process works.”

    See the full article here .

    Earthquake Alert

    1

    Earthquake Alert

    Earthquake Network projectEarthquake Network is a research project which aims at developing and maintaining a crowdsourced smartphone-based earthquake warning system at a global level. Smartphones made available by the population are used to detect the earthquake waves using the on-board accelerometers. When an earthquake is detected, an earthquake warning is issued in order to alert the population not yet reached by the damaging waves of the earthquake.

    The project started on January 1, 2013 with the release of the homonymous Android application Earthquake Network. The author of the research project and developer of the smartphone application is Francesco Finazzi of the University of Bergamo, Italy.

    Get the app in the Google Play store.

    3
    Smartphone network spatial distribution (green and red dots) on December 4, 2015

    Meet The Quake-Catcher Network

    QCN bloc

    Quake-Catcher Network

    The Quake-Catcher Network is a collaborative initiative for developing the world’s largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers. With your help, the Quake-Catcher Network can provide better understanding of earthquakes, give early warning to schools, emergency response systems, and others. The Quake-Catcher Network also provides educational software designed to help teach about earthquakes and earthquake hazards.

    After almost eight years at Stanford, and a year at CalTech, the QCN project is moving to the University of Southern California Dept. of Earth Sciences. QCN will be sponsored by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) and the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC).

    The Quake-Catcher Network is a distributed computing network that links volunteer hosted computers into a real-time motion sensing network. QCN is one of many scientific computing projects that runs on the world-renowned distributed computing platform Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC).

    The volunteer computers monitor vibrational sensors called MEMS accelerometers, and digitally transmit “triggers” to QCN’s servers whenever strong new motions are observed. QCN’s servers sift through these signals, and determine which ones represent earthquakes, and which ones represent cultural noise (like doors slamming, or trucks driving by).

    There are two categories of sensors used by QCN: 1) internal mobile device sensors, and 2) external USB sensors.

    Mobile Devices: MEMS sensors are often included in laptops, games, cell phones, and other electronic devices for hardware protection, navigation, and game control. When these devices are still and connected to QCN, QCN software monitors the internal accelerometer for strong new shaking. Unfortunately, these devices are rarely secured to the floor, so they may bounce around when a large earthquake occurs. While this is less than ideal for characterizing the regional ground shaking, many such sensors can still provide useful information about earthquake locations and magnitudes.

    USB Sensors: MEMS sensors can be mounted to the floor and connected to a desktop computer via a USB cable. These sensors have several advantages over mobile device sensors. 1) By mounting them to the floor, they measure more reliable shaking than mobile devices. 2) These sensors typically have lower noise and better resolution of 3D motion. 3) Desktops are often left on and do not move. 4) The USB sensor is physically removed from the game, phone, or laptop, so human interaction with the device doesn’t reduce the sensors’ performance. 5) USB sensors can be aligned to North, so we know what direction the horizontal “X” and “Y” axes correspond to.

    If you are a science teacher at a K-12 school, please apply for a free USB sensor and accompanying QCN software. QCN has been able to purchase sensors to donate to schools in need. If you are interested in donating to the program or requesting a sensor, click here.

    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, developed at UC Berkeley.

    Earthquake safety is a responsibility shared by billions worldwide. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) provides software so that individuals can join together to improve earthquake monitoring, earthquake awareness, and the science of earthquakes. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) links existing networked laptops and desktops in hopes to form the worlds largest strong-motion seismic network.

    Below, the QCN Quake Catcher Network map
    QCN Quake Catcher Network map

    ShakeAlert: An Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast of the United States

    The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) along with a coalition of State and university partners is developing and testing an earthquake early warning (EEW) system called ShakeAlert for the west coast of the United States. Long term funding must be secured before the system can begin sending general public notifications, however, some limited pilot projects are active and more are being developed. The USGS has set the goal of beginning limited public notifications in 2018.

    Watch a video describing how ShakeAlert works in English or Spanish.

    The primary project partners include:

    United States Geological Survey
    California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES)
    California Geological Survey
    California Institute of Technology
    University of California Berkeley
    University of Washington
    University of Oregon
    Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

    The Earthquake Threat

    Earthquakes pose a national challenge because more than 143 million Americans live in areas of significant seismic risk across 39 states. Most of our Nation’s earthquake risk is concentrated on the West Coast of the United States. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has estimated the average annualized loss from earthquakes, nationwide, to be $5.3 billion, with 77 percent of that figure ($4.1 billion) coming from California, Washington, and Oregon, and 66 percent ($3.5 billion) from California alone. In the next 30 years, California has a 99.7 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake and the Pacific Northwest has a 10 percent chance of a magnitude 8 to 9 megathrust earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.

