An EU-funded project to harness the Sun’s radiation to rid the oceans of plastic begins with a system developed at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. The new technology will be used to break down micro-plastics from personal care products and tested for implementation in homes and wastewater treatment plants. While exposure to sunlight can degrade plastics into harmless elements, it’s a slow process. In some cases, plastics can take several years to decompose. Joydeep Dutta, chair of the Functional Materials division at KTH, says this system will speed up that process by making more efficient use of available visible light and ultraviolet rays from the Sun. The system involves coatings with material made of nano-sized semiconductors that initiate and speed up a natural process called photocatalytic oxidation, Dutta adds. In a test household, these nanomaterial-coated filter systems will be placed at the exit of wastewater from homes. Similarly, in wastewater treatment plants, these devices will be used to initiate micro-plastics degradation after classical treatments are completed. Nearly every beach worldwide is reported to be contaminated by micro-plastics, according to the Norwegian Institute for Water Research. Along with contamination, marine life can ingest these plastics, which also adsorb pollutants such as DDT and PCB. Dutta says: “These plastics will start accumulating in the food chain, transferring from species to species, with direct adverse consequences to human population.” He added: “Tackling plastic pollution at its source is the most effective way to reduce marine litter.” The project, titled Cleaning Litter by Developing and Applying Innovative Methods in European Seas (CLAIM), will also deploy floating booms at river mouths in Europe to collect visible plastic waste; and along ferry routes in Denmark, the Gulf of Lion and the Ligurian Sea. The post Project investigates ways to remove plastic in wastewater appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
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The European Commission has awarded the 2017 European Capital of Innovation (iCapital) prize of €1m to the French capital Paris. The iCapital award, granted under the EU’s research and innovation programme Horizon 2020, recognises Paris for its inclusive innovation strategy. Tallinn, Estonia, and Tel Aviv, Israel, were selected as runners-up and both received €100,000. The prize money will be used to scale up and further expand the cities’ innovation efforts. Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas announced the results, saying: “Cities are not defined by their size and population, but by the breadth of their vision and the power bestowed upon their citizens. Some cities are not afraid to experiment. They are not afraid to involve their citizens in developing and testing out new ideas. These are the cities that empower their citizens. Today we are here to acknowledge these cities.” Over the last decade, Paris has built more than 100,000 square metres of incubators and now hosts the world’s largest start-up campus. In addition, the city spends 5% of its budget on projects proposed and implemented by citizens. Thanks to this strategy, citizens and innovators from the private, non-profit and academic sectors have made Paris a true ‘FabCity’. Tallinn has been awarded for its initiative to act as a testing ground for potential breakthrough technologies. The Estonian capital fostered the use of self-driving cars, parcel delivery robots and ride-sharing, and has also implemented an innovative e-Residency system, which enables local citizens and businesses to work closely together with foreign entrepreneurs. Tel Aviv has set up a Smart City Urban Lab that links up innovative start-ups with leading technology companies to facilitate breakthrough innovations for solving urban challenges. Education being among Tel Aviv’s priorities, part of the prize will be dedicated to strengthening the Smart Education Initiative, developed by the municipality in collaboration with teachers, parents, students and local tech start-ups. The post Paris named most innovative city 2017 appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
2016 will remain as a landmark in the history of science and, even more so, in the physical sciences. Image showing a color-coded density map (red is for highest density, blue for the lowest) of a supercomputer simulation of massive black hole binaries in a gas-rich galactic nucleus (Mayer 2013). The position of the two black holes is indicated with white dots, and the bar indicates the distance scale (50 pc = about 170 light years). The lighter black hole M_2, still more than 100000 times heavier than the Sun, is sinking towards the center. The red clumps are dense Giant Molecular Clouds, which can weigh millions of solar masses and can deviate the black hole’s trajectory IT is the year in which the first direct detection of gravitational waves has been made, by a vast international consortium employing the advanced LIGO ground-based interferometer. The LISA Pathfinder space probe, designed to test the drag-free technology necessary for