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  • richardmitnick 4:49 pm on February 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , EPFL, Switzerland Launches a National Center for Data Science   

    From EPFL: “Switzerland Launches a National Center for Data Science” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    06.02.17
    Floriane Jacquemet

    1
    Olivier Verscheure, executive director of SDSC. © Merlin photography ltd.

    Switzerland is creating a National Center for Data Science to foster innovation in data science, multidisciplinary research and open science. Today, the inauguration of the Swiss Data Science Center (SDSC) is taking place in Bern.

    Switzerland is launching a National Center for Data Science in order to innovate in the realm of data and computer science, and to provide an infrastructure for fostering multidisciplinary research and open science, with applications ranging from personalized health to environmental issues. It is a joint venture between EPFL and ETH Zürich with offices in both Lausanne and Zürich. The initiative will ensure that Switzerland possesses expertise and excellence in data science while striving to be globally competitive.

    A complex journey made simple

    Data science sits at the intersection of several academic disciplines including data management and engineering, statistics, machine learning, algorithms, optimization and visualization. It offers a new tool to social sciences, economics, medicine, environmental sciences, and others, by helping to understand and influence complex, real-world systems, and by providing insight into some of the most challenging problems of our time.

    For this reason, data science has become extremely important at the global level, with the majority of top-tier international research and teaching institutions investing significantly in dedicated centers and programs.

    The SDSC inauguration is taking place in Bern with opening remarks by ETH Zürich and EPFL presidents Lino Guzzella and Martin Vetterli, and keynote speaker Professor Jure Leskovec from Stanford University and Pinterest Chief Scientist.

    One of the main challenges in this field is to help data providers, computer scientists and domain experts speak the same language. “We depend on data scientists’ unique expertise to help us pull relevant insights from masses of data. The new data science center brings these experts together, offering an interdisciplinary platform that will also promote education and knowledge transfer,” says ETH Zürich President Lino Guzzella.

    Scientists at the SDSC will aim to provide sensible answers to everyday problems, with a particular focus on fields such as personalized health, environmental issues or today’s manufacturing challenges. The objective is to work on real-life applications, thus federating the various actors taking part in a data science project, and therefore bringing tangible results.

    The center will host a multi-disciplinary team of 30 to 40 data and computer scientists, and experts in select domains, with offices in Lausanne and Zürich.

    The Insights Factory, a one‐stop‐shop for field experts

    SDSC researchers will develop a cutting-edge, cloud-hosted analytics platform, the “Insights Factory”.

    It will be a true one-stop-shop for hosting, exploring and analyzing curated, calibrated and anonymized data. Its user-friendly tooling and services will also help with the adoption of Open Science, fostering research productivity and excellence.

    “This new platform is a fundamental step in the development of Open Science. Scientific knowledge sharing on a broad scale requires solid, trustworthy and regulated infrastructures. With this Center, Switzerland is providing itself with the resources that matches its ambitions,” comments Martin Vetterli, EPFL President.

    The online services of the SDSC will be backed by existing infrastructures of the ETH Domain (e.g. by leveraging resources at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre CSCS in Lugano), SWITCH (the technology and service platform for Swiss Universities), as well as those of cloud providers. The SDSC will operate as a cloud-computing provider.

    ______________________________________________________________
    A national initiative for Data Science

    18 months ago, the ETH Board launched the Initiative for Data Science in Switzerland to accelerate the adoption of data science through both an expansion of education and research, as well as the provision of infrastructure for data science users across disciplines.

    Data science is indeed a strategic field of research of the ETH Domain for the period 2017–2020, and the Initiative will ensure that the EPFs and Switzerland possess the necessary expertise and remain globally competitive.

    The initiative creates Master courses in data science at EPFL and ETH Zürich as of September 2017, as well as the Swiss Data Science Center (SDSC).
    ______________________________________________________________

    See the full article here .

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    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 3:42 pm on January 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: EPFL, The Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE)   

    From EPFL: “Around Antarctica: ACE expedition completed its first leg” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    20.01.17
    Sarah Perrin

    1
    Yesterday, the Akademik Treshnikov entered Hobart’s harbour in Australia, thus marking the end of leg 1. © D.Rod/EPFL

    The Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) arrived yesterday in Australia after 30 days at sea. The scientific expedition, launch by the Swiss Polar Institute, completed the first leg of its voyage around the southernmost continent. Here is a recap of the first leg of the trip and a look at what awaits researchers on the second leg, which gets under way this coming Sunday.