    Part of the Solution

    Today, the technology exists to detect earthquakes, so quickly, that an alert can reach some areas before strong shaking arrives. The purpose of the ShakeAlert system is to identify and characterize an earthquake a few seconds after it begins, calculate the likely intensity of ground shaking that will result, and deliver warnings to people and infrastructure in harm’s way. This can be done by detecting the first energy to radiate from an earthquake, the P-wave energy, which rarely causes damage. Using P-wave information, we first estimate the location and the magnitude of the earthquake. Then, the anticipated ground shaking across the region to be affected is estimated and a warning is provided to local populations. The method can provide warning before the S-wave arrives, bringing the strong shaking that usually causes most of the damage.

    Studies of earthquake early warning methods in California have shown that the warning time would range from a few seconds to a few tens of seconds. ShakeAlert can give enough time to slow trains and taxiing planes, to prevent cars from entering bridges and tunnels, to move away from dangerous machines or chemicals in work environments and to take cover under a desk, or to automatically shut down and isolate industrial systems. Taking such actions before shaking starts can reduce damage and casualties during an earthquake. It can also prevent cascading failures in the aftermath of an event. For example, isolating utilities before shaking starts can reduce the number of fire initiations.

    System Goal

    The USGS will issue public warnings of potentially damaging earthquakes and provide warning parameter data to government agencies and private users on a region-by-region basis, as soon as the ShakeAlert system, its products, and its parametric data meet minimum quality and reliability standards in those geographic regions. The USGS has set the goal of beginning limited public notifications in 2018. Product availability will expand geographically via ANSS regional seismic networks, such that ShakeAlert products and warnings become available for all regions with dense seismic instrumentation.

    Current Status

    The West Coast ShakeAlert system is being developed by expanding and upgrading the infrastructure of regional seismic networks that are part of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS); the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) is made up of the Southern California Seismic Network, SCSN) and the Northern California Seismic System, NCSS and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN). This enables the USGS and ANSS to leverage their substantial investment in sensor networks, data telemetry systems, data processing centers, and software for earthquake monitoring activities residing in these network centers. The ShakeAlert system has been sending live alerts to “beta” users in California since January of 2012 and in the Pacific Northwest since February of 2015.

    In February of 2016 the USGS, along with its partners, rolled-out the next-generation ShakeAlert early warning test system in California joined by Oregon and Washington in April 2017. This West Coast-wide “production prototype” has been designed for redundant, reliable operations. The system includes geographically distributed servers, and allows for automatic fail-over if connection is lost.

    This next-generation system will not yet support public warnings but does allow selected early adopters to develop and deploy pilot implementations that take protective actions triggered by the ShakeAlert notifications in areas with sufficient sensor coverage.

    Authorities

    The USGS will develop and operate the ShakeAlert system, and issue public notifications under collaborative authorities with FEMA, as part of the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, as enacted by the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7704 SEC. 2.

    For More Information

    Robert de Groot, ShakeAlert National Coordinator for Communication, Education, and Outreach
    rdegroot@usgs.gov
    626-583-7225

    Learn more about EEW Research

    ShakeAlert Fact Sheet

    ShakeAlert Implementation Plan

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    EPFL campus

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university. It receives students, professors and staff from over 120 nationalities. With both a Swiss and international calling, it is therefore guided by a constant wish to open up; its missions of teaching, research and partnership impact various circles: universities and engineering schools, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and gymnasiums, industry and economy, political circles and the general public.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:46 pm on October 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , EPFL, , , , Ultra-light gloves let users 'touch' virtual objects   

    From ETH Zürich: “Ultra-light gloves let users ‘touch’ virtual objects” 

    ETH Zurich bloc

    From ETH Zürich

    15.10.2018

    ETH Zürich
    Media relations
    Phone: +41 44 632 41 41
    mediarelations@hk.ethz.ch

    1
    For now the glove is powered by a very thin electrical cable, but thanks to the low voltage and power required, a very small battery could eventually be used instead. (Photograph: ETH Zürich)

    Scientists from ETH Zürich and EPFL have developed an ultra-light glove – weighing less than 8 grams – that enables users to feel and manipulate virtual objects. Their system provides extremely realistic haptic feedback and could run on a battery, allowing for unparalleled freedom of movement.

    Engineers and software developers around the world are seeking to create technology that lets users touch, grasp and manipulate virtual objects, while feeling like they are actually touching something in the real world. Scientists at ETH Zürich and EPFL have just made a major step toward this goal with their new haptic glove, which is not only lightweight – under 8 grams – but also provides feedback that is extremely realistic. The glove is able to generate up to 40 Newtons of holding force on each finger with just 200 Volts and only a few milliwatts of power. It also has the potential to run on a very small battery. That, together with the glove’s low form factor (only 2 mm thick), translates into an unprecedented level of precision and freedom of movement.

    “We wanted to develop a lightweight device that – unlike existing virtual-reality gloves – doesn’t require a bulky exoskeleton, pumps or very thick cables,” says Herbert Shea, head of EPFL’s Soft Transducers Laboratory (LMTS). The scientists’ glove, called DextrES, has been successfully tested on volunteers in Zürich and will be presented at the upcoming ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST).