LISA, the future space-born gravitational wave detector planned by ESA with international patterns, has not only flown with success after being launched at the end of 2015, but has reported a performance greatly superior to the expectations, with noise level detection already of the order of what we will need for LISA. The ability to detect gravitational waves pushes our current technology to the limits in a number of areas, but opens the window to a completely new way of looking at the Universe. Until now astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology have been based on some form of electromagnetic information, coming from any of the known emitting sources in our cosmos, from individual stars to entire galaxies. Astronomers have created communities specialised in the detection, analysis and interpretation of photons received from such sources in diverse regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, from visible optical frequencies to radio, and to X-ray or gamma rays associated with the most violent phenomena of the Universe, such as quasars or supernovae explosions. But, from the early astronomers in the Egyptian or Sumerian ancient civilisations to the modern astronomers using the Hubble space telescope, the Chandra X-ray space telescope or the Very Large Telescope, our Universe has always been studied by means of electromagnetic signals. With gravitational waves we are really in front of a transformative step in the way we look at the sky. One of the many testable, and tested, predictions of our theory of gravity, General Relativity, gravitational waves will become our new tool to unveil the nature of the Universe, probing for the first time the fabric of space time.   The ultimate fate of stars What are the prime sources in this new era, those that replace, for importance, stars in conventional astronomy? The answer is binaries of compact objects resulting from the ultimate fate of stars. Among these, binaries of massive black holes living at the centre of galaxies are the loudest sources, giving the strongest and most easily detectable signals when LISA will be operative. The black holes in these binaries can weigh from just shy of a million solar masses to more than ten billion solar masses. Our Milky Way hosts a (single) black hole weighing a few million solar masses for example (Schodel et al. 2010). LISA will detect preferentially massive black hole mergers happening in the early stages of the Universe, ten or more billions of years before our time, when galaxies were still young and were often colliding against each other as the Universe was much denser than it is today. As a scientist I like to think I should understand as much as possible the tools I need to carry out my research and go after the most challenging problems. Modern astronomy has come about because we have first elaborated a beautiful, coherent theory of stellar structure and evolution. The stars have been astronomy’s prime tool. Without that, most of what we now know would have not been possible. Cosmology itself as a quantitative, verifiable science started in the 1920s because it was possible to measure distances of objects, such as galaxies, and this is also done using stars. Now the question is, in our time, do we understand the nature of our new sources, massive black hole binaries, in the same way as we understood stars in the late 1800s? The answer is no. But this is an exciting time to bring the knowledge of such objects to a new level.   When galaxies collide It all begins when two galaxies, each with their own massive black hole sitting at their centre, collide and then gradually merge into one single galaxy as their large halos of dark matter create a mutual irresistible gravitational pull. Massive black hole binaries are then thought to evolve across an enormous range of spatial scales. This was already clear at the time of the first major theoretical work on massive black hole binaries (Begelman, Blandford and Ress 1980, Nature). For typical massive black holes, weighing 10-100 million solar masses, the stage at which gravitational wave emission becomes the dominant mechanism to drain the orbital energy of the binary and bring it to coalescence is reached only when the two black holes reach a separation of a milliparsec. But they start their journey tens of thousands light years away, when they are still in the nuclei of their merging host galaxies. Ideas of the physical processes governing the evolution of the orbit of the pair of massive black holes have been around for a while, but modelling them correctly requires the use of complex computer models that solve the set of coupled partial differential equations for gravity, pressure forces and radiation to the very least. The early part of their journey, until they are well above a milliparsec scale, can be described by Newtonian equations, while the latter part needs the intervention of general relativistic calculations solving Einstein’s equation, or at least some approximation of the latter in the form of the so-called post-Newtonian expansion (Prieto et al. 2008). Calculations of this type require the use of supercomputers. Indeed