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Life Sciences - Materials Science - 11.12.2018
Using water molecules to unlock neurons' secrets
EPFL researchers have developed a method to observe the electrical activity of neurons by analyzing the behavior of surrounding water molecules. This simple and non-invasive method, which could eliminate the need for electrodes and fluorophores, can be used to monitor the activity within a single neuron or potentially on an entire region of the brain.

Materials Science - Environment - 02.12.2018
Rotten to the core
Rotten to the core
Fungi that decompose tree trunks can conjure up real works of art in wood. In nature, however, the decay-causing fungi not only decorate the tree, but also destroy it. Empa researchers are now teaching the fungi how to draw. The result: upscale marbled wood that can be processed into design furniture or musical instruments.

Materials Science - Health - 21.11.2018
A hydrogel that adheres firmly to cartilage and meniscus
EPFL researchers have developed a hydrogel - made up of nearly 90% water - that naturally adheres to soft tissue like cartilage and the meniscus. If the hydrogel carries repair cells, it could help damaged tissue to heal. Some types of body tissue, like cartilage and meniscus, have little or no blood supply and are unable to heal if damaged.

Physics - Materials Science - 07.11.2018
A burst of
A burst of "synchronous" light
Excited photo-emitters can cooperate and radiate simultaneously, a phenomenon called superfluorescence. Researchers from Empa and ETH Zurich, together with colleagues from IBM Research Zurich, have recently been able to create this effect with long-range ordered nanocrystal superlattices. This discovery could enable future developments in LED lighting, quantum sensing, quantum communication and future quantum computing.

Chemistry - Materials Science - 05.11.2018
New material cleans and splits water
New material cleans and splits water
Researchers at EPFL's Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering have developed a photocatalytic system based on a material in the class of metal-organic frameworks. The system can be used to degrade pollutants present in water while simultaneously producing hydrogen that can be captured and used further.

Materials Science - Chemistry - 29.10.2018
Next generation of watch springs
Next generation of watch springs
What happens when something keeps getting smaller and smaller? This is the type of question Empa researcher Johann Michler and his team are investigating. As a by-product of their research completely novel watch springs could soon be used in Swiss timepieces. Applied research is not always initiated by industry - but oftentimes it yields results that can swiftly be implemented by companies.

Innovation - Materials Science - 25.10.2018
A fine-tuned laser welds more effectively
Using laser technology Empa scientists optimized a technique to weld the electronics of implantable pacemakers and defibrillators into a titanium case. The medtech company Medtronic is now using the method worldwide to produce these devices. In Tolochenaz (Canton of Vaud) the US medtech company Medtronic produces one out of five heart pacemakers available on the global market and one out of four defibrillators.

Materials Science - Health - 18.10.2018
What does graphene do in our lungs?
What does graphene do in our lungs?
Graphene has been hailed as the material of the future. As yet, however, little is known about whether and how graphene affects our health if it gets into the body. A team of researchers from Empa and the Adolphe Merkle Institute (AMI) in Fribourg have now conducted the first studies on a three-dimensional lung model to examine the behavior of graphene and graphene-like materials once they have been inhaled.

Materials Science - Pharmacology - 11.10.2018
Medication you can wear
Medication you can wear
Drug-releasing textiles could, for instance, be used to treat skin wounds. Empa researchers are currently developing polymer fibers that can be equipped with drugs. The smart fibers recognize the need for therapy all by themselves and dose the active ingredients with precision and accuracy. For the «Self Care Materials» project, fibers are produced from biodegradable polymers using various processes.

Materials Science - Innovation - 24.09.2018
EPFL unveils SolAce, a solar-powered pilot unit in Dübendorf
EPFL's SolAce pilot unit was inaugurated today at the NEST R&D center on the Empa campus in Dübendorf, Switzerland. Researchers at this solar-powered unit will test out new technology designed to make buildings energy positive and carbon neutral - while providing maximum comfort for their occupants.