    Fabric, metal strips and electricity

    DextrES is made of cotton with thin elastic metal strips running over the fingers. The strips are separated by a thin insulator. When the user’s fingers come into contact with a virtual object, the controller applies a voltage difference between the metal strips causing them to stick together via electrostatic attraction – this produces a braking force that blocks the finger’s or thumb’s movement. Once the voltage is removed, the metal strips glide smoothly and the user can once again move his fingers freely.

    Tricking your brain

    For now the glove is powered by a very thin electrical cable, but thanks to the low voltage and power required, a very small battery could eventually be used instead. “The system’s low power requirement is due to the fact that it doesn’t create a movement, but blocks one”, explains Shea. The researchers also need to conduct tests to see just how closely they have to simulate real conditions to give users a realistic experience. “The human sensory system is highly developed and highly complex. We have many different kinds of receptors at a very high density in the joints of our fingers and embedded in the skin. As a result, rendering realistic feedback when interacting with virtual objects is a very demanding problem and is currently unsolved. Our work goes one step in this direction, focusing particularly on kinesthetic feedback,” says Otmar Hilliges, head of the Advanced Interactive Technologies Lab at ETH Fabric, metal strips and electricity

    DextrES is made of cotton with thin elastic metal strips running over the fingers. The strips are separated by a thin insulator. When the user’s fingers come into contact with a virtual object, the controller applies a voltage difference between the metal strips causing them to stick together via electrostatic attraction – this produces a braking force that blocks the finger’s or thumb’s movement. Once the voltage is removed, the metal strips glide smoothly and the user can once again move his fingers freely.

    In this joint research project, the hardware was developed by EPFL at its Microcity campus in Neuchâtel, and the virtual reality system was created by ETH Zürich, which also carried out the user tests. “Our partnership with the EPFL lab is a very good match. It allows us to tackle some of the longstanding challenges in virtual reality at a pace and depth that would otherwise not be possible,” adds Hilliges.

    The next step will be to scale up the device and apply it to other parts of the body using conductive fabric. “Gamers are currently the biggest market, but there are many other potential applications – especially in healthcare, such as for training surgeons. The technology could also be applied in augmented reality,” says Shea..

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    ETH Zurich campus
    ETH Zürich is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. It is well known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for implementing its results directly into practice.

    Founded in 1855, ETH Zürich today has more than 18,500 students from over 110 countries, including 4,000 doctoral students. To researchers, it offers an inspiring working environment, to students, a comprehensive education.

    Twenty-one Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zürich, underlining the excellent reputation of the university.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on October 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , EPFL, , , Still a ways to go   

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne: “New tool helps scientists better target the search for alien life” 

    EPFL bloc

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

    1
    © iStock

    02.10.18
    Sarah Perrin

    An EPFL scientist has developed a novel approach that boosts the chances of finding extraterrestrial intelligence in our galaxy. His method uses probability theory to calculate the possibility of detecting an extraterrestrial signal (if there is one) at a given distance from Earth.

    Could there be another planet out there with a society at the same stage of technological advancement as ours? To help find out, EPFL scientist Claudio Grimaldi, working in association with the University of California, Berkeley, has developed a statistical model that gives researchers a new tool in the search for the kind of signals that an extraterrestrial society might emit. His method – described in an article appearing today in PNAS – could also make the search cheaper and more efficient.

    Astrophysics initially wasn’t Grimaldi’s thing; he was interested more in the physics of condensed matter. Working at EPFL’s Laboratory of Physics of Complex Matter, his research involved calculating the probabilities of carbon nanotubes exchanging electrons. But then he wondered: if the nanotubes were stars and the electrons were signals generated by extraterrestrial societies, could we calculate the probability of detecting those signals more accurately?

    This is not pie-in-the-sky research – scientists have been studying this possibility for nearly 60 years. Several research projects concerning the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) have been launched since the late 1950s, mainly in the United States.




    SETI@home, a BOINC project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley


    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA, Altitude 986 m (3,235 ft)


    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    The idea is that an advanced civilization on another planet could be generating electromagnetic signals, and scientists on Earth might be able to pick up those signals using the latest high-performance radio telescopes.

    Renewed interest

    Despite considerable advances in radio astronomy and the increase in computing power since then, none of those projects has led to anything concrete. Some signals have been recorded, like the Wow! signal in 1977, but scientists could not pinpoint their origin.

    Wow! signal

    And none of them has been repeated or seems credible enough to be attributable to alien life.

    But that doesn’t mean scientists have given up. On the contrary, SETI has seen renewed interest following the discovery of the many exoplanets orbiting the billions of suns in our
    galaxy. Researchers have designed sophisticated new instruments – like the Square Kilometre Array, a giant radio telescope being built in South Africa and Australia with a total collecting area of one square kilometer – that could pave the way to promising breakthroughs.

    And Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner recently announced an ambitious program called Breakthrough Listen, which aims to cover 10 times more sky than previous searches and scan a much wider band of frequencies. Milner intends to fund his initiative with 100 million dollars over 10 years.