solving even the simplest of these models requires so many operations that it would take a thousand years on a conventional notebook or workstation. A critical stage is when the two black holes become close enough to become mutually bound by gravity. At this point we can say that the binary has formed. Supercomputer calculations through the years have shown that in this phase the drag by the dense, cold interstellar gas in galactic nuclei, is the dominant process (Mayer et al. 2007; Chapon, Mayer et al. 2013). After the binary has formed the jury is still out on what is the main source of the drag, but it may well depend on the type of galaxy where the binary is evolving. If there is plenty of cold gas drawn down to the heart of the nucleus, which would torque the binary as long as there are asymmetries in its distribution, a process similar to planet migration (Mayer 2013). Alternatively, stars can ‘rob’ kinetic energy and angular momentum of the binary as a result of their gravitational pull when they fly close to it, and bring it to the gravitational wave regime (Milosavljevic and Merritt 2001; Khan et al. 2012; Vasiliev and Merritt 2014).   Galaxy merger Traditionally computer models that were able to describe the effect of encounters with stars were not able to model friction and torques by gas, nor was it possible to study the whole binary shrinking process from the galaxy merger state to when relativistic effects begin. Recently we have used some of the fastest supercomputers in the world, located in Switzerland, China and Germany, to carry out the first simulation that follows all the phases of the evolution of the binary, up to the point when gravitational wave radiation begins (Khan, Fiacconi, Mayer et al. 2016). We started from a galaxy merger extracted from a state-of-the-art simulation of galaxy formation, called ARGO (Feldmann & Mayer 2015), which was previously run on the PizDaint supercomputer in Switzerland. The result is unexpected; the two black holes, which weigh more than 100 million solar masses, fuse into one with a gravitational wave burst in less than 10 million years after the galaxy collision. We also demonstrate that the emitted waves fall into the LISA band before they coalesce. The timescale of the process is almost 100 times shorter than usually assumed to make forecasts for how many black hole merger events LISA should detect. This is exciting news, and it is also well understood; it is simply a consequence of the fact that galaxies were about 100 times denser than today several billion years ago whereby the key processes determining the shrinking of the binary all depend on density.   The power of machines Now the challenge ahead of us is mostly computational. This simulation is the first of his kind, and required more than a year of nearly continuous computing even as we harnessed the power of such big machines. But there is a catch. Even the best simulation programs we currently have cannot use even 10% of the total computing power of these supercomputers at once. Inefficient usage could get even more evident when the bigger and more powerful exascale supercomputers appear in a couple of years. Yet computer science offers us new techniques to improve the so-called ‘scalability’ of simulation codes, namely their ability to run in parallel on a large number of processing units, from traditional CPUs to Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). If we can advance our codes to approach 100% efficiency on the new supercomputers we could run tens of simulations in the same time we can currently run only one. This will be the way to provide the necessary theoretical support to produce realistic forecasts for LISA, and help with the interpretation of the data afterwards. We can envision a supercomputer entirely dedicated to black hole merger simulations, including those focusing on the final phase of coalescence in full general relativity. This may seem ambitious but it may be the only way to go. The parameter space is huge and has to be explored with an ambitious simulation campaign. Supercomputers dedicated to very important tasks, such as weather forecasting, already exist.   A point in history The endeavour of looking at the Universe through the new window of gravitational waves might be a revolutionary step in Mankind’s knowledge; it might mark history as the first astronomical observations of Galileo, Kepler and Copernicus did five centuries before us. It definitely deserves an unprecedented effort in dedicating computational resources, and any kind of other necessary resources, to it. The post Dissecting the Universe appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
