news 2020

Environment - Nov 26
Environment
Sprawling carpets of floating plants are the result of too many nutrients. However, they could become part of solution strategies, Eawag researchers show.
Earth Sciences - Nov 26
Earth Sciences

An international team of geologists, headed by members of the University of Bern, has shown for the first time that the Swiss Alps are being lifted faster than they are being lowered through erosion - and are thus growing even higher. To do this, the researchers quantified the erosion of the Alps with the help of isotopes measured in the sand of more than 350 rivers throughout the European Alps. These isotopes are formed by cosmic rays and bear information on the Earth's surface erosion.

Life Sciences - Nov 26

Scientists at EPFL and the Friedrich Miescher Institute have used cryo-electron microscopy to explain how a DNA-sensing biomolecule that is key to our innate immunity response is inactivated when it comes in contact with the cell's own DNA.

Life Sciences - Nov 26

How do molecules involved in activating our immune system discriminate between our own DNA and foreign pathogens? Researchers from the Thomä group, in collaboration with the EPFL, deciphered the structural and functional basis of a DNA-sensing molecule when it comes in contact with the cell's own DNA, providing crucial insights into the recognition of self vs. non-self DNA.

Earth Sciences - Nov 25
Earth Sciences

A team of international scientists has gained new insights into Earth's atmosphere of 4.5 billion years ago. Their results have implications for the possible origins of life on Earth.


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Environment - Life Sciences - 26.11.2020
Natural sewage treatment plants float on the Zambezi River
Natural sewage treatment plants float on the Zambezi River
Sprawling carpets of floating plants are the result of too many nutrients. However, they could become part of solution strategies, Eawag researchers show. They are a beautiful sight to behold: carpets of floating plants such as the water hyacinth ( Eichhornia crassipes ) in the Zambezi catchment. However, they are also an indicator of inadequate wastewater management in urban and industrial regions of tropical developing countries.

Earth Sciences - Environment - 26.11.2020
The Swiss Alps continue to rise
The Swiss Alps continue to rise
An international team of geologists, headed by members of the University of Bern, has shown for the first time that the Swiss Alps are being lifted faster than they are being lowered through erosion - and are thus growing even higher. To do this, the researchers quantified the erosion of the Alps with the help of isotopes measured in the sand of more than 350 rivers throughout the European Alps.

Life Sciences - Health - 26.11.2020
Foreign vs. own DNA: How an innate immune sensor tells friend from foe
How do molecules involved in activating our immune system discriminate between our own DNA and foreign pathogens? Researchers from the Thomä group, in collaboration with the EPFL, deciphered the structural and functional basis of a DNA-sensing molecule when it comes in contact with the cell's own DNA, providing crucial insights into the recognition of self vs.

Life Sciences - Health - 26.11.2020
Foreign vs own DNA: How an innate immune sensor tells the difference
Scientists at EPFL and the Friedrich Miescher Institute have used cryo-electron microscopy to explain how a DNA-sensing biomolecule that is key to our innate immunity response is inactivated when it comes in contact with the cell's own DNA. A biomolecule that gained considerable attention over the past few years is cGAS, a "DNA sensor" that is involved in kickstarting immune responses in the body.

Earth Sciences - 25.11.2020
Almost like on Venus
Almost like on Venus
A team of international scientists has gained new insights into Earth's atmosphere of 4.5 billion years ago. Their results have implications for the possible origins of life on Earth. Four-and-a-half billion years ago, Earth would have been hard to recognise. Instead of the forests, mountains and oceans that we know today, the surface of our planet was covered entirely by magma - the molten rocky material that emerges when volcanoes erupt.

Physics - Materials Science - 25.11.2020
Phytoplankton disturbed by nanoparticles
Phytoplankton disturbed by nanoparticles
Due to its antibacterial properties, nanosilver is used in a wide range of products from textiles to cosmetics. But nanosilver if present at high concentrations also disrupts the metabolism of algae that are essential for the aquatic food web dynamics and the production of terrestrial oxygen. Products derived from nanotechnology are efficient and highly sought-after, yet their effects on the environment are still poorly understood.

Health - Pharmacology - 25.11.2020
Iron Infusion Proves Effective to Treat Anaemia in Rural Africa
Iron Infusion Proves Effective to Treat Anaemia in Rural Africa
Iron-deficiency anaemia is a major concern in low-income settings, especially for women. In a new study by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) and partners published yesterday in The Lancet Global Health, researchers found that iron infusion was feasible, safe and in contrast to the standard iron-deficiency anaemia treatment of oral iron tablets, highly effective in Tanzania.

Environment - 25.11.2020
Adaptive structures cut down the carbon footprint of buildings
Scientists at EPFL have developed new methods to design and control civil structures that are able to automatically adapt to loading. The aim is to reduce the environmental impact of the construction sector. In order to address current environmental challenges, the construction industry must find new ways of building.