    1

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA



    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA


    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia


    SKA Meerkat telescope, 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA

    “In reality, expanding the search to these magnitudes only increases our chances of finding something by very little. And if we still don’t detect any signals, we can’t necessarily conclude with much more certainty that there is no life out there,” says Grimaldi.

    Still a ways to go

    4
    Schematic view of the Milky Way showing six isotropic extraterrestrial emission processes forming spherical shells filled by radio signals. The outer radii of the spherical shells are proportional to the time at which the signals were first emitted, while the thicknesses are proportional to the duration of the emissions. In this example, the Earth is illuminated by one of these signals. ©Claudio Grimaldi.

    The advantage of Grimaldi’s statistical model is that it lets scientists interpret both the success and failure to detect signals at varying distances from the Earth. His model employs Bayes’ theorem to calculate the remaining probability of detecting a signal within a given radius around our planet. For example, even if no signal is detected within a radius of 1,000 light years, there is still an over 10% chance that the Earth is within range of hundreds of similar signals from elsewhere in the galaxy, but that our radio telescopes are currently not powerful enough to detect them. However, that probability rises to nearly 100% if even just one signal is detected within the 1,000-light-year radius. In that case, we could be almost certain that our galaxy is full of alien life.

    After factoring in other parameters like the size of the galaxy and how closely packed its stars are, Grimaldi estimates that the probability of detecting a signal becomes very slight only at a radius of 40,000 light years. In other words, if no signals are detected at this distance from the Earth, we could reasonably conclude that no other civilization at the same level of technological development as ours is detectable in the galaxy. But so far, scientists have been able to search for signals within a radius of “just” 40 light years.

    So there’s still a ways to go. Especially since these search methods can’t detect alien civilizations that may be in primordial stages or that are highly advanced but haven’t followed the same technological trajectory as ours.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    EPFL campus

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university. It receives students, professors and staff from over 120 nationalities. With both a Swiss and international calling, it is therefore guided by a constant wish to open up; its missions of teaching, research and partnership impact various circles: universities and engineering schools, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and gymnasiums, industry and economy, political circles and the general public.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:55 am on September 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , EPFL   

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne: “Artificial intelligence helps create at the right time” 

    EPFL bloc

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

    04.09.18
    Cécilia Carron

    1
    Ana Manasovska is working on improving the semantic recognition and recommendation platform for the inventors. © 2018 Alain Herzog

    Student project (9/9). By using artificial intelligence to comb through the vast array of published research and detect the findings most relevant for invention, engineers can magnify their creative ability and invent faster and more disruptively than has been previously possible. This is the approach that Ana Manasovska helped develop as a Master’s student at EPFL, and the one used by creative Artificial Intelligence firm Iprova, based at EPFL’s Innovation Park, to come up with a wide range of inventions. Manasovska, whose Master’s research involved testing different phrase recognition methods, now works for the firm.

    Inventions like sensors for self-driving cars that can monitor passengers’ health, a geolocation system that can help smooth out passenger traffic on public transportation, and a smartphone feature for virtually painting the light ambience of a room involve pulling together data from several research fields in an inventive way. The ever increasing amount of information in the world, spread across many different industries and markets, makes this an increasingly difficult task. To make it possible for inventors to sense the inventive signal in this ever increasing amount of noise, AI researchers and software developers at Iprova – the innovation creation firm that came up with the aforementioned inventions – have developed an artificial intelligence platform that includes sophisticated semantic analysis algorithms. Ana Manasovska helped create this program as part of her Master’s degree in computer science at EPFL, in association with the school’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. She now works for the company, which is based at EPFL’s Innovation Park, to further develop the software that makes it easier for engineers to invent faster and more disruptively..

    Millions of publications sifted

    Millions of research, industry news and other articles are published around the world every year. One part of Iprova’s artificial intelligence platform works by performing a semantic analysis of the terms in published articles. Manasovska’s thesis on summarization methods contributed to this by testing various phrase recognition methods, which she did by representing individual phrases as vectors. If two phrases have a close virtual spatial location, then their meanings are probably similar. This technique can be used to generate better summaries by measuring phrases’ semantic similarity.

    What Manasovska found when comparing the different methods is that the more complicated architectures weren’t necessarily better suited to this task. “Even with a simple architecture, we got excellent results in identifying phrases with similar meanings,” she says. “We also learned that the best way to generate the kinds of summaries that Iprova needs is to approach them from an inventor’s perspective. Most conventional summary-generation methods don’t do that, which is why we wanted to develop our own,” she adds.

    Today Manasovska is working on further improving the semantic recognition and recommendation platform. She works closely with inventors, aiming to find out what kind of data they need and how they plan to use it. She has developed programs allowing engineers to create inventions using input data that they wouldn’t have been able to easily get otherwise. An example of this is the linking of information from inventively relevant, but otherwise disparate, research fields that open up entirely new invention opportunities. “What I really like about my work is that it lets me stay on top of the latest developments in machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) – two fields that are advancing rapidly. I have the opportunity to use the latest technology and the power of data to help people spot relevant new findings more efficiently,” she says.