The PORTABLECRAC project develops environmentally friendly and economically beneficial technology to regenerate the activated carbon used in industry for water filtration. Its major focus will be on the adaptation of a compact device that will improve flexibility, and operational and investment costs with respect to existing equipment, assuring replicability and up-scaling the proposed solution. The chemical and water sector requires large amounts of activated carbon to remove contaminants from water, which is a valuable and limited resource. PORTABLECRAC proposes a sustainable and long-term solution whilst creating employment in the EU’s service sector. It also proposes a solution to water treatment with an 86% reduction in cost per kg/AC, and a fourfold reduction in CO₂ emissions. The consortium is composed of partner organisations from three different countries: CONTACTICA SL (project co-ordinator), ENVIROHEMP SL, Universidad de Alicante, and EMIVASA, Spain; GRADO ZERO INNOVATION SRL, Italy; and AGRI-PRO, Portugal; as well as RTD Research and Innovation and Universidad de Vigo. The post Project proposes solution to carbon regeneration appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
  Internet safety start-up Zeeko says more work is needed to understand virtual reality (VR) and has received €100,000 in funding to evaluate the effects it has on children’s health. Founded in 2013, Zeeko works with parents and children to promote a healthy balance for children using screen devices and the internet. The company, received the funding through the Horizon 2020 SME Innovation Associate Programme. Due to the affordable costs of VR hardware, the technology is “increasing in popularity” with children. Others have shown that VR can be employed to treat children’s emotional and relational problems such as depression and anxiety. Zeeko’s project will recruit a group of teachers, parents and children aged ten to 12 years through primary schools in Ireland to participate in an ethnographic study. The study will be carried out both in schools and home environments using techniques previously tested for the study of children’s use of digital devices. Children’s activities with VR will be video recorded in different everyday scenarios, such as lessons at school, completing homework and leisure time. The recordings will then be discussed with the children to explore their experiences. Parents and teachers will also be involved in group discussions and interviews to examine their opinions and concerns about the potential of VR as an educational tool. Marina Everri, head of research at Zeeko, said “very little is known” about the impact of VR on the body, cognition and social relations, especially during a child’s development. “More research, such as the research we are about to commence, is needed to understand the interplay of children’s individual characteristics, their relational and cultural context, and the opportunities and challenges offered by VR technology,” she added. The post Zeeko receives funds to study effects of VR on children appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
Hyperspectral imaging and sensing developer Spectral Engines Oy (Oulu, Finland) has received €2.4m in funding to develop a portable drug screening device. The money has been granted under the Horizon 2020 SME support instrument of the European Union for a project called NarcoScan. Earlier this year Spectral Engines won the EU Horizon Prize for developing Food Scanner, a novel spectral sensing platform that offers unique benefits in many applications such as food sensing and analysis. The NarcoScan device will operate on the same principles as the food scanner but will be optimised to identify drugs and be a re-usable pocket-sized instrument for the police. The scanner will be based on Spectral Engine’s sensor and cloud and device connectivity. The goal is to provide high measurement accuracy from low drug concentration and to produce a result within seconds. Spectral Engines’ technology platform can be utilised in a vast spectrum of products and applications ranging from smart agriculture to smart homes and smart industry. The SME Instrument provides funding for small and medium sized EU-based enterprises. By funding Spectral Engines’ latest project called NarcoScan with €2.4m, the EU recognises for the second time Spectral Engines’ position as a pioneer in the field of next-generation sensor technology. The post Spectral Engines to develop drug sensor appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
Scientists are working to develop new fleets of autonomous ‘self-optimising’ forklift trucks which will be able to operate alongside humans. The new development will mean that forklifts will operate safely and efficiently in warehouses alongside humans, and automatically adapt to changing work demands. The goal of the project, a multinational collaboration between robotics specialists in the UK, Sweden, Italy and Germany, is to enable the deployment of next-generation automated guided vehicles (AGVs) into current warehouse facilities to support tasks such as packing, palletising and transporting goods. The four-year project, called Intra-Logistics with Integrated Automatic Deployment (ILIAD), is funded with a major grant of €7m from the EU’s Horizon 2020 project. The consortium is led by Örebro University in Sweden, and includes University of Lincoln, UK, University of Pisa, Italy, and Leibniz University, Germany. Working with major industry partners such as Bosch, Kollmorgen Automation, ACT Operations Research, Logistic Engineering Services and Orkla Foods, ILIAD will deliver significant technological