Health - Environment - 24.11.2020
COVID-19: Air quality influences the pandemic
COVID-19: Air quality influences the pandemic
Temperature inversions or Saharan dust intrusions can favor the presence of fine particles in the air. Their high concentration can aggravate the consequences of COVID-19. The correlation between the high concentration of fine particles and the severity of influenza waves is well known to epidemiologists.

Microtechnics - Materials Science - 24.11.2020
Miniscule robots of metal and plastic
Miniscule robots of metal and plastic
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for manufacturing micrometre-long machines by interlocking multiple materials in a complex way. Such microrobots will one day revolutionise the field of medicine. Robots so tiny that they can manoeuvre through our blood vessels and deliver medications to certain points in the body - researchers have been pursuing this goal for years.

Environment - 24.11.2020
Study measures Switzerland's potential geothermal heating capacity
An EPFL PhD candidate has calculated the maximum amount of geothermal energy that could theoretically be extracted using ground-source heat pumps in the Cantons of Vaud and Geneva. In a study combining data on the area available for such systems with computer modeling techniques, she found stark differences between geothermal energy's potential in urban versus rural areas.

Earth Sciences - Computer Science - 23.11.2020
Safer geothermal energy thanks to supercomputers
Safer geothermal energy thanks to supercomputers
Make geothermal energy safer by using supercomputer simulations. That is the aim of the research project FASTER (Forecasting and Assessing Seismicity and Thermal Evolution in Geothermal Reservoirs) which involves Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), the Swiss Seismic Service (SED), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH), and the Swiss National Centre for Scientific Computing (CSCS).

Health - Computer Science - 23.11.2020
Virtual reality helps measure vulnerability to stress
Behavioral scientists at EPFL have developed a virtual reality test that assesses a person's vulnerability to stress while exploring immersive environments. The resulting model offers the field of stress research one of the first such tools that does not rely on subjective evaluations. We all react to stress in different ways.

Life Sciences - Health - 20.11.2020
Gut-brain axis influences multiple sclerosis
Gut-brain axis influences multiple sclerosis
A Basel-led international research team has discovered a connection between the intestinal flora and sites of inflammation in the central nervous system in multiple sclerosis. A specific class of immune cell plays a central role in this newly identified gut-brain axis. The discovery could pave the way for new treatments for MS that target the intestinal flora.

Life Sciences - Chemistry - 20.11.2020
A biochemical random number
A biochemical random number
Scientists have generated a huge true random number using DNA synthesis. It is the first time that a number of this magnitude has been created by biochemical means. True random numbers are required in fields as diverse as slot machines and data encryption. These numbers need to be truly random, such that they cannot even be predicted by people with detailed knowledge of the method used to generate them.

Environment - Agronomy / Food Science - 19.11.2020
Too much nitrogen and phosphorus damages forests and water bodies
Too much nitrogen and phosphorus damages forests and water bodies
A factsheet from the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT) shows: Too much nitrogen and phosphorus is released into the Swiss environment. There they damage biodiversity, forests and water bodies, exacerbate climate change and affect human health. Actually the causes are known. With the help of Eawag researchers, the Swiss Academy of Sciences have collected facts on the problem of excessive nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the environment.

Materials Science - 19.11.2020
New process narrows the gap between natural and synthetic materials
New process narrows the gap between natural and synthetic materials
Skin and cartilage are both strong and flexible - properties that are hard to replicate in artificial materials. But a new fabrication process, developed by scientists at EPFL, brings lifelike synthetic polymers a step closer. Natural materials like skin, cartilage and tendons are tough enough to support our bodyweight and movements, yet flexible enough that they don't crack easily.

Life Sciences - Environment - 18.11.2020
Cichlid fishes from African Lake Tanganyika shed light on how organismal diversity arises
Cichlid fishes from African Lake Tanganyika shed light on how organismal diversity arises
Lake Tanganyika in Africa is a true hotspot of organismal diversity. Approximately 240 species of cichlid fishes have evolved in this lake in less than 10 million years. A research team from the University of Basel has investigated this phenomenon of -explosive speciation- and provides new insights into the origins of biological diversity, as they report in the journal -Nature-.

Health - Chemistry - 18.11.2020
Which particulate air pollution poses the greatest health risk?
Which particulate air pollution poses the greatest health risk?
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, together with colleagues from several other European institutions, have investigated whether particulate matter from certain sources can be especially harmful to human health. They found evidence that the amount of particulate matter alone is not the greatest health risk.

Chemistry - Materials Science - 18.11.2020
Decoding the way catalysts work
Decoding the way catalysts work
Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen is an important chemical reaction, especially considering that the use of hydrogen as an energy source in sustainable mobility in the future. An international research team has now decoded how one of the catalysts used in this reaction works. Hydrogen is a key element for achieving sustainable mobility in the future, especially "green" hydrogen produced by splitting water using renewable power.
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