    The Akademik Treshnikov and its 120 passengers landed in Hobart on Thursday, 19 January after 30 days at sea. Dropping anchor in this Tasmanian city on the southern tip of Australia, the Russian ship completed the first of three legs of the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE). The ship heads back to sea on Sunday for the second leg of its voyage following a planned reshuffling among the researchers.

    Countless measurements were made during the first leg, including some in the ocean. For example, David Barnes, from Northumbria University in the UK, and his teammates took samples of coral, starfish, mollusks and other creatures from deep in the ocean – benthic organisms – in order to evaluate their capacity to capture and store CO2.

    2
    Sampling into the ocean brings back some strange organisms. ©F.Brucker, Parafilms/EPFL.

    Coming into contact with the local fauna

    Other researchers gathered samples from subantarctic islands, with teams going ashore Marion, Crozet and Kerguelen Islands. Steven Chown, from Monash University in Australia, and his team sought traces of non-native species of plants and insects, while Nerida Wilson, from the Western Australian Museum, and her colleague collected small insects and crustaceans to identify variations caused by climate change through a comparison of their genetic material. These islands are home to elephant seals, penguins, albatrosses and other animals, which were also observed by the scientists. Peter Ryan, from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, led a team whose research includes measuring the impact of microplastic pollution on fauna.

    4
    An elephant seal and penguins on Marion Island.©F.Brucker, Parafilms/EPFL.

    5
    Steven Chown’s team on its way to a sampling site on an island of Crozet archipelago. ©F.Brucker, Parafilms/EPFL.

    The ship also sailed close to Heard Island. Despite their scientific motives, the researchers on the Akademik Treshnikov were not authorized to set foot on this crucial nature reserve, which belongs to Australia. They were, however, able to admire it from afar and were also lucky enough to see it emerge from the thick clouds that cover it 90% of the time. The researchers were also treated to the spectacular Southern Lights for several evenings in a row.

    6
    Passengers gathering on the helideck for a rare sight: …

    7
    … Heard Island, slowly appearing through the clouds.©F.Brucker, Parafilms/EPFL.

    “The first leg of the expedition met all our expectations!” said Danièle Rod, the ACE program manager. “Some of the research teams, including the one working on plastics in the ocean and atmosphere, have already logged surprising measurements and data, which they’ll keep doing and verifying over the next two legs of the trip.”

    Headed for Chile

    After docking for three days and some festivities in Hobart, the ship will return to sea on Sunday. The second leg will take the researchers to Punta Arena, Chile. While most of the projects will proceed uninterrupted, with measurements and sampling taken regularly throughout the expedition, three projects will take place mainly during the second leg.

    Elizabeth Thomas, from British Antarctic Survey in the UK, will take advantage of stops on several subantarctic islands – Macquarie, Balleny, Scott, Peter I and Diego Ramirez – to take ice cores up to a depth of 20 meters. Traces of gas and other substances in these samples will provide a window into the long-ago climate and provide insight into how it has changed and how it may change further in the future.

    The ship’s only port of call on Antarctica proper – a visit to the Mertz Glacier – will also take place during this leg of the trip. That’s where Guillaume Massé, from Université Laval in Canada, and his team will get to work. Massé’s interest lies in seeing how an 80km-long iceberg, which calved off into the Southern Sea several years ago, has affected the local fauna and ecosystem. The researchers will send little remoted-operated vehicles (ROVs) under the ice to gather images and samples.

    Alessandro Toffoli, from the University of Melbourne in Australia, is actually hoping for rough seas. His project is focused on measuring waves – and the regions the ship will cross offer some of the largest on the planet – and studying how they interact with wind and ice. His goal is to better understand their impact on the environment of the continent’s islands and coasts.

    8
    The Akademic Treshnikov, foff the coast of Marion Island. ©F.Brucker, Parafilms/EPFL.

    ACE at a glance

    The Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition is the first project organized by the Swiss Polar Institute, which is based at EPFL. The expedition left Cape Town, South Africa, on 20 December for a planned three-month trip around Antarctica. The ship, which is an icebreaker dedicated to scientific research, will carry 55 researchers at a time during each of the three legs of the journey. They will run a total of 22 projects that revolve around measuring the impact of climate change on the earth’s poles, which are both a fragile and crucial part of our planet.

    The researchers hail from several disciplines, such as oceanography, climatology, biology and chemistry. Their topics include phytoplankton and their role in the carbon chain, the acoustic mapping of the whale population, chemical exchanges between the ocean and the atmosphere, changes in salt levels in seawater and microplastics in the Southern Ocean.