Physics - Materials Science - 12.09.2018
Probing individual edge states with unprecedented precision
Probing individual edge states with unprecedented precision
A new technique makes it possible to obtain an individual fingerprint of the current-carrying edge states occurring in novel materials such as topological insulators or 2D materials. Physicists of the University of Basel present the new method together with American scientists in 'Nature Communications.' While insulators do not conduct electrical currents, some special materials exhibit peculiar electrical properties: though not conducting through their bulk, their surfaces and edges may support electrical currents due to quantum mechanical effects, and do so even without causing losses.

Materials Science - Computer Science - 29.08.2018
Tough nuts, cracked intelligently
Tough nuts, cracked intelligently
Welding, printing, crushing concrete - an Empa team monitors noisy processes with the help of artificial intelligence. This way you can literally hear production errors and imminent accidents. Kilian Wasmer from the Empa lab for Advanced Materials Processing in Thun keeps shaking his head while speaking, as if he can't believe the success story himself.

Physics - Materials Science - 27.08.2018
New mechanism of electron spin relaxation observed
New mechanism of electron spin relaxation observed
Physicists at the University of Basel are working on using the spin of an electron confined in a semiconductor nanostructure as a unit of information for future quantum computers. For the first time, they have now been able to experimentally demonstrate a mechanism of electron spin relaxation that was predicted 15 years ago.

Environment - Materials Science - 03.08.2018
The subtle mechanics of an avalanche - as seen in 3D
Drawing on the fact that the snow in an avalanche can behave like both a solid and a fluid, a young researcher at EPFL and SLF has managed to simulate a snow slab avalanche with unrivaled precision. An avalanche is an extremely complex event, with countless parameters and physical variables coming into play from the time the avalanche is triggered until it ends.

Chemistry - Materials Science - 23.07.2018
Search engine for «smart wood»
Search engine for «smart wood»
Mark Schubert modifies wood properties with the aid of the enzyme laccase. However, the search for suitable ingredients is complex - a bit like trying to find the key to an unknown lock. Instead of long, expensive series of experiments, Schubert uses artificial intelligence as it gets him to the goal more quickly.

Materials Science - 12.07.2018
Tailor-made asphalt
Tailor-made asphalt
The one ideal asphalt for all conditions does not exist: climatic conditions, traffic frequencies and loads place different demands on the pavement. Another challenge: preparing old asphalt so that it can be used for new pavements. Thanks to Empa researchers, the design of the ideal asphalt for every type of road has finally become easier.

Materials Science - Chemistry - 19.06.2018
An unlikely marriage among oxides
An unlikely marriage among oxides
Sebastian Siol is looking for new materials with unusual properties that were so far not accessible in experiments. To do this, he connects partners who don't really fit together: One partner forces the other into a state that would not be possible without the unlikely pairing. Siol also makes sure that the crystal bonds last in everyday life.

Materials Science - Physics - 19.06.2018
Tracking down the smallest particles
Tracking down the smallest particles
Nanomaterials consist of tiny particles of different composition. They are used, for example, in textiles and can enter aquatic systems directly from the factory, while being worn or disposed of. For years, research groups at Eawag have been investigating the effects of artificially manufactured nanoparticles on human beings and the environment.

Environment - Materials Science - 15.06.2018
Bringing the heat out of the city
Bringing the heat out of the city
Heat waves are increasing worldwide - and that includes Switzerland. Cities in particular suffer as a result: the temperature difference between city and countryside can amount to several degrees.

Materials Science - Environment - 11.06.2018
Silicon-perovskite solar cells achieve record efficiency of 25,2%
Silicon-perovskite solar cells achieve record efficiency of 25,2%
In Neuchâtel (Switzerland), researchers from EPFL and CSEM have combined siliconand perovskite-based solar cells. The resulting efficiency of 25.2% is a record for this type of tandem cell. Their innovative yet simple manufacturing technique could be directly integrated into existing production lines, and efficiency could eventually rise above 30%.
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