news from the lab 2012


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Physics/Materials Science - Chemistry
22.11.2012
A Magic Formula to Predict Fracture in Steel
A Magic Formula to Predict Fracture in Steel
Researchers have elucidated a century-old mystery: how hydrogen destroys steels. A new mathematical model predicts this failure in the presence of the destructive atoms. A veritable gangrene for steels and other structural metals, hydrogen is one of the most important causes of ruptures in industrial parts, such as pipelines.
Earth Sciences - Medicine/Pharmacology
20.11.2012
Analyzing Lake Geneva from the air
Analyzing Lake Geneva from the air
One year after the MIR submersibles dove into the depths of Lake Geneva, the elemo program is delivering its first scientific results. The operation will be extended with a campaign to make observations above the lake surface from a sensor-packed ultralight aircraft. The same experiments are planned above Lake Baikal in Russia.
Computer Science/Telecom
19.11.2012
Software Enables Avatar to Reproduce Our Emotions in Real Time
Software Enables Avatar to Reproduce Our Emotions in Real Time
A virtual character produces the same facial expressions as its user. It makes a video game, chat, or an animated film both fun and fast.
Computer Science/Telecom - Psychology
16.11.2012
Tracking facial features to make driving safer
Tracking facial features to make driving safer
For those familiar with its language, the face reflects much about an individual's identity and emotional state. Scientists are developing a tool that will be able to use facial information to make the cars of the future safer and more comfortable. Today's "intelligent" cars, equipped with multiple sensors and algorithms, can react to emergency situations, regulate speed, assist with parking and respond to voice commands.
Physics/Materials Science - Microtechnics/Electroengineering
11.11.2012
Using rust and water to store solar energy as hydrogen
Using rust and water to store solar energy as hydrogen
Scientists are producing hydrogen from sunlight, water and rust. They're paving the way for an economic and ecological solution for storing renewable energy. How can solar energy be stored so that it can be available any time, day or night, when the sun shining or not? EPFL scientists are developing a technology that can transform light energy into a clean fuel that has a neutral carbon footprint: hydrogen.
Life Sciences
08.11.2012
Differentiating Groups of Flies with Fluorescence
Differentiating Groups of Flies with Fluorescence
FBI, a camera system to recognize the genetic identity of fruit flies and track their movements will revolutionize the study of their behavior. An article on this advance is being published today in PLOS ONE. A genuine star of the laboratory, for several decades now the fruit fly has been the model organism for research, particularly in the field of genetics and development.
Physics/Materials Science - Microtechnics/Electroengineering
07.11.2012
A Revolutionary Type of Gel
A Revolutionary Type of Gel
Controlling and modifying at will the transparency, electrical properties, and stiffness of a gel - such are the promises of a new discovery by physicists. This marks an important step for materials used in healthcare, high-tech, and the cosmetics industry. At the mention of gel, we immediately imagine extravagant hairstyles.
Architecture
05.11.2012
The historical value of pre-fabricated buildings
The historical value of pre-fabricated buildings
Is post-war industrial and pre-fab architecture worth preserving and renovating? To answer this question, architects conducted a three-year pioneering study into the restoration of modern buildings.
Medicine/Pharmacology - Life Sciences
02.11.2012
A new method for early cancer detection
A new method for early cancer detection
It may soon be possible to test a person for cancer with just a drop of their blood and a small machine. Scientists have developed a device for detecting the HSP70 protein, which is over-expressed in patients with many types of cancer. The objective: to make a diagnosis extremely early in the disease process, thereby improving outcomes for patients.
Business/Economics - Agronomy/Food Science
31.10.2012
An app to re-empower farmers
An app to re-empower farmers
A cell phone application enables Indian farmers to better negotiate the sale of their harvests. Farmbook is designed for use by this population segment, where illiteracy is very common.
Environment/Sustainable Development - Chemistry
26.10.2012
How do disinfectants kill viruses?
How do disinfectants kill viruses?