    Keep up with the ACE expedition on:

    the expedition’s website: http://spi-ace-expedition.ch/

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ACEexpedition/

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/ACE_Expedition

    Instagram: ace_expedition

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    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 8:58 am on December 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE), EPFL, Three months in the Antarctic to unlock the secrets of our climate   

    From EPFL: “Three months in the Antarctic to unlock the secrets of our climate” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    20.12.16
    Sarah Perrin

    1
    The Russian scientific vessel Akademik Treshnikov. ©AARI

    The Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE), the first project run by the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI), will set sail this evening from South Africa. The Akademik Treshnikov is a Russian research vessel that has been chartered for this expedition. It will carry nearly 60 researchers around the southernmost continent on a data-gathering voyage in a bold initiative to improve our understanding of the impact of climate change in the Southern Ocean. A new chair – the Ingvar Kamprad Chair of Extreme Environments – will also be made official today.

    The time has come. The Akademik Treshnikov will leave the port of Cape Town, South Africa today on the three-month Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE). The imposing Russian research ship will carry over 120 people: some 60 researchers from 30 different countries and about the same number of crew members. In addition to circumnavigating Antarctica, they will visit around twelve subantarctic islands.

    This is the first project put together by the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI). It was Frederik Paulsen, a businessman and major philanthropist, who came up with the idea. He is also providing the ACE expedition with logistical backing, drawing on his extensive experience in Arctic exploration. Additional support is being provided by Presence Switzerland, a unit of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

    The idea behind the ACE expedition is to measure and quantify the impact of environmental changes and pollution in the Southern Ocean. This region plays a key role in climate regulation: currents of icy water deep in the ocean travel from the poles toward the equator, while warm water and air move across the ocean’s surface towards the cold regions. The earth’s climate can thus be compared to a huge heat engine. This process of heat transfer between polar and tropical regions is also an important component of the carbon cycle and a key factor in the oceans’ ability to store CO2.

    “The poles are essential for climate balance, but they are also the regions where changes are most apparent: that’s where the largest temperature differences have been recorded,” said Philippe Gillet, vice president of EPFL, director ad interim of the SPI and a specialist in Earth and planetary science.

    From plankton to microplastics

    Twenty-two research projects will be run during this trip by teams from Switzerland, the UK, France and Australia, to name a few. The projects were selected by a panel of international experts following a call for proposals organized jointly by the polar institutes of eight countries: South Africa, France, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Norway, Russia and Switzerland.

    The projects cover a wide range of fields, including glaciology, climatology, biology and oceanography. The topics of study include wave formation, geographical variations in plankton populations, chemical exchanges between air and water, biodiversity on the islands, the ocean’s CO2 storage capacity, microplastic pollution and its impact on fauna, and an acoustic analysis of whale populations. This expedition will also build bridges between the various scientific fields. Not only will the researchers collaborate in their on-ship research, but they will build relationships that will set the stage for future collaborations at the international level.

    The first Maritime University successfully completed

    The ACE expedition was preceded by the ACE Maritime University. Fifty students studying marine and earth sciences at universities around the world took part. They boarded the Akademik Treshnikov on 19 November in Bremerhaven, in northern Germany, and reached Cape Town on 15 December. The young researchers took intensive theory-oriented classes and then engaged in hands-on practicals that taught them different sampling and analytical techniques and how to handle basic instruments. The students also used this opportunity to learn about their peers’ work in other fields.

    A chair for the study of extreme environments

    The SPI also has a new chair, which will be formalized today in Cape Town. The Ingvar Kamprad Chair of Extreme Environments will be supported by Ferring Pharmaceuticals and based at EPFL’s Valais-Wallis outpost in Sion. The new team will work in EPFL’s alpine and extreme environment research center. It will apply cutting-edge scientific and technological solutions to environmental challenges like climate change and global resource management. This approach will enhance Switzerland’s existing scientific, economic and diplomatic contribution to this effort.

    The research ship will hoist anchor at 4pm today, and is scheduled to return to Cape Town on 19 March 2017. An initial review of the expedition will be presented the following September at an international symposium to be held in Valais.

    Regular updates on the ACE expedition will be available here:
    http://spi-ace-expedition.ch/

    This website also provides a wide range of background information on the expedition, the projects, the researchers, the ship, etc.

