news from the lab 2017

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Chemistry - Physics - 17.07.2017
Nanomaterial helps store solar energy: efficiently and inexpensively
Nanomaterial helps store solar energy: efficiently and inexpensively
Field trials show that new catalyst material for electrolysers is reliable Efficient storage technologies are necessary if solar and wind energy is to help satisfy increased energy demands. One important approach is storage in the form of hydrogen extracted from water using solar or wind energy. This process takes place in a so-called electrolyser.

Life Sciences - 13.07.2017
How social rank can trigger vulnerability to stress
How social rank can trigger vulnerability to stress
EPFL scientists have identified rank in social hierarchies as a major determining factor for vulnerability to chronic stress. They also show that energy metabolism in the brain is a predictive biomarker for social status as well as stress vulnerability and resilience. Stress is a major risk factor for a range of psychopathologies.

Health - Materials Science - 13.07.2017
Testing a soft artificial heart
Testing a soft artificial heart
ETH researchers from the Functional Materials Laboratory have developed a silicone heart that beats almost like a human heart.

Life Sciences - 12.07.2017
RNA Molecules Live Short Lives
RNA Molecules Live Short Lives
A research group at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, has developed a new method to measure the half-life of RNA molecules. The study revealed that commonly used methods provide distorted results and that RNA molecules live an average of only two minutes, ten times shorter than previously assumed.

Life Sciences - 12.07.2017
Obstacle course for caterpillars
Obstacle course for caterpillars
Spines and thorns keep hungry mammals at bay - or at least, that's the conventional wisdom. However, ETH researchers have now shown that spiky growths on plants make life difficult for caterpillars too. This finding could be important for crop breeding. "Caterpillars can occasionally be skewered by the spines," says Rupesh Kariyat, a scientist at ETH Zurich's Institute of Integrative Biology.

Life Sciences - 11.07.2017
Generous people live happier lives
Generous people live happier lives
What some have been aware of for a long time, others find hard to believe: Those who are concerned about the well-being of their fellow human beings are happier than those who focus only on their own advancement. Doing something nice for another person gives many people a pleasant feeling that behavioral economists call a warm glow .

Materials Science - Microtechnics - 10.07.2017
Magic off the cuff
Magic off the cuff
Moving things with a wave of the hand: thanks to Empa technology this dream could soon become real. A sensor made of piezo-resistive fibers integrated in a wristband measures wrist movements and converts them into electrical signals.

Electroengineering - Innovation - 07.07.2017
Detecting short circuits by going back in time
Detecting short circuits by going back in time
It took EPFL researchers only three minutes to detect and locate a short circuit triggered intentionally in the power grid serving Fribourg Canton.

Music - Computer Science - 06.07.2017
Artificial musician builds new melodies without music theory
Artificial musician builds new melodies without music theory
A deep-learning algorithm developed by EPFL scientists can generate melodies that imitate a given style of music.

Health - Life Sciences - 06.07.2017
How Cats and Cows Protect Farm Children from Asthma
How Cats and Cows Protect Farm Children from Asthma
More and more people suffer from allergies and asthma. In the past decades, these diseases have massively increased in industrialized countries. Today, about 30 percent of children have allergies - with the exception of farm children. Among farm children, the disease is increasing less dramatically than in the case of their friends who live in the same village, but not on a farm.

Environment - Materials Science - 05.07.2017
Concrete from wood
Concrete from wood
Researchers from the National Research Programme "Resource Wood" have developed a type of concrete that largely consists of wood. The building material offers the construction industry new possibilities and is based in large part on renewable resources. Houses can be made of wood, as they were in the past - or of concrete, as they are today.

Innovation - Agronomy / Food Science - 05.07.2017
Naturalness as a success factor
Naturalness as a success factor
'Naturalness' is a construct - but according to a new study from the ETH Consumer Behavior group, a product's success on the food market is primarily defined by whether or not consumers perceive it as natural. The increasingly artificial and virtual nature of everyday life has now achieved broad acceptance, and the benefits that technological development bring to everyone cannot be denied.

Health - Materials Science - 04.07.2017
Bandage with a voice
Bandage with a voice
A novel bandage alerts the nursing staff as soon as a wound starts healing badly. Sensors incorporated into the base material glow with a different intensity if the wound's pH level changes.

Life Sciences - 30.06.2017
Ancient Swiss Reptile Shows Its Bizarre Scale Armor for the First Time
Ancient Swiss Reptile Shows Its Bizarre Scale Armor for the First Time
About 20 centimeters in length, the Swiss reptile was small and juvenile, but its skin was already strongly armored with variously formed smooth, jagged or even thorny osteoderms. Its skeleton indicates a life on land, even though the animal was found together with fish and marine reptiles in the 241 million year old calcareous deposits of the Prosanto Formation near Ducanfurgga at an altitude of 2,740 meters south of Davos in the canton Grisons, Switzerland.

Innovation - 30.06.2017
An encryption system that hides your travel data from Uber
An encryption system that hides your travel data from Uber
Researchers from EPFL and UNILáhave developed an encryption protocol that can put drivers in touch with passengers while keeping their personal data secret.

Environment - Mathematics - 30.06.2017
Concurrent hot and dry summers more common in future
Concurrent hot and dry summers more common in future
In the past, climate scientists have tended to underestimate the risk of a co-occurrence of heatwave and drought.

Life Sciences - Health - 29.06.2017
Overactive Scavenger Cells May Cause Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's
Overactive Scavenger Cells May Cause Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s
Similar to other neurodegenerative disorders, Alzheimer's is a disease in which the cognitive abilities of afflicted persons continuously worsen. The reason is the increasing loss of synapses, the contact points of the neurons, in the brain. In the case of Alzheimer's, certain protein fragments, the β-amyloid peptides, are suspected of causing the death of neurons.

Physics - Mechanical Engineering - 28.06.2017
A levitated nanosphere as an ultra-sensitive sensor
A levitated nanosphere as an ultra-sensitive sensor
Sensitive sensors must be isolated from their environment as much as possible to avoid disturbances.

Life Sciences - 27.06.2017
How species arise: a mathematical answer
How species arise: a mathematical answer
Predicting when and how species arise is now possible with a new theoretical model using genome-wide data, developed by SIB and University of Bern researcher Simon Aeschbacher and colleagues.

Physics - Pharmacology - 27.06.2017
Nano particles as food additives: improving risk assessment
Nano particles as food additives: improving risk assessment
The anticaking agent E551 silicon dioxide, or silica, has been used widely in the food industry over the past 50 years, and was long thought to be quite safe. Now, however, researchers working on the National Research Programme 'Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials' have discovered that these nanoparticles can affect the immune system of the digestive tract.
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