    “Traditional inventors were scientists or engineers with a deep understanding of a specific technical field. This only gave the inventor access to a limited amount of research insight. Even collaborative inventing through teamwork only provides insight into a handful of additional fields, since it’s just a team of specialists. With such approaches to invention, researchers can only dig deeper into specific areas rather than offering genuine innovation by taking the field in a different direction.

    Iprova does this on a massive scale – in real-time – by using data from across the spectrum of human knowledge to make connections between ideas from different fields of study.”says Julian Nolan, CEO of Iprova. The company is combining AI with a team of creative scientific minds – the invention developers – to accelerate the development of tomorrow’s products and services. Its customers include some of the best known technology companies in Silicon Valley, Japan and Europe. Hundreds of patents have been filed based on its inventions, which are cited by companies including Google, Microsoft and Amazon.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    EPFL campus

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university. It receives students, professors and staff from over 120 nationalities. With both a Swiss and international calling, it is therefore guided by a constant wish to open up; its missions of teaching, research and partnership impact various circles: universities and engineering schools, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and gymnasiums, industry and economy, political circles and the general public.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:26 am on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Avalanches, , EPFL   

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne: “The subtle mechanics of an avalanche – as seen in 3D” 

    EPFL bloc

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

    03.08.18
    Sarah Perrin


    Drawing on the fact that the snow in an avalanche can behave like both a solid and a fluid, a young researcher at EPFL and SLF has managed to simulate a snow slab avalanche with unrivaled precision.

    An avalanche is an extremely complex event, with countless parameters and physical variables coming into play from the time the avalanche is triggered until it ends. Johan Gaume, a researcher in the Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences (CRYOS) and SLF,* has created a highly accurate digital simulation of an avalanche based on these parameters. His work, which offers unprecedented insight into how avalanches work, could be used to improve risk management in the mountains. It was published today in Nature Communications.**

    The young avalanche expert spent several months last year at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) working with 3D modeling experts,*** some of whom had worked with Disney’s engineers to simulate the snow in the film Frozen.

    Combining these mathematicians’ know-how with Gaume’s scientific expertise turned out to be a winning formula. The mathematicians were able to increase the accuracy of their snow simulation thanks to Gaume’s in-depth knowledge and the data and field observations collected and analyzed by Alec Van Herwijnen, Gaume’s SLF colleague and co-author of the study.

    1
    Johan Gaume, avalanche expert at EPFL and SLF. ©A.Herzog/EPFL

    Adopting a whole new approach, the Swiss and US researchers created the first realistic, complete and scientifically rigorous simulation of a snow slab avalanche – a type of avalanche that occurs when a very clear linear crack appears at the top of the snowpack. This usually happens when, over a large area, there is a weak – and therefore not very cohesive – snowpack layer under the dense top layer of snow, known as the slab. Snow slab avalanches are hard to predict and often triggered by skiers or walkers, making them the most dangerous and the mostly deadly type of avalanche.

    Double agent

    “What made our approach so original was that we took account of the fact that the snow in that type of avalanche behaves like both a solid and a fluid,” explains Gaume.

    A snow slab avalanche is usually triggered when there is an extra load – such as a crossing skier – on the snow, or when the snowpack is destabilized in some other way, for instance by an explosion. This causes a crack to appear in the bottom layer of snow, which can spread rapidly. At this point, the snow is behaving in accordance with the principles of solid mechanics. As the crack spreads, the weak layer’s porous structure causes it to collapse under the weight of the surface slab. Because of its mass and the slope, the slab is then released and begins to slide across the weaker layer. The collisions, frictions and fractures that the solid snow experiences as the top layer slides downward and breaks apart lead to a collective behavior characteristic of a fluid.

    The researchers were able to simulate the collapse of the porous bottom layer for the first time at a large scale using a continuum approach. In addition, the model integrates only the relatively few key parameters that dictate how the snow will behave at the various stages of the process; these include the dynamics of the fracture, friction, and the level of compaction based on the type of snow.

    The researchers borrowed a technique known as the Material Point Method, which is used to analyze how moving materials behave yet had never before been applied in the study of avalanche release. It underpinned the researchers’ novel approach to predicting avalanches – and therefore preventing them more effectively as well. “In addition to deepening our knowledge of how snow behaves, this project could make it possible to assess the potential size of an avalanche, the runout distance and the pressure on any obstacles in the avalanche’s path more accurately,” says Gaume.

    The researcher’s simulations could also be applied in the arts – and especially in animated films.

    *CRYOS is run jointly by EPFL and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL). The Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) is part of WSL.