    Press kit:
    Press release, project descriptions, FAQs, photos: http://bit.ly/ACEexpedition

    Contacts:

    • Philippe Gillet, director ad interim of the SPI

    philippe.gillet@epfl.ch
    +41 21 693 70 58

    • Sarah Perrin, press officer at EPFL’s Mediacom

    sarah.perrin@epfl.ch
    +41 21 693 21 07

    • Danièle Rod, Advisor to the EPFL Presidency in Cape Town, South Africa

    daniele.rod@epfl.ch
    +27 61 445 30 57

    • Helen Gallagher, Ferring Pharmaceuticals

    helen.gallagher@ferring.com
    +41 58 301 00 51

    The Swiss Polar Institute
    The Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) is an interdisciplinary center whose mission is to conduct research on the earth’s poles and other extreme environments. It was created in April 2016. The SPI is based at the Valais outpost of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL Valais-Wallis). It is a consortium of Swiss universities and was co-founded by EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), ETH Zurich, the University of Bern and Editions Paulsen.

    Ferring Pharmaceuticals
    Ferring Pharmaceuticals is a private, research-driven biopharmaceuticals company based in Switzerland. The company is devoted to identifying, developing and marketing innovative products in the fields of reproductive health, urology, gastroenterology, endocrinology and orthopaedics. Ferring has a strong international presence with operations in nearly 60 countries and treatments available in 110 countries. For more information: http://www.ferring.com.

    Presence Switzerland
    Presence Switzerland is the unit of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs responsible for promoting Switzerland’s image abroad and for implementing the Federal Council’s strategy on international communications. It will complement Switzerland’s technical role in the ACE project through scientific diplomacy, which will be particularly important in Antarctica. Its communication initiatives in the ACE project are grouped under the slogan “Science has no borders”. Presence Switzerland’s delegations in the expedition’s stopover countries will run public relations events and add their diplomatic support to the project.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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    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 1:53 pm on November 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , EPFL, , Ultra-high quality optical cavities   

    From EPFL: “Capturing an elusive spectrum of light” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    23.11.16
    Clément Christian Javerzac-Galy
    Nik Papageorgiou

    1
    A microresonator crystal used in this study © T.J. Kippenberg/EPFL

    Researchers led by EPFL have built ultra-high quality optical cavities for the elusive mid-infrared spectral region, paving the way for new chemical and biological sensors, as well as promising technologies.

    The mid-infrared spectral window, referred to as “molecular fingerprint region,” includes light wavelengths from 2.5 to 20 μm. It is a virtual goldmine for spectroscopy, chemical and biological sensing, materials science, and industry, as it is the range where many organic molecules can be detected. It also contains two ranges that allow transmission of signals through the atmosphere without distortion or loss. A way to harness the potential of the mid-infrared spectral window is to use optical cavities, which are micro-devices that confine light for extended amounts of time. However, such devices are currently unexplored due to technological challenges at this wavelength. Researchers led by EPFL have taken on this challenge and successfully shown that crystalline materials can be used to build ultra-high quality optical cavities for the mid-infrared spectral region, representing the highest value achieved for any type of mid-infrared resonator to date and setting a new record in the field. This unprecedented work is published in Nature Communications [see below].

    Caroline Lecaplain and Clément Javerzac-Galy from Tobias J. Kippenberg’s lab at EPFL led the research effort, together with colleagues from the Russian Quantum Center. To make these ultra-high quality microcavities, the scientists used alkaline earth metal fluoride crystals that they polished manually. They developed uncoated chalcogenide tapered fibers to efficiently couple mid-infrared light from a continuous wave Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) into their crystalline microcavities. Finally, cavity ring-down spectroscopy techniques enabled the team to unambiguously demonstrate ultra-high quality resonators deep in the mid-infrared spectral range.

    Equally important, the scientists also show that the quality factor of the microcavity is limited by multi-phonon absorption. This is a phenomenon in which phonons – quasiparticles made of energy and vibrations in the cavity’s crystal – simultaneously interact and disrupt light confinement.

    This work marks a milestone in the field of mid-infrared materials as it opens for the first time access to ultra-high resonators. It is a significant step toward a compact frequency-stabilized laser in the mid-infrared, which could have a major impact on applications such as molecular spectroscopy, chemical sensing and bio-detection.

    The work included contributions from the Lomonosov Moscow State University. The project was funded by the European Commission, the Swiss National Science Foundation and DARPA.

    Reference

    Lecaplain C, Javerzac-Galy C, Gorodetsky ML, Kippenberg TJ. Mid-infrared ultra-high-Q resonators based on fluoride crystalline materials. Nature Communications 21 November 2016.​ DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS13383

    See the full article here .

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    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 3:08 pm on August 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , EPFL,   

    From EPFL: “An effective and low-cost solution for storing solar energy” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    25.08.16
    Laure-Anne Pessina

    1
    An effective and low-cost solution for storing solar energy © Infini Lab / 2016 EPFL

    Solar energy can be stored by converting it into hydrogen. But current methods are too expensive and don’t last long. Using commercially available solar cells and none of the usual rare metals, researchers at EPFL and CSEM have now designed a device that outperforms in stability, efficiency and cost.

