The European Research Council (ERC), the European Union organisation that rewards talented scholars engaged in cutting-edge research, is funding four projects with Principal Investigators from the Politecnico di Milano. Starting Grants are awarded to early-career researchers with highly promising scientific records and two to seven years of experience since completion of their doctorate.
The awarded researchers are: Fabio Ferrari with the project TRACES, Margherita Maiuri with ULYSSES, Paola Occhetta with EvOoC and Gianvito Vilé with the project SAC_2.0. Each project is funded with EUR 1.5 million for a duration of five years.
With these four new projects, Politecnico di Milano has now received a total 56 ERC grants, or which eight Starting Grants. Under Horizon Europe, the European Union 20221-2027 framework programme for research and innovation, the Politecnico di Milano has achieved the outstanding result of 115 winning projects , of which 13 with ERC, for a total value of over 60 million euro. The Politecnico is seventh among European universities for number of winning projects.
With the TRACES project, Fabio Ferrari, senior researcher at Politecnico di Milano, Department of Aerospace Science and Technology, studies the physical and dynamic properties of asteroids, in particular the evolutionary behaviour of these bodies, in an approach likening their internal and surface structure to a loosely cohesive granular medium. The project involves development of a new methodology for studying the granular mechanics of asteroids in microgravity and space conditions. TRACES provides new theoretical and numerical tools for the study of asteroids, validated by experiments in microgravity and on the ground, using data from the NASA DART and European Space Agency Hera missions.
With the ULYSSES project, Margherita Maiuri, professor and researcher with the Department of Physics of the Politecnico di Milano, and currently visiting professor at Princeton University in the USA, proposes a new control model for improved efficiency in light-activated physical and chemical processes. ULYSSES is developing a new platform, exploiting optical nanostructures and ultra-short laser light pulses for real-time manipulation of molecular reaction. Possible applications range from photovoltaics to photocatalysis, especially in sustainable energy uses.
The EvOoC project, led by Paola Occhetta, researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Electronics Information and Bioengineering at Politecnico di Milano, is aimed at development of intelligent and mechanically active "organs-on-chip" . These will be used as platforms for identifying the base mechanisms involved in regeneration and degeneration of cardiac and musculoskeletal tissue. To achieve this goal, the EvOoC is developing a miniaturised cell culture technology platform. Combining the principles of micro-fabrication, developmental biology, mechano-biology and artificial intelligence, EvOoC introduces revolutionary methods in tissue engineering and disease modelling, facilitating development of innovative translational strategies for tissue repair that are suited to numerous therapeutic applications.
The SAC_2.0 project led by Gianvito Vilé, professor and researcher with the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering "Giulio Natta" of the Politecnico di Milano, engages in researching “single atom” catalysers: innovative materials with great potential for sustainable chemical transformations. The SAC_2.0 project aims to bring light to important scientific unknowns, including on the reactive structure of single atom materials, in particular developing methodologies for micro-fabrication in synthesising and functionalisation. Possible applications for these catalysts include use in conversion of CO2 as value-added products and development of “green” pharmaceutical synthesis methods.