    *** Joseph Teran and Theodore Gast, UCLA Mathematics Department, and Chenfanfu Jiang, University of Pennsylvania.

    Science paper:
    Dynamic anticrack propagation in snow Nature Communications

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    EPFL campus

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university. It receives students, professors and staff from over 120 nationalities. With both a Swiss and international calling, it is therefore guided by a constant wish to open up; its missions of teaching, research and partnership impact various circles: universities and engineering schools, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and gymnasiums, industry and economy, political circles and the general public.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:01 am on March 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , EPFL, EPFL invests in quantum science and technology, EPFL’s Institute of Physics, , ,   

    From École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL: “EPFL invests in quantum science and technology” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    28.03.18
    Nik Papageorgiou

    1
    The IBM Q Experience running on a tablet at IBM Research. (credit: Connie Zhou for IBM).

    Having identified Quantum Science and Technology as a strategic research area to be developed and reinforced, EPFL’s Institute of Physics is plunging headlong into the field with two new research openings, a master’s course, and partnering with IBM and their cutting-edge quantum-computer platform.

    It seems that the future will involve disruptive technologies that rely on the “spooky world” of quantum mechanics. Harnessing the properties of the quantum world, the world is preparing to usher in technologies that seem to be the stuff of science fiction, such as light-based quantum communications, unbreakable quantum cryptography, and quantum computers that run a million times faster than today’s fastest supercomputers.

    Europe is already heavily invested in what has come to be abbreviated as “QST” – Quantum Science and Technology, with its FET Flagship on Quantum Technologies, while Switzerland runs its own, federally funded NCCR-QSIT project.

    Now, EPFL’s Institute of Physics (IPHYS) is reinforcing its own QST efforts, specifically in theoretical quantum science. The Institute recently made an open call for a faculty position in QST, with the selection committee now planning interviews to select one of the short-listed candidates in April. “A second call in QST is very high on our priority list,” says director of IPHYS Professor Harald Brune. “We will be proposing it as soon as possible.”

    In addition to its efforts in QST research, EPFL’s teaching in QST enjoys high visibility. Dr Marc-André Dupertuis, a researcher with two IPHYS labs, has been running a Master course in quantum optics and quantum information since 2013. The course came to life through the efforts of Dupertuis and his assistant Clément Javerzac-Galy, and represents a major commitment by EPFL to establish itself as a leader in the future of QST.

    This view is apparently shared by IBM, an industry pioneer in the field. In 2016, the tech giant launched “the IBM Quantum Experience (QX)”, a cloud-based platform on which students and researchers can learn, research, and interact with a real quantum computer housed in an IBM Research lab through a simple Internet connection and a browser. In 2017, IBM chose EPFL alongside MIT and the University of Waterloo to be one of the first institutions in the world to use its quantum computer for teaching.

    As part of the QST teaching initiative, IBM made the QX platform available to Master students taking Dupertuis’ course. “We are using the IBM Q Experience in the framework of our quantum information class,” says Clément Javerzac-Galy. “It’s fascinating for the students to be the first generation to use a quantum machine and it’s a tremendous tool to speed up the learning curve in quantum information. Things you could previously only theorize about, you can now practice on a real machine.”

    Recognizing EPFL’s effort in QST teaching, IBM also marked the event with a lengthy tweet. “This shows that EPFL is already a top institution in the world for what concerns teaching in this domain,” says Harald Brune. Today, the QX community spans nearly 80,000 users running 3 million quantum experiments and more than 35 third-party research publications, while users can compete for three different awards.

    “This year we will be in the privileged to be able to calculate with 20 quantum bits as opposed to 5 last year,” says Marc-André Dupertuis. “Plus, this year the QX community expects to pass the ‘Quantum supremacy’ limit of quantum computing. A quantum computer will have obtained for the first time at least one result that would have been unthinkable to calculate with any existing conventional supercomputer.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    EPFL campus

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university with students, professors and staff from over 120 nations. A dynamic environment, open to Switzerland and the world, EPFL is centered on its three missions: teaching, research and technology transfer. EPFL works together with an extensive network of partners including other universities and institutes of technology, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and colleges, industry and economy, political circles and the general public, to bring about real impact for society.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:04 am on January 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Blue Brain Nexus, , , EPFL   

    From EPFL: “Blue Brain Nexus: an open-source tool for data-driven science” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

    11.01.18
    BBP communications

    1
    © iStockphotos

    Knowledge sharing is an important driving force behind scientific progress. In an open-science approach, EPFL’s Blue Brain Project has created and open sourced Blue Brain Nexus that allows the building of data integration platforms. Blue Brain Nexus enables data-driven science through searching, integrating and tracking large-scale data and models.

    EPFL’s Blue Brain Project today announces the release of its open source software project ‘Blue Brain Nexus’, designed to enable the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) data management principles for the Neuroscience and broader scientific community. It is part of EPFL’s open-science initiative, which seeks to maximize the reach and impact of research conducted at the school.

    The aim of the Blue Brain Project is to build accurate, biologically detailed, digital reconstructions and simulations of the rodent brain and, ultimately the human brain. Blue Brain Nexus is instrumental in supporting all stages of Blue Brain’s data-driven modelling cycle including, but not limited to experimental data, single cell models, circuits, simulations and validations. The brain is a complex multi-level system and is one of the biggest ‘Big Data’ problems we have today. Therefore, Blue Brain Nexus has been built to organize, store and process exceptionally large volumes of data and support usage by a broad number of users.