    How can we store solar energy for period when the sun doesn’t shine? One solution is to convert it into hydrogen through water electrolysis. The idea is to use the electrical current produced by a solar panel to ‘split’ water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Clean hydrogen can then be stored away for future use to produce electricity on demand, or even as a fuel.

    But this is where things get complicated. Even though different hydrogen-production technologies have given us promising results in the lab, they are still too unstable or expensive and need to be further developed to use on a commercial and large scale.

    The approach taken by EPFL and CSEM researchers is to combine components that have already proven effective in industry in order to develop a robust and effective system. Their prototype is made up of three interconnected, new-generation, crystalline silicon solar cells attached to an electrolysis system that does not rely on rare metals. The device is able to convert solar energy into hydrogen at a rate of 14.2%, and has already been run for more than 100 hours straight under test conditions. The method, which surpasses previous efforts in terms of stability, performance, lifespan and cost efficiency, is published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

    Enough to power a fuel cell car over 10,000km every year

    “A 12-14 m2 system installed in Switzerland would allow the generation and storage of enough hydrogen to power a fuel cell car over 10,000 km every year”, says Christophe Ballif, who co-authored the paper. In terms of performance, this is a world record for silicon solar cells and for hydrogen production without using rare metals. It also offers a high level of stability.

    High voltage cells have an edge

    The key here is making the most of existing components, and using a ‘hybrid’ type of crystalline-silicon solar cell based on heterojunction technology. The researchers’ sandwich structure – using layers of crystalline silicon and amorphous silicon – allows for higher voltages. And this means that just three of these cells, interconnected, can already generate an almost ideal voltage for electrolysis to occur. The electrochemical part of the process requires a catalyst made from nickel, which is widely available.

    “With conventional crystalline silicon cells, we would have to link up four cells to get the same voltage,” says co-author Miguel Modestino at EPFL.“So that’s the strength of this method.”

    A stable and economically viable method

    The new system is unique when it comes to cost, performance and lifespan. “We wanted to develop a high performance system that can work under current conditions,” says Jan-Willem Schüttauf, a researcher at CSEM and co-author of the paper. “The heterojunction cells that we use belong to the family of crystalline silicon cells, which alone account for about 90% of the solar panel market. It is a well-known and robust technology whose lifespan exceeds 25 years. And it also happens to cover the south side of the CSEM building in Neuchâtel.”

    The researchers used standard heterojunction cells to prove the concept; by using the best cells of that type, they would expect to achieve a performance above 16%.

    The research is part of the nano-tera SHINE project.

    See the full article here .

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    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 11:14 am on August 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A tiny wire with a memory to diagnose cancer, , Biomarkers, , EPFL,   

    From EPFL: “A tiny wire with a memory to diagnose cancer” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    17.08.16
    Laure-Anne Pessina

    1
    A nanowire can detect cancer © I2016 Thinkstock

    EPFL researchers have used a nanowire to detect prostate cancer with greater accuracy than ever before. Their device is ten times more sensitive than any other biosensor available.

    One indicator that a cancer has started to develop is the presence of biomarkers. These are molecules that are produced by the cancer and pass into the bloodstream.

    Researchers at EPFL’s Integrated Systems Laboratory (LSI/STI) have developed a new type of sensor that can detect tiny quantities of these markers and thus improve diagnostic accuracy. The sensor comes in the form of a tiny wire and is ten times more sensitive than any other biosensor ever realized. It is therefore capable of detecting cancer at a very early stage so that patients can receive better treatment. The researchers’ work has been published in Nano Letters.

    An electrical component with a memory

    When doctors suspect that a patient has cancer, they look for biomarkers in their body. But it’s not easy to detect these molecules in very small quantities – blood is a very dense fluid, full of molecules and cells that get in the way.

    EPFL researchers have managed to get around this obstacle by inventing a new detection technique. The trick is to trap the molecules of interest by the blood sample and then detect them in a dry environment, where measurements won’t be disturbed by all the molecules. To do this, the researchers used a Memristor – a new electrical component that can “remember” all the electrical currents that pass through it. The device has been successfully tested on the biomarker for prostate cancer, known as the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA).

    A nanowire, DNA fragments and an electric current

    To begin with, fragments of modified DNA are grafted onto a silicon nanowire. The DNA is used to trap the molecules. It is modified so that it traps only the biomarkers for prostate cancer.