We use bleach, pasteurization, and UV radiation to purify water and food, without really understanding how they work. A laboratory has discovered the effect these common disinfectants have on viruses. Boiling water, chlorinating a swimming pool, bleaching your bathroom - everyone's familiar with common disinfection methods.
Microtechnics/Electroengineering - Environment/Sustainable Development
22.10.2012
Lower Costs Thanks to Smart Plugs
Lower Costs Thanks to Smart Plugs
Residents of a new eco-development on the coast can better control and understand their energy usage, thanks to a system that allows outlets to communicate with each other through the power grid.
Medicine/Pharmacology - Physics/Materials Science
17.10.2012
New Technique to Diagnose Hearing Loss
New Technique to Diagnose Hearing Loss
Researchers have developed an imaging technique that can provide in situ observations of the internal ear, an area which has until now been inaccessible. This groundbreaking work may finally make it possible to understand the mechanisms underlying hearing loss. What actually causes hearing loss in humans? And what are the best therapeutic approaches to this problem? Modern medicine hasn't yet been able to provide doctors with the right answers in many cases, because there has been no way to observe the tissue of the inner ear, without destroying it.
Earth Sciences
16.10.2012
X-rays provide insights into volcanic processes
X-rays provide insights into volcanic processes
Experiments investigate processes inside volcanic materials that determine whether a volcano will erupt violently or mildly. In the experiments, an international team of scientists used a laser-based heating system to heat small pieces of volcanic material similarly to conditions present at the beginning of a volcanic eruption.
Environment/Sustainable Development - Earth Sciences
08.10.2012
Humans influencing climate since over 2000 years
Humans influencing climate since over 2000 years
New data extracted from Greenland's glaciers show that methane in the atmosphere follows the waxing and waning of civilizations. Humans have been producing substantial amounts of greenhouse gases since long before the industrial revolution 2012. By studying the tiny amounts of gases trapped in air bubbles in Greenland's glaciers, researchers have been able to add details to an emerging picture of historical human induced environmental change that reaches as far back as the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty.
Computer Science/Telecom - Business/Economics
21.09.2012
Avoiding data jams
Avoiding data jams
In gigantic server farms around the world, billions of database entries are queried every second. Researchers have developed a system that drastically improves the circulation of this flow of information.
Medicine/Pharmacology - Chemistry
19.09.2012
1950s antibiotic to combat drug resistance
1950s antibiotic to combat drug resistance
EPFL researchers have opened the door to a new strategy to fight tuberculosis, the second leading cause of death from infectious disease after HIV. In a study published in EMBO Molecular Medicine on September 17th, EPFL professor Stewart Cole takes a hard look at the natural product pyridomycin, first reported in the 1950s, and determines exactly how it kills Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Environment/Sustainable Development - Earth Sciences
12.09.2012
The effects of droughts on mountain pastures
The effects of droughts on mountain pastures
Researchers simulate an arid climate using greenhouse tunnels to study the effects of increased dryness on forage grown on mountain pastures.
Physics/Materials Science - Chemistry
10.09.2012
Nano-velcro clasps heavy metal molecules in its grips
Nano-velcro clasps heavy metal molecules in its grips
Researchers develop nano-strips for inexpensive testing of mercury levels in our lakes and oceans with unprecedented sensitivity Mercury, when dumped in lakes and rivers, accumulates in fish, and often ends up on our plates. A Swiss-American team of researchers led by Francesco Stellacci at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Bartosz Grzybowski at Northwestern University has devised a simple, inexpensive system based on nanoparticles, a kind of nano-velcro, to detect and trap this toxic pollutant as well as others.
Mechanical Engineering/Mechanics - Earth Sciences
03.09.2012
Turbulence ahead
Turbulence ahead
Although the wind may blow smoothly onto a wind turbine, it comes out the other end shredded into a complex collage of whorls, large and small. In a wind farm, the turbulent wake generated by the first row of turbines drives the turbines in the next rows, which produce up to 40% less power and suffer more from bumpier winds.
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