    At the heart of Blue Brain Nexus is the Knowledge Graph, which acts as a data repository and metadata catalogue. It also remains agnostic of the domain to be represented by allowing users to design arbitrary domains, which enables other scientific initiatives (e.g. astronomy, medical research and agriculture) to reuse Blue Brain Nexus as the core of their data platforms. Blue Brain Nexus services are already being evaluated for integration into the Human Brain Project’s Neuroinformatics Platform.

    2
    Specific to enabling scientific progress, Blue Brain Nexus’s Knowledge Graph treats provenance as a first-class citizen, thus facilitating the tracking of the origin of data as well as how it is being used. This allow users to assess the quality of data, and consequently to enable them to build trust. Another key feature of Blue Brain Nexus is its semantic search capability, whereby search is integrated over data and its provenance to enable scientists to easily discover and access new relevant data.

    EPFL Professor Sean Hill commented: “We see that nearly all sciences are becoming data-driven. Blue Brain Nexus represents the culmination of many years of research into building a state-of-the-art semantic data management platform. We can’t wait to see what the community will do with Blue Brain Nexus.”

    Blue Brain Nexus is available under the Apache 2 license, at https://github.com/BlueBrain/nexus

    For more information, please contact:

    EPFL Communications, emmanuel.barraud@epfl.ch, +41 21 693 21 90

    Blue Brain Project communications, kate.mullins@epfl.ch, +41 21 695 51 41

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university. It receives students, professors and staff from over 120 nationalities. With both a Swiss and international calling, it is therefore guided by a constant wish to open up; its missions of teaching, research and partnership impact various circles: universities and engineering schools, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and gymnasiums, industry and economy, political circles and the general public.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:23 pm on January 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , EPFL, , , , , Standardizing perovskite aging measurements   

    From EPFL: “Standardizing perovskite aging measurements” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

    01.01.18
    Nik Papageorgiou


    EPFL scientists have produced a data-driven proposal for standardizing the measurements of perovskite solar cell stability and degradation. Published in Nature Energy, the work aims to create consensus in the field and overcome one of the major hurdles on the way to commercializing perovskite photovoltaics.

    1
    Perovskite (pronunciation: /pəˈrɒvskaɪt/) is a calcium titanium oxide mineral composed of calcium titanate (CaTiO3). It lends its name to the class of compounds which have the same type of crystal structure as CaTiO3 (XIIA2+VIB4+X2−3), known as the perovskite structure. Many different cations can be embedded in this structure, allowing for the development of diverse engineered materials.
    The mineral was discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia by Gustav Rose in 1839 and is named after Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski (1792–1856). Perovskite’s notable crystal structure was first described by Victor Goldschmidt in 1926, in his work on tolerance factors. The crystal structure was later published in 1945 from X-ray diffraction data on barium titanate by Helen Dick Megaw. Wikipedia.

    2
    A schematic of a perovskite crystal structure. Clean Energy Institute – University of Washington

    Perovskite solar cells are an alternative to conventional silicon solar cells, and are poised to overtake the market with their high power-conversion efficiencies (over 22% now) and lower capital expenditure and manufacturing costs. But one of the greatest obstacles on this road is stability: to be commercially viable, perovskite solar cells must also be able to maintain their efficiency over time, meaning that they must not degrade significantly over 25 years of service.

    “As a first-order approximation, we are talking about stabilities of several years for the most stable perovskite solar cells,” says Konrad Domanksi, first author on the paper. “We still need an increase of an order of magnitude to reach the stabilities of silicon cells.”

    While research efforts are continuously made to improve perovskite stability, the community is hamstrung by the fact that there are no general standards by which scientists can measure the stability of perovskite solar cells. Consequently, the results coming in from different laboratories and companies cannot be easily compared to each other. And even though dedicated stability measurement standards have been developed for other photovoltaic technologies, they have to be adapted for perovskite solar cells, which show new types of behavior.

    Now, the labs of Michael Grätzel and Anders Hagfeldt at EPFL have carried out a study that proposes to standardize the measurements of perovskite solar cell stability across the entire field. The researchers investigated the effects of different environmental factors on the ageing of perovskite solar cells, looking at the impact of illumination (sunlight-level light), temperature, atmospheric, electrical load, and testing a systematic series of combinations of these.

    “We designed and built a dedicated system to carry out this study,” says Domanski. “It is state-of-the-art for measuring stability of solar cells – we can vary light intensity over samples and control temperature, atmosphere etc. We load the samples, program the experiments, and the data is plotted automatically.”

    The study shows how certain behaviors specific to perovskite solar cells can distort the results of experiments. For example, when the cells are left in the dark, they can recover some of the losses caused by illumination and “start fresh in the morning”. As solar cells naturally undergo day-night cycles, this has important implications on how we define that a solar cell degrades in the first place. It also changes our perception on the metrics used by industry to describe lifetime of solar cells.