    The wire is dipped into a cancer sample for close to an hour, giving the DNA time to get hold of the molecules. It is then dried and an electric charge is first sent through it. If there are molecules on the wire, they create resistance, which alters the wire’s conductivity in places. But this alone is not enough to accurately detect the biomarkers.

    It is only when the same charge is sent through the wire a second time in the opposite direction that the molecules can be properly detected. “If the wire had no memory, the two currents’ curves would be superimposed, which means there’s no memory effect,” said Sandro Carrara, from the Integrated Systems Lab.

    If the right biomarkers are trapped at the wire surface, then at the exact spot where the current reverse during the phases of sending charges into the wire, there will be a difference in the curve known as a voltage gap. It is this phenomenon that makes it possible to detect the biomarkers with so high sensitivity together with the use of modified DNA to trap the biomarkers.

    “It’s the first time a Memristor has been used to make such type of biosensor,” said Carrara.

    For now, the technique has only been used to detect biomarkers for prostate cancer. But it could be used for all types of markers. “We are also working with the Ludwig Institute and the CHUV hospital, which are providing us with samples and tumor extracts. Our next step is to use the same technique to detect breast cancer.”

    —–

    Project partners:

    Experimental Oncology Group, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (Lausanne)
    Senology Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, CHUV hospital (Lausanne)
    Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, University of Bath (United Kingdom)
    Department of Informatics and Microsystem Technology, University of Applied Sciences Kaiserslautern, Zweibrücken (Germany)

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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    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 8:02 am on July 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cybersecurity, EPFL   

    From EPFL: “More than two million dollars to rethink cybersecurity” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    28.07.16
    Lionel Pousaz

    1
    © thinkstock

    Cyberhaven is developing a new concept for information security. The EPFL spin-off is opening its second office in Boston and has raised more than 2 million dollars in venture capital.

    Is antivirus software already dead? That’s certainly what George Candea believes, and he’s not the only computer security expert who says so. “Large enterprises and government agencies often deploy antivirus software to satisfy legal obligations or to meet contractual requirements, not because they really believe that the software can defend them,” says George Candea. Together with some of his former PhD students, the EPFL professor founded Cyberhaven, a startup that is developing a brand new approach to computer security. And their results are promising. In a third party test, their solution warded off all 144 cyber attacks that had been hand-crafted by professional penetration testers, whereas so-called heuristic modern security products caught just over 20 of them. As for the best classical antivirus software tested, it only caught one. “I think it just got lucky!,” muses the researcher.

    Since it was founded in early 2015, Cyberhaven has had revenues of 640,000 dollars. This is encouraging for such a young company, and it enabled them to raise more than two million dollars in a first round of financing from Accomplice, one of the most active early-stage venture capital firms on the US East Coast. Cyberhaven will use the funds to set up its office in Boston and fuel the growth of its R&D team in Switzerland, at the EPFL Innovation Park.

    Cyberhaven’s solution is marketed mainly to enterprises and government agencies, which are all targets of sophisticated cyber attacks. Cyber criminals develop targeted malware that is unique to each of their attack campaigns. As a result, most of today’s security products are not effective against such new attacks. So organizations try to have defense perimeters within defense perimeters to build up so-called “defense in depth.“ “Information security officers eventually reach the point where their infrastructure is so complex that they simply cannot manage it anymore,” says George Candea.

    Defending “data in operation” against attack

    The team of EPFL researchers developed a completely novel approach to defend sensitive documents against cyber attacks in a way that significantly simplifies an organization’s security infrastructure. The approach complements what is perhaps the most effective security tool today, namely encryption – available in a wide variety of programs we use daily, including Microsoft Office.

    Alas, encrypting documents is not enough to safeguard them. When opening an encrypted file, such as a text document, the application must first decrypt it in order to operate on it. As a result, the document’s data is exposed. By exploiting vulnerabilities in applications like the Word text editor, malware hijacks them and steals all the documents that the application can access and decrypt. This is a real Achilles’ heel of enterprise security, and encryption cannot solve it.

    Cyberhaven’s solution safeguards sensitive documents together with the relevant applications in a safe haven. “Only documents that are safe for these applications can enter the safe haven, and that also protects the integrity of the applications. Our defense technology is based on deep application analysis and has nothing to do with heuristics-based solutions that try to guess malicious behavior. We literally analyze every instruction, we never guess.” Developing the technology took seven years of research at EPFL and is protected by four EPFL patents that have been licensed to Cyberhaven.

    Neutralize malware instead of trying to keep it out

    Unlike traditional defense techniques, Cyberhaven does not aim to keep all malware out of the enterprise but instead prevents it from acting. “Instead of building a fortress with many weak walls, we protect individual workflows that correspond to users’ activities, such as the preparation of a quarterly financial report or the negotiation of a new inter-governmental agreement. By combining document encryption with Cyberhaven, it will no longer be necessary to use dozens of different security products to protect yourself; this will make your security infrastructure simpler and stronger.”

    “Expanding into the USA enables us to continue growing in Switzerland”

    According to George Candea, fundamental academic research with novel perspectives is required to solve today’s computer security problems. “Sometimes the industry can be stuck in a rut, so I believe it is up to researchers to rethink the problems from the ground up and come up with solutions.” And, to fulfill their mission, this team of researchers is taking the execution of their vision in their own hands: Cyberhaven’s leadership is entirely composed of former PhD students from George Candea’s lab at EPFL.

    Cyberhaven now has eight full-time employees in Switzerland. One of the co-founders, Vova Kuznetsov, has taken over the reins and is setting up the company’s headquarters in Boston. “Switzerland has exceptional talent and quality infrastructure, but it is also a small market. By expanding into the US, we make it possible to grow our R&D in Switzerland, explains George Candea. And the US is not just a huge market, it is also an opportunity to compete with the very best, and that pushes us to become better.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    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 10:45 am on July 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , EPFL, Objects that sculpt light   

    From EPFL: “Objects that sculpt light” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    27.07.16
    Sarah Perrin

    1
    Caption inaccessible

    Researchers at EPFL have found a way to make images by controlling the reflections that are produced when light passes through a transparent object. This technology is now being marketed by the startup Rayform.

    When light shines on a plain, polished metal medallion, Vermeer’s famous painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” appears on a nearby wall; instead of abstract reflections, a bottle forms the Rayform logo; and lifting up a whiskey glass reveals the brand’s name on the tabletop. But none of these objects have been inlayed or imprinted in any way.

    It may seem like magic, but there is pure science behind this invention. The technology makes it possible to produce surprisingly clear and complex images on surrounding walls by illuminating transparent or reflective objects. It was developed at EPFL’s Computer Graphics and Geometry Laboratory, and a startup has been created as a result.

    Called Rayform, the startup offers its services primarily to manufacturers of luxury goods like watches, jewelry, perfume and spirits, as well as for preventing counterfeit products. The technology can be used with a wide range of materials, including metals like gold and aluminum, transparent plastics, glass and certain crystals such as sapphire. “We are currently working with a number of top brands,” reveals Romain Testuz, CEO of Rayform. “Several of them are, for instance, interested in making limited editions.”

    The technology being marketed by Rayform is based on an optical effect known as “caustics.” This is the technical term for a phenomenon with which we are all familiar. It occurs, for instance, when sunlight reflects off the surface of water producing ripples of light on the surrounding tiles or walls. These lines, which appear to be moving at random, are caused by the light hitting a puddle or a pool. When a liquid is involved, these reflections appear to move. But with smooth materials – like glass, Plexiglas and polished metals – a static version of the same effect is produced.

    Taming light
    Researchers at EPFL have now invented a series of algorithms to control these caustic effects, which occur when light interacts with a transparent or reflective surface like water, glass or metal. They have developed software that can accurately calculate the 3D surface needed to direct the light to specific points in order to create the desired image.

    “We calculate the distortions we need to make to the surface based on the image’s complexity and the surface type. We then license a 3D file to our client, which they can use to manufacture the product in question,” explains Romain Testuz. Going forward, the startup, which currently has a staff of three, plans to further refine the algorithms and apply the technology to other materials.

    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 4:59 am on July 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , EPFL, New remote-controlled microrobots for medical operations, Robots   

    From EPFL: “New remote-controlled microrobots for medical operations” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    22.07.16
    Laure-Anne Pessina

    1
    © reconfigurable microrobots/2016 EPFL/ ETHZ

    For the past few years, scientists around the world have been studying ways to use miniature robots to better treat a variety of diseases. The robots are designed to enter the human body, where they can deliver drugs at specific locations or perform precise operations like clearing clogged-up arteries. By replacing invasive, often complicated surgery, they could optimize medicine.

    EPFL scientist Selman Sakar teamed up with Hen-Wei Huang and Bradley Nelson at ETHZ to develop a simple and versatile method for building such bio-inspired robots and equipping them with advanced features. They also created a platform for testing several robot designs and studying different modes of locomotion. Their work, published in Nature Communications, produced complex reconfigurable microrobots that can be manufactured with high throughput. They built an integrated manipulation platform that can remotely control the robots’ mobility with electromagnetic fields, and cause them to shape-shift using heat.

    A robot that looks and moves like a bacterium

    Unlike conventional robots, these microrobots are soft, flexible, and motor-less. They are made of a biocompatible hydrogel and magnetic nanoparticles. These nanoparticles have two functions. They give the microrobots their shape during the manufacturing process, and make them move and swim when an electromagnetic field is applied.

    Building one of these microrobots involves several steps. First, the nanoparticles are placed inside layers of a biocompatible hydrogel. Then an electromagnetic field is applied to orientate the nanoparticles at different parts of the robot, followed by a polymerization step to “solidify” the hydrogel. After this, the robot is placed in water where it folds in specific ways depending on the orientation of the nanoparticles inside the gel, to form the final overall 3D architecture of the microrobot.

    Once the final shape is achieved, an electromagnetic field is used to make the robot swim. Then, when heated, the robot changes shape and “unfolds”. This fabrication approach allowed the researchers to build microrobots that mimic the bacterium that causes African trypanosomiasis, otherwise known as sleeping sickness. This particular bacterium uses a flagellum for propulsion, but hides it away once inside a person’s bloodstream as a survival mechanism.

    The researchers tested different microrobot designs to come up with one that imitates this behavior. The prototype robot presented in this work has a bacterium-like flagellum that enables it to swim. When heated with a laser, the flagellum wraps around the robot’s body and is “hidden”.

    A better understanding of how bacteria behave

    “We show that both a bacterium’s body and its flagellum play an important role in its movement,” said Sakar. “Our new production method lets us test an array of shapes and combinations to obtain the best motion capability for a given task. Our research also provides valuable insight into how bacteria move inside the human body and adapt to changes in their microenvironment.”

    For now, the microrobots are still in development. “There are many factors we have to take into account,” says Sakar. “For instance, we have to make sure that the microrobots won’t cause any side-effects in patients.”

    The other scientists involved in this work are Andrew Petruska and Salvador Pane.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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    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 7:03 am on July 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , EPFL, Plasma engines   

    From EPFL: “A plasma engine for exploring space” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    20.07.16
    Sarah Perrin

    1
    Plasma engine. NASA; stated as being author in image credit line at both PopSci and NASA website

    The machine starts up. A light gradually appears through the little window on top. As it gains in intensity, the light goes from a hazy, pale pink to purplish-blue. This is plasma, a substance that could be used in the future to control the movement of small satellites and space probes.

    This machine is part of Félicien Filleul’s Master’s project. A 26-year-old physics student at EPFL, Filleul also did a Minor in Space Technologies. Through this project, which he did at the Swiss Plasma Center in collaboration with the Space Engineering Center (eSpace), Filleul contributed to the effort to develop plasma-fueled satellite propulsion engines. Research on this groundbreaking technology has been ongoing for around 10 years.

    “Plasma engines could work really well with small satellites like Cubsats, which are sent into orbit without any way to control or adjust how they move,” said Filleul. So the objective is to develop a system of low-power but steady thrusters that are highly precise and consume little energy. Scientists could use them to maintain or correct the satellites’ orbit or orientation, or to set up a constellation of Cubsats, in which several of these small satellites are networked for the needs of individual missions.

    Particle soup

    “Plasma is perfect for this type of propulsion,” said Filleul. “We make it out of xenon gas, a single gram of which provides 10 times more acceleration than the same quantity of traditional fuels.”

    Plasma is neither solid, liquid nor gas – it is the fourth state of matter. While less familiar than the other three states of matter, plasma is used in everyday items such as neon signs and television screens. It is very common in the universe and can be found in the sun and other stars.

    Plasma is made by heating xenon in a vacuum at temperatures so high that the electrons are pulled out of their orbit around the nucleus. They come to form a ‘soup’ of highly charged particles. More plasma can be generated by sending a helicon-type electromagnetic wave – which spreads as it turns like a corkscrew – through the soup. Scientists can freely adjust the substance’s density by controlling the wave’s intensity.

    Heading for Mercury

    Filleul’s project focused on the antenna used to generate the helicon wave. The antenna, designed and developed at EPFL by the startup Helyssen, lends itself to plasma engines that are both small and light. And those are two major concerns in the area of space technology. “My job was to test the antenna with different densities and qualities of plasma, in order to find the ones that will work best in space,” said Filleul.

    But the fun doesn’t stop there for Filleul. Next year, he will work at the European Space Agency (ESA) on a plasma-propulsion system for the BepiColombo mission, which in 2018 will launch two probes headed for the planet Mercury.

    BepiColombo II preferred
    ESA/BepiColombo II

    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.

     
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