advances into a single integrated system ready for easy, low-cost development and without the need for major infrastructure investments. A key requirement is that each robot is ‘human aware’ – equipped with advanced computer vision and artificial intelligence to track and detect human behaviour and plan movements based on the machine’s own observations. Crucially, each vehicle will be self-optimising, learning from self-collected data over time, making the fleets fully scalable with the option of adding or removing robots at any time. Professor Tom Duckett, director of the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems (L-CAS) at University of Lincoln and a principal investigator on the ILIAD project, said: “Our goal is to deliver an economical, flexible robotic solution that can be easily deployed and integrated into current warehouse facilities and which guarantees efficient and safe operation in environments shared with humans.” They will also develop qualitative models for human-robot spatial interaction, systems architecture and systems integration. The work will include experimental testing at University of Lincoln. The post Autonomous forklift trucks to work with humans appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
Intelligent autopilot and cockpits designed by virtual reality could ease the burden on pilots and make flying safer for Europe’s airline passengers. Figures show that 918 million passengers travelled by air in the EU in 2015. Flight safety is a key priority and researchers have now developed a digital co-pilot that can help to analyse risks and offer in-flight advice to pilots, while also monitoring their stress levels and workload. A consortium of exerts from across the aerospace industry, including global giants Honeywell and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), teamed up with research institutions on the EU-funded A-PiMod project to look at how sophisticated software could relieve stress in the cockpit. The system makes recommendations based on the condition of the aircraft and the condition of the pilot. By measuring eye movements, gestures and inputs from the pilot, A-PiMod draws conclusions about their stress levels, and offers suggestions to the pilot which are adapted to the situation. The software cannot override the pilot’s decisions but can make suggestions about which tasks should be performed. Dr Helmut Tobben of DLR said: “The pilots who tested the system were worried about the data the system collects about the performance of the pilots and whether it would be passed on to the airline,” but he is hopeful that those issues will be resolved. Improved human-centred design is also at the heart of the EU-funded i-VISION project, which uses virtual reality technology to evaluate cockpit configuration. The concept stemmed from European aircraft manufacturer Airbus’s wish to explore new flexible and low-cost tools for designing and evaluating aircraft cockpits. Growing levels of new technology combined with new safety requirements and changing operational needs has meant the flight decks of airliners are becoming ever more complicated places for pilots. The post EU-funded project to create smart autopilot appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.
Engineering company Trelleborg’s engineered products operation has supplied a bespoke, flexible rubber membrane to WETFEET, a €3.46m research and development project. Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, the WETFEET project, which brought together 12 partners spanning six EU countries, aims to address several major constraints that have delayed the sector’s progress to date and develop innovative technology solutions for use in wave energy devices. José Cândido, head of economy and industry at WavEC Offshore Renewables, the company leading the project, said: “In recent years, wave energy research has revealed a number of challenges such as the reliability of technical components, high development costs and risks, as well as industrial scalability of proposed and tested technologies. “WETFEET was set up to address these issues and pull together a team focused on developing viable components, systems and processes to help fulfil wave energy’s potential.” The project has seen the development of a set of breakthrough technology solutions integrated into two wave energy converters, a floating oscillating water column and Symphony, a variable-volume submerged point-absorber. Jacco Vonk, marketing and business development manager for Trelleborg’s engineered products operation, says: “We have developed a bespoke flexible rubber membrane for Symphony to drive forward innovation in the wave power category. “Our polymer membrane technology ensures that the membrane not only acts as a seal to protect internal components from external water pressure, but as a bearing to prevent the hull and compensation tank from colliding. Both of which ensure a best-in-class submerged pressure differential device in a smaller geometry, helping to reduce concerns around the cost of Symphony’s development.” The post Trelleborg supports wave energy membrane tech appeared first on Horizon 2020 Projects.