    “The work can lay the foundations for standardizing perovskite solar cell ageing,” says Wolfgang Tress, last author on the paper. “The field can use it to develop objective and comparable stability metrics, just like stabilized power is now used as a standard tool for assessing power-conversion efficiency in perovskite solar cells. More importantly, systematically isolating specific degradation factors will help us better understand degradation of perovskite solar cells and improve their lifetimes.”

    “We are not trying to impose standards on the community,” says Domanski. “Rather, being on the forefront on perovskite solar cells and their stability research, we try to lead by example and stimulate the discussion on how these standards should look like. We strongly believe that specific protocols will be adopted by consensus, and that dedicated action groups involving a broad range of researchers will be formed for this purpose.”

    Funding

    Swiss National Science Foundation (FNS)
    King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST)

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university. It receives students, professors and staff from over 120 nationalities. With both a Swiss and international calling, it is therefore guided by a constant wish to open up; its missions of teaching, research and partnership impact various circles: universities and engineering schools, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and gymnasiums, industry and economy, political circles and the general public.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:01 pm on December 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , EPFL, , Using gold nanoparticles to destroy viruses   

    From EPFL: “Using gold nanoparticles to destroy viruses” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    18.12.17
    Clara Marc

    1
    © SUNMIL/EPFL – Cartoon depicting an imaginary attack of the nanoparticles to a virus leading to its loss of integrity.

    EPFL researchers have created nanoparticles that attract viruses and, using the pressure resulting from the binding process, destroy them. This revolutionary approach could lead to the development of broad-spectrum antiviral drugs.

    HIV, dengue, papillomavirus, herpes and Ebola – these are just some of the many viruses that kill millions of people every year, mostly children in developing countries. While drugs can be used against some viruses, there is currently no broad-spectrum treatment that is effective against several at the same time, in the same way that broad-spectrum antibiotics fight a range of bacteria. But researchers at EPFL’s Supramolecular Nano-Materials and Interfaces Laboratory – Constellium Chair (SUNMIL) have created gold nanoparticles for just this purpose, and their findings could lead to a broad-spectrum treatment. Once injected in the body, these nanoparticles imitate human cells and “trick” the viruses. When the viruses bind to them – in order to infect them – the nanoparticles use pressure produced locally by this link-up to “break” the viruses, rendering them innocuous. The results of this research have just been published in Nature Materials.

    Pressing need for a broad-spectrum treatment

    “Fortunately, we have drugs that are effective against some viruses, like HIV and hepatitis C,” says Francesco Stellacci, who runs SUNMIL, from the School of Engineering. “But these drugs work only on a specific virus.” Hence the need for broad-spectrum antiviral drugs. This would enable doctors to use a single drug to combat all viruses that are still deadly because no treatment currently exists. Such non-specific therapies are especially needed in countries – particularly in developing regions – where doctors do not have the tools they need to make accurate diagnoses. And broad-spectrum antiviral drugs would help curb the antimicrobial resistance resulting from the over-prescription of antibiotics. “Doctors often prescribe antibiotics in response to viral infections, since there is no other drug available. But antibiotics are only effective against bacteria, and this blanket use fosters the development of virus mutations and a build-up of resistance in humans,” says Stellacci.

    Tricky nanoparticles

    Until now, research into broad-spectrum virus treatments has only produced approaches that are toxic to humans or that work effectively in vitro – i.e., in the lab – but not in vivo. The EPFL researchers found a way around these problems by creating gold nanoparticles. They are harmless to humans, and they imitate human cell receptors – specifically the ones viruses seek for their own attachment to cells. Viruses infect human bodies by binding to replicating into cells. It is as if the nanoparticles work by tricking the viruses into thinking that they are invading a human cell. When they bind to the nanoparticles, the resulting pressure deforms the virus and opens it, rendering it harmless. Unlike other treatments, the use of pressure is non-toxic. “Viruses replicate within cells, and it is very difficult to find a chemical substance that attacks viruses without harming the host cells,” says Stellacci. “But until now, that’s been the only known approach attempted permanently damage viruses.” The method developed at SUNMIL is unique in that it achieves permanent damage to the viral integrity without damaging living cells.

    Encouraging results on several viruses

    Successful in vitro experiments have been conducted on cell cultures infected by herpes simplex virus, papillomavirus (which can lead to uterine cancer), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV, which can cause pneumonia), dengue virus and HIV (lentivirus). In other tests, mice infected by RSV were cured. For this project, the SUNMIL researchers teamed up with several other universities that contributed their expertise in nanomaterials and virology.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    EPFL campus

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university with students, professors and staff from over 120 nations. A dynamic environment, open to Switzerland and the world, EPFL is centered on its three missions: teaching, research and technology transfer. EPFL works together with an extensive network of partners including other universities and institutes of technology, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and colleges, industry and economy, political circles and the general public, to bring about real impact for society.

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel
%d bloggers like this: