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Polytechnic scientists for global challenges

The Politecnico di Milano has obtained from the European Commission important funding for two research projects: one for the fight against breast cancer and the other for the fight against climate change.  

This takes the form of two ERC Advanced Grant, funding awarded by the European Research Council to researchers well-established in their field, in order to carry out innovative and high-risk projects. The selection for this type of funding is very competitive: this year, out of 1735 projects submitted, only 14.6% obtained the funds.  

SUPERCOMPUTERS THAT CONSUME 5000 TIMES LESS ENERGY  

Daniele Ielminii, professor at the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering, will leadANIMATE (ANalogue In-Memory computing with Advanced device Technology), a project that aims to develop a new computing concept to reduce energy consumption in machine learning. It is a critical issue for stopping climate change: we do not think about it when we use a computer, but the energy cost of the actions we perform on the internet, starting with the everyday things, is very high. Data centres, which currently meet most of the world's AI needs, now consume about 1% of global energy demand, but growth is expected to reach up to 7% by 2030. Apparently simple operations, such as searching for a consumer product or service (for example when we book holidays or choose a film on a streaming site) are based on data-intensive algorithms and have a significant impact on the production of greenhouse gases.  

daniele ielmini
Daniele Ielmini

Professor Ielmini’s preliminary ANIMATE research has shown that computational energy requirements can be reduced by closed-loop in-memory computing (CL-IMC). This system is capable of solving linear algebra problems in a single computational step. Thanks to the reduction in calculation time, CL-IMC requires 5,000 times less energy than digital computers with the same precision in terms of number of bits. Ielmini's project will develop the device and circuit technology, system architectures and set of applications to fully validate the CL-IMC concept.  

A PROTOCOL TO NEUTRALIZE THE NATURAL BARRIER IN BREAST CANCER  

Manuela Raimondi, professor in the ‘Giulio Natta’ Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering, combines mechanobiology, bioengineering, oncology, genetics, microtechnology, biophysics and pharmacology to develop a new method for the treatment of breast cancer.  

manuela raimondi
Manuela Raimondi

In fact, in this type of illness, the aggressiveness is related to the fibrotic stiffening of the tumour tissue: fibrosis progressively prevents drugs from reaching cancer cells. With BEACONSANDEGG – Mechanobiology of cancer progression, Raimondi intends to develop a method capable of circumventing this problem. Starting from the modelling of microtumours at various levels of fibrosis and from human breast cancer cells adhered to 3D polymer micro-supports, the microtumours will be implanted in vivo into the respiratory membrane of embryonated avian eggs, in order to elicit a fibrotic foreign body reaction in microtumours. This study model will be validated with anticancer drugs whose clinical outcome is known to depend on the level of tumour fibrosis. It will also provide a standardisable and ethical platform to promote the clinical translation of new therapeutic products in oncology. This is a key issue for professor Raimondi: some of the research and modelling tools she has developed over the last ten years have precisely this goal: to reduce or replace the pre-clinical experimental phases in vivo, for example, with the use of 3D supports for cell cultures and microfluidic chambers for tissue and organoid culture. 

ERC: “CHALLENGING EUROPE’S BRIGHTEST MINDS” 

A bit of context for this good news: the Politecnico is at the top of the world rankings of universities also thanks to the frontier scientific research that it carries out in its laboratories. The protagonists of this Italian record are the many scientists and researchers of the Politecnico (ERC and beyond): about 3500..  

Some of these are 'ERC researchers', with ERC standing for European Research Council. ERC is a European Commission tool that supports pioneering and frontier research. It is said that these researchers are among "the brightest minds in Europe", scientists who could be on the trail of new and unpredictable scientific and technological discoveries.  

In total, to date, 52 ERC projects at the Politecnico. They vary according to the size and duration of the funding: between Euro 150 thousand and 12 million.  

  • Starting Grant, for emerging researchers, with 2-7 years of experience gained after obtaining the PhD 
  • Consolidator Grant, for young people who already have ten years of research behind them 
  • Advanced Grant, dedicated to outstanding and established scientists, able to open up new directions in their respective research fields and in other sectors 
  • Synergy Grant, , which promotes substantial advances in the frontier of knowledge and encourages new lines of research 
  • Proof of Concept, a minor funding, dedicated to researchers who already have an ERC project underway or have recently completed it. It aims to ensure the link between basic research and the market 
Read the story of TOMATTO, the Politecnico’s Synergy Grant

ERC promotes a so-called 'investigator driven' or 'bottom-up' approach, i.e., the free initiative of the best European scientists who follow excellent, innovative and high-risk research projects, key elements for achieving the sustainable growth objectives that the Union has set 

CONVERTING UNCERTAINTY INTO ACTION AND REVOLUTIONIZING MATERIALS SCIENCE 

. Sara Bagherifard, with ArcHIDep project, and Massimo Tavoni, with EUNICE project, get two ERC Consolidator Grants. Tavoni, professor of Climate Change Economics at the Department of Management Engineering and Director of RFF-CMCC, European Institute on Economics and the Environment, has the goal of reducing the uncertainties involved in confronting climate change. His research covers energy and climate economics, and in particular, the modelling of international climate policies. With EUNICE, he tackles the problem of uncertainties in climate stabilization paths and in current climate-energy-economy models and converts the scenarios outlined by these models into indications that help define resilient, solid and reliable policies to combat climate change. 

Bagherifard, senior researcher at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, deals with numerical and experimental approaches to design, manufacture and characterize multifunctional materials. With the ArcHIDep project, she intends to deploy a revolutionary solid state deposition system in order to obtain heterogeneous materials with architecture structured on three levels of scale: micro, meso and macro. ArcHIDep will make it possible to develop a framework, which does not currently exist, for designing and building components which are capable of overcoming the limitations associated with the current inability to combine conflicting properties. 

ERC PROOF OF CONCEPT, OR: SCIENCE TESTING THE FACTS 

Once again we find Daniele Ielmini with SHANNON, acronym for Secure hardware with advanced nonvolatile memories. It aims to develop a new type of encryption circuit based on the concept of non-cloneable physical function. The encryption keys are generated through random memory states that are completely invisible to an external inspection, thanks to a new algorithm and a new cell structure, making this solution very interesting for the security of Internet of Things systems. 

Paola Saccomandi, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, works on the development, technological validation and market analysis of a device for the laser removal of tumours, much less invasive than the instruments we have today. The project is called LEILA: closed-loop and multisensing delivery tool for controlled laser ablation of tumors.  

With the TCOtronics, acronym for transparent conductive oxide nanocrystalline films for electronics and optoelectronics via low-cost solution processing, Francesco Scotognella (Department of Physics) aims to manufacture thin layers based on nanoparticles of metal oxides, which can be used as optical filters or transparent electrodes for solar cells and light emitting diodes. An important goal is also the use of non-toxic and abundant elements on the planet.  

Francesco Topputo (Department of Aerospace Science and Technology) aims to develop an autonomous navigation sensor for satellites in deep space. Thanks to the SENSEproject: a sensor for autonomous navigation in deep space, satellites themselves will be able to estimate their position without the need to communicate with ground stations. This will make it possible to cut navigation costs for space exploration, making space accessible to universities, research centres and small businesses.  

What you are reading is an article from the latest issue of the Magazine of the Alumni of the Politecnico di Milano. (read it here). MAP is one of the many initiatives created by Alumni Politecnico di Milano. If you want to receive two issues of the magazine in paper format, consider donating..

Credits home: Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

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Polytechnic research and the battles of our century

The Politecnico di Milano has obtained from the European Commission important funding for two research projects: one for the fight against breast cancer and the other for the fight against climate change..

This takes the form of two ERC Advanced Grants 2021, funding awarded by the European Research Council to researchers well-established in their field, in order to carry out innovative and high-risk projects. The selection for this type of funding is very competitive: this year, out of 1735 projects submitted, only 14.6% obtained the funds. With these two projects, the Politecnico di Milano has been awarded a total of 86 European Individual Grants ( ERC and Marie Curie).

SUPERCOMPUTERS THAT CONSUME 5000 TIMES LESS ENERGY

Daniele Ielmini, professor at the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering, will lead ANIMATE (ANalogue In-Memory computing with Advanced device TEchnology), a project that aims to develop a new computing concept to reduce energy consumption in machine learning. We don’t think about it when we use a computer, but the energy cost of the actions we perform on the internet, starting with the everyday things, is very high. Data centres, which currently meet most of the world's AI needs, now consume about 1% of global energy demand, with growth expected to reach up to 7% by 2030.

Apparently simple operations, such as searching for a consumer product or service (for example when we book holidays or choose a film on a streaming site) are based on data-intensive algorithms and have an significant impact on the production of greenhouse gases: it has been estimated that training a conventional neural network for artificial intelligence produces the same amount of carbon dioxide as 5 cars in their full cycle of use.

Professor Ielmini’s preliminary ANIMATE research has shown that computational energy requirements can be reduced by closed-loop in-memory computing (CL-IMC), which can solve linear algebra problems in a single computational step. In CL-IMC, the time to solve a given problem does not increase in proportion to the size of the problem, unlike other computing concepts, such as digital and quantum computers. Thanks to the reduction in calculation time, CL-IMC requires 5,000 times less energy than digital computers with the same precision in terms of number of bits. Ielmini's project will develop the device and circuit technology, system architectures and set of applications to fully validate the CL-IMC concept.

Professor Ielmini is an expert in artificial intelligence and supercomputing: we recently talked about this in relation to another research project, intended to develop a new type of circuit for cryptography based on the concept of physical unclonable function.

A PROTOCOL TO NEUTRALIZE THE NATURAL BARRIER IN BREAST CANCER

Manuela Raimondi, Professor in the ‘Giulio Natta’ Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering, combines mechanobiology, bioengineering, oncology, genetics, microtechnology, biophysics and pharmacology to develop a new method for the treatment of breast cancer.

In this type of cancer, the aggressiveness is related to the fibrotic stiffening of the tumour tissue. Fibrosis progressively prevents drugs from reaching the tumour cells, due to the formation of a matrix with mechanical properties that stabilise the tumour's vascular network. Professor Raimondi's BEACONSANDEGG research Professor Raimondi is developing a platform capable of recapitulating tumour fibrosis by exploiting the vascularisation of a living organism.

The project is called BEACONSANDEGG (Mechanobiology of cancer progression): it will model microtumours at various levels of fibrosis, bypassing the fact that some characteristics of the tumour are not reproducible in vitro. Human breast cancer cells adhered to 3D polymeric microplates will be used. The microtumours will be implanted in vivo in the respiratory membrane of embryonated avian eggs in order to elicit a fibrotic foreign body reaction in the microtumours. The geometry of the 3D microsupports will be manipulated to condition the infiltration of the microtumours by the vessels and cells of the embryo. This study model will be validated with anticancer drugs whose clinical outcome is known to depend on the level of tumour fibrosis.

It will also provide a standardisable and ethical platform to promote the clinical translation of new therapeutic products in oncology. This is a key issue for Professor Raimondi: some of the research and modelling tools she has developed over the last ten years have precisely this goal: to reduce drastically or replace the pre-clinical experimental phases in vivo, for example, with the use of 3D supports for cell cultures and microfluidic chambers for tissue and organoid culture (we talked about this in Issue 6 of MAP).

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Cutting-edge Research: Europe Rewards 11 Pioneering Italian Projects

Some context for this good news: ERC, the European Research Council, is an instrument of the European Commission which, as our readers already know, aims to fund the best creative researchers conducting pioneering and cutting-edge research.

Just a few days ago, the first ERC grants were awarded under Horizon Europe, the European Union's new framework programme for research and innovation, which covers the period 2021-2027 with total funding of EUR 95.5 billion including EUR 5.4 billion earmarked for the Next Generation EU recovery plan).

It is the largest transnational research and innovation programme in the world and has selected 313 projects to conduct pioneering research in all scientific disciplines in 2022. The winners represent 42 nationalities and will carry out their projects at universities and research centres in 24 EU Member States. They include 11 Italians.

"Finding new solutions in the fields of energy, health or digital technologies is only possible if we manage to attract and retain scientific talent"

said European Commissioner for Innovation, Mariya Gabriel.

. Sara Bagherifard, con ArcHIDep, e a Massimo Tavoni, con EUNICE, vanno i 2 ERC consolidator Grant 2022. Le ricerche sono state selezionate tra le oltre 2mila proposte ricevute da ERC (un grande risultato per il nostro Ateneo, considerando che quest’anno solo il 11,8% dei progetti presentati hanno ottenuto il finanziamento). Oltre a questi due progetti, ad oggi in totale sono 48 i grant ERC ottenuti da ricercatori del Politecnico di Milano.

CONVERTING THE MAPS OF THE FUTURE INTO ACTION AND REVOLUTIONISING MATERIALS SCIENCE

Massimo Tavoni's, Massimo Tavoni’s, Professor of Climate Change Economics at the Department of Management Engineering and Director of RFF-CMCC, European Institute on Economics and the Environment , has the goal of reducing the uncertainties involved in confronting climate change.

massimo tavoni
Source: Linkedin

His research covers energy and climate economics, and specifically the modelling of international climate policies (see also Il Corriere). With the EUNICE project, Tavoni is tackling the problem of uncertainties in climate stabilisation pathways and the current climate-energy-economy models for identifying the scenarios. The main objective is to convert these model-generated 'maps of the future' into indications that help define resilient, robust and reliable policies to counter climate change.

Through the unique combination of computer and behavioural science, EUNICE is developing a method that is also relevant to other areas of research involving high-risk environmental, social and technological assessments (Find out more at this link).

Sara Bagherifarda senior researcher in the Department of Mechanics, has numerous scientific publications and several awards to her name, for a wide range of research activities, including numerical and experimental approaches to design, manufacture and characterising multifunctional materials for emerging engineering applications. Her scientific interests cover impact surface treatments, surface coatings, nanomaterials and additive manufacturing. The results of her studies and research are multidisciplinary and can be implemented in the most diverse sectors, such as the aerospace, automotive, rail and biomedical industries.

sara begherifard
Source: Linkedin

With the ArcHIDep projectBagherifard intends to deploy a revolutionary solid state deposition system in order to obtain heterogeneous materials with architecture structured on three levels of scale: micro, meso and macro. ArcHIDep will make it possible to develop a framework, which does not currently exist, for designing and building components which are capable of overcoming the limitations associated with the current inability to combine conflicting properties (Links for further information).

Stay tuned! We will talk about this some more in MAP 10, due out in June 2022

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ERC Proof of concept: science tested by facts

Artificial intelligence, lasers, cancer treatment, nanoparticles and space travel: this is what the five research projects of Politecnico selected by the European Commission are about to receive funding of 150 thousand euros each. These are the ERC “Proof of Concept”, research grants intended to strengthen already consolidated European projects which, after having obtained promising results, are ready for phase two: exploring the possibilities of practical application.

erc
Credits: www.isc.cnr.it/erc/

AN INFALLIBLE MEMORY

Secure hardware with advanced nonvolatile memories , aka SHANNON , is the title of the project of Daniele Ielmini , from the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering. It aims to develop a new type of encryption circuit based on the concept of non-clonable physical function. The encryption keys are generated by random memory states that are completely invisible to an external inspection, thanks to a new algorithm and a new cell structure , making this solution very interesting for the security of Internet systems of Things. Ielmini deals with characterization and modeling of non-volatile memories: we talked about it on MAP 6 at this link .

POCKET ACCELERATOR

PANTANI is the acronym, which winks at speed, of the proton, electron and neutron sources for non-destructive testing and investigations and treatment of materials project by Matteo Passoni , of the Department of Energy. It wants to develop a laser source compact and multi-radiation, more flexible and with lower costs than the existing solutions, with use in numerous applications of industrial and social , such as the analysis of materials of historical and artistic interest, environmental monitoring, the sterilization of biomedical instruments and the detection of illegal substances inside containers at airports and customs . If you want to go deeper into the theory, we talked about it on MAP 5 on page 31 .

ENGINEERING IN THE HAND OF THE SURGEON

Paola Saccomandi , from the Department of Mechanics, works on the development, technological validation and market analysis of a device for laser removal of tumors , much less invasive than the tools we have today. It would also be able to control the treatment in real time and assist the doctor in selecting the therapeutic parameters. The project is called LEILA : closed-loop and multisensing delivery tool for controlled laser ablation of tumors . Saccomandi deals with measuring the temperature distribution in biological tissues subjected to ablative treatments, developing a therapeutic platform that sees the use of lasers for minimally invasive treatments , optical fiber sensors and biomedical imaging techniques , for monitoring clinical procedures and physiological parameters. Discover the "previous episodes" at this link .

NANO SIZE, ULTRA PERFORMANCE

With the TCOtronics project, acronym of transparent conductive oxide nanocrystalline films for electronics and optoelectronics via low-cost solution processing , Francesco Scotognella wants to manufacture thin layers based on metal oxide nanoparticles that can be used as optical filters or transparent electrodes for solar cells and light emitting diodes . An important goal of TCOtronics is the use of non-toxic elements and abundant on the planet. Scotognella, from the Department of Physics, is an expert in ultrafast photophysics of organic compounds, nanomaterials and fabrication and characterization of photonic crystals. If you are curious to know more about its nanocrystals for more efficient solar cells, read here .

DEEP SPACE POLITECNICO

Francesco Topputo aims to develop a autonomous navigation sensor for satellites in space deep. Thanks to SENSE: a sensor for autonomous navigation in deep space project,the satellites themselves will be able to estimate their position without the need to communicate with grou nd stations; this will cut navigation costs for space exploration, making space accessible to universities, research centers and small businesses. Topputo, , from the Department of Aerospace Sciences and Technologies, deals with flight dynamics, autonomous driving, navigation and control of spacecraft. Find out more at this link and at this link.

A LITTLE GLOSSARY

These five projects were funded by grant (ie research grants) of the European Research Council (in Italian European Research Council) or ERC. It is a body of the European Union that has the task of supporting the work of the best researchers in all scientific, technical and academic sectors.

ERC loans can be of various types and concern sums between 150 thousand and 12 million euros ( here we see all those obtained by Poli ). They are among the most prestigious grants dedicated to basic research in Europe. In particular, the ERC promotes a so-called " investigator driven " or " bottom-up " approach, ie the free initiative of the best European scientists, who follow projects. research of excellence, innovative and high-risk, key elements for achieving the sustainable growth objectives set by the Union.

WE BUILD THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD

The ricerca di base è indipendente dalle priorità che di solito guidano, per esempio, la ricerca industriale. È ricerca pionieristica e identifica nuove opportunità e direzioni, aprendo campi di ricerca a volte ancora inesplorati, altre volte attuali e urgenti.

Ad oggi in totale sono 48 i grant ERC ottenuti da ricercatori del Politecnico di Milano. Per un ateneo, accogliere ricercatori ERC significa avere la possibilità di assumere nuovi dottorandi e post doc, creare una base di giovani che lavorino costantemente su ricerche di altissimo livello e avere risorse da investire in infrastrutture e laboratori all’avanguardia, iniettando nuova linfa nel sistema universitario. Questo si riflette sull’intero sistema, con ricadute positive anche sulla didattica.

To find out more: Tomatto, the first ERC Synergy Grant at the Politecnico di Milano

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MSCA Master Class: Young researchers at Politecnico - 2nd episode

Ethics, health, physics of ultra-fast processes, space exploration, energy and sustainability: these are just some of the themes pursued by young researchers at Politecnico di Milano, in an increasingly central perspective of responsible research and the impact of technologies in society.

The European Commission in particular is one of the major allies of university research in this sense and offers various tools for the recruitment of young and talented researchers with an international profile. One of the most important tool is the “Marie Curie Individual Fellowship” grants: research grants dedicated to young researchers who deal with crucial issues for society.

Since 2014, through the European Horizon 2020 program, Politecnico has welcomed 24 MSCA fellows. Six of them will begin their project at Politecnico in 2021: let’s learn more about them.

DEPARTMENT OF ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN PLANNING

What does it mean to be a subject in the 21st century? Diletta De Cristofaro, 34 years old, wonders. Hers project, SCRAPS: writing the Sleep CRisis: 24/7 cAPitalism and neoliberal Subjectivity, will study what doctors and psychologists around the world call the "sleep crisis". The researcher will analyze works of fiction, nonfiction and digital culture to investigate the impact of the times of productivity on health and the relationship between individual health and neoliberal ideologies.

DilettaDeCristofaro

Its base will be the META, a research group of Politecnico that deals with philosophical, epistemological, ethical and social issues related to the processes of science, technology and innovation.

De Cristofaro has a degree in philosophy in Milan and a doctorate in American studies in England, where she worked for 10 years before arriving at Politecnico: "it's the right place to explore the relationship between human beings and technology - comments De Cristofaro - fundamental relationship of our identities ".

She is one of the researchers who have leaned on the MSCA Master Class of Politecnico, a path that supports the best post-docs from all over the world who want to apply for a Marie Curie grant and choose Politecnico as host institution: "it was a ' priceless opportunity. Through this masterclass, I developed a deeper understanding of the MSCA application and assessment process and learned the best tips and strategies that helped me shape a successful application, ”commented the researcher.

DEPARTMENT OF MATHEMATICS

Michele Loi also comes from a humanistic background: he is 42 years old, with a degree in philosophy in Cagliari and a doctorate from Luiss in Rome. For 5 years In Switzerland, first working in ETH Zurich and then at the University of Zurich, he has been dealing with ethics applied to data, in particular medical data, big data and algorithms.

Data is not everything - comments Loi. The way you look at the data leads to different conclusions. And it is not based only on scientific but also moral considerations. It is our ideas, our values ​​that tell us how to read the data to come up with a judgment on the algorithm's fairness.

"The debate is particularly relevant in reference to clinical care, where machine learning algorithms have been used to improve diagnoses, therapeutic choices and, in general, the actions of the health system. Loi's MSCA project will focus on this: "Fair predictions in health".

MicheleLoi

 In fact, since automatic learning models depend on historically collected information, comments that have suffered or suffer structural discrimination risk further damage due to inaccurate projections which, for example, can lead to unfair choices in the allocation of resources, reinforcing inequalities in access to health services.

“Il mio obiettivo è quello di sviluppare un framework di lavoro condiviso che permetta di tradurre alcuni assunti morali in vincoli di programmazione. Questi assunti morali devono essere resi espliciti e comunicati in modo comprensibile agli stakeholders. Dovremo identificare una serie di problemi di equità nei modelli utilizzati, ad esempio, per prevedere come un paziente reagirà ad una cura e capire come collegare alcuni principi etici con alcune formulazioni matematiche tipiche della computer science.

Vorrei anche lavorare alla costituzione di un “Fairness Lab”, un laboratorio che visualizzi i possibili significati e modi diversi di leggere i dati sotto la guida di principi etici. Per questo ho scelto il Poli: mi sono reso conto che, per poter dare un reale contributo alla società, da filosofo mi devo confrontare con persone che si occupano di matematica e statistica. Oggi non è possibile fare etica senza confrontarsi con ciò che è matematicamente impossibile.

PHYSICS DEPARTMENT

Maurizio Reduzzi, 33, Physical Engineering Alumnus and former PhD student of Politecnico, has sinced worked at UC Berkeley, California, and at ICFO - The Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona. He has always dealt with the physics of ultra-fast processes (in particular attosecond science), a discipline in which Politecnico is historically at the forefront.

This interest brought Reduzzi back to his Alma Mater with an MSCA grant for the HETRUSQ project: HETeRoaromatic biomolecules Ultrafast Spectroscopy in liQuids. He will work with the group of prof. Nisoli (we talked about his ERC project, Tomatto, in issue 9 of MAP).

“Tomatto deals with studying charge transfer processes on a very short time scale (from a few femtoseconds to a few tens of attoseconds) in organic matter”, explains Reduzzi. "With HETRUSQ I will use similar techniques, with the aim of exploring the interaction, on the same extreme temporal streams as TOMATTO, between molecules and their natural surrounding environment, water".

The experiments will mainly concern heteroaromatic molecules, which constitute the fundamental components of DNA and a large part of organic matter. The final step will be to compare the results of the studies in a gaseous state with those in a liquid environment, to which the molecules react.

"The development of optical technology will be crucial, which will allow us to synthesize light pulses tunable in frequency in the ultraviolet state of the art (lasting a few femtoseconds). The integration of this light source with a monochromator for the extreme ultraviolet (a very advanced instrument already present in the laboratories of Prof. Nisoli) will allow time-resolved spectroscopy studies that have never been carried out before".

MaurizioReduzzi

Armando Genco, 32, studied materials engineering at the University of Salento, has obtained a PHD at the Research Center for Nanotechnologies in Lecce and has completed his post-doc at the University of Sheffield.

He is an expert in polaritons, particles composed of a photon and an exciton (ie an electron energetically excited in a luminescent material) which, in very particular conditions within micro- or nanometer-sized devices can bind.

“This type of condition is called a strong coupling regime,” explains Genco. "It has characteristics that can be exploited to obtain coherent light sources (lasers) with innovative and low-threshold materials, which require very little energy: the potential repercussions in the world of telecommunications and computing, for example, are very promising both in terms of speed and environmental impact ".

Genco's MSCA project, ENOSIS: ENhancing and prObing Strong light-matter Interactions in 2D materials by ultrafaSt optical techniques, will study the properties of 2D materials (materials with a thickness of a few atoms). In particular the coupling between 2 different layers of these materials in relation to the possibility of creating the conditions for the emission of polaritons. "In a strong coupling regime and as a function of the twist angle (i.e. reciprocal torsion), these bi-layers can create very favorable conditions for producing coherent light through polaritons. To move forward in my research I needed a perspective in the field of ultrafast spectroscopy, to look at what happens to electrons and photons a few tens of femtoseconds after coupling, and the group of prof. Cerullo at Politecnico is at the forefront in this field ".

Today still few groups of research in the world have studied 2D materials with "twisted" angles and specific characterization techniques are needed for these devices. In order to study them, Genco will rely on the "hyperspectral imaging" technique (using a Politecnico patent), which allows to obtain a spectral analysis of the light for each single wavelength almost simultaneously for each point of the analyzed sample.

ArmandoGenco
DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND AREOSPACE TECHNOLOGIES

Mirko Trisolini, 32, deals with the dynamics of celestial bodies, satellites and space debris, in particular the motion of fragments and particles around minor bodies of our Solar System, such as asteroids and comets.

After graduating from the University of Pisa and gaining a Phd. from the University of Southampton, he began collaborating with Prof. Colombo's research group at Politecnico, where he obtained a post-doc and laid the foundations for the MSCA project CRADLE (Collecting Asteroid-Orbiting Samples: enabling a safer, sustainable, and autonomous exploration of asteroids).

MirkoTrisolini

"I chose Politecnico as host institution for the experience and technical background of the research group in which I work and the deep-rooted collaborations, including international ones, to which he has access". Trisolini, in fact, will work with the University of Padua and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) to develop an innovative and autonomous system for the extraction of rare and precious materials that could be found inside asteroids and comets.

"Being able to explore the composition of these celestial bodies will allow us to improve our knowledge of the Solar System, but also to learn how to exploit the resources of space: mineral resources, for example, but also vital for future manned missions, such as water that it could be under the surface ”.

The intermediate step of the project will lead Trisolini to develop more precise models for the collection and behavior in orbit of materials extractable from asteroids (with image processing techniques and reconstruction of the characteristics of the particles). The development of these models and algorithms will help improve the autonomy of satellites for long-range missions.

DEPARTMENT OF CHEMISTRY, MATERIALS AND CHEMICAL ENGINEERING

One of the greatest challenges of our time is energy transition and especially implementing ‘energy smart’ chemical manufacturing processes. Mark Bajada, 30, is working with goal in mind: he holds a degree in chemistry at the University of Malta and a master in energy engineering at Cambridge, where he is continuing his PHD, focusing on artificial photosynthesis (generational solar fuels).

His MSCA project, SSEFR: Single-Site Electrocatalytic Flow Reactor for C-C Coupling, aims at identifying and creating new materials capable of storing energy to solve intermittency problems associated with renewable energy.

MarkBajada

“The excess supply could be directed and stored in a stable chemical bond. However, to achieve this goal, efficient and selective electrocatalysts are needed”. Bajada will work on single-site catalysis an interesting and new research field.</p

The first objective will be the design, development and understanding of precious-metal-free single-site electrocatalytic systems that can be produced with cheap and available materials. The following step will be to engineer and manufacture catalytic flow reactors that use this type of fuel instead of conventional electrochemical cells, to obtain economical energy from renewable sources and without the risk of fluctuating availability.

"I chose Politecnico di Milano for its excellent reputation: I am interested in Italian culture and this is the best place for what I want to develop". 

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MSCA Master Class: Young researchers at Politecnico - 1st episode

Scientific and technological research at Politecnico di Milano has different financing sources: as a public University a lot of the financing comes from the Ministry of Education; external financing is still gaining importance in the last few years, that is support coming from institutions or companies, weighting for around 142 million euros per year (one-third of the total budget for research).

Among the institutions most involved in research funding is the European Commission. Since 2014, through the Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe programs, the Politecnico has received around 221 million euros from the Commission, which were used to fund 497 research projects.

Most are collaborative projects between different research centers. A portion of the funding is instead dedicated to researchers who proved their excellence: among these, the Politecnico has welcomed 43 ERC e 30 Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship. These are grants that are granted to individual researchers for particularly promising projects, which concern frontier scientific fields or emerging technologies with great potential for innovation and collective interest.

ERCs are intended for established researchers, already at the top of their scientific fields ( if you are interested in finding out more about the ERC projects that carry out frontier scientific research at the Politecnico di Milano we talked about it on MAP here , here and here ). The Marie Curie grants, on the other hand, are intended for the "second generation"of researchers and are designed to encourage young researchers who deal with these crucial issues.

Young researchers applying for a “Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship” (MSCA-PF) can submit a project proposal in collaboration with a European academic and non-academic research centers and under the supervision of a scientific director who is part of it.

The best universities attract the best candidates, also thanks to the support of the supervisors: “older” scientists, with experience in the specific field, able to guide the winners in the various steps of the research project, which usually lasts 2 or 3 years.

Attracting young researchers with an international profile is important for the Politecnico, as explained by Donatella Sciuto, Vice-Rector and delegate of the Rector for research in an interview with Alumni: “they bring new life in the research system. They have passion, energy, new ideas and time to devote vertically and intensively to very specific problems and themes. In the 2017-2020 strategic plan, we had the goal of hiring 100 new researchers, a goal that has been achieved and exceeded. For 2020-2022 we would like to increase the number of researchers of an extra 20%.

MSCA1-WORDCLOUD
MSCA MASTER CLASS

In order to acheive this goal, Politecnico has launched a talent development program to support young people and make them more competitive in the acquisition of European grants and in general on the international research scene. One of the actions envisaged in the strategic plan is the MSCA Master Class , a training course designed for potential MSCA Postdocs, who can obtain support from the University and expert supervisors during the writing the proposal and submitting it in response to the call from the European Commission.

Only the best candidates are admitted to the Master Class, which maximizes their chances of success and at the same time encourages them to rely on the Politecnico di Milano.

Since 2014 30 MSCA researchers have chosen the Politecnico to develop their research activities. We'll learn more about them in the next episode!

dona al 5 per mille

The European Commission finances the tests on an innovative hydrogen reactor made in Polimi

With the ERC PoC INSTANT project, prof. Tronconi of the Department of Energy obtains new funding to explore the potential of a compact reactor, more efficient and less invasive from the point of view of environmental impact

European project INSTANT (effIcieNt Small-scale uniT for distributed heAt and hydrogeN generaTion), led by Prof. Enrico Tronconi of the Energy Department aims to develop an efficient catalytic fuel processor as the key component of a compact unit to produce hydrogen. Based on hydrogen-fuel cells and fed by natural gas, air and water, researchers will develop units for combined heat and power (CHP) generation that may be used in small-scale applications, such as the cogeneration of heat and electricity for domestic residential use or refueling hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles. Sustainable on-site and on-demand hydrogen generation will reduce or eliminate the transport and storage costs associated with traditional production technologies, improving their energy efficiency and carbon footprint.

INSTANT, funded with 150,000 € under the Horizon2020 program, is a Proof of Concept ERC project that stems from the AdG ERC INTENT project. INTENT developed and validated the concept for a new generation of catalytic reactors to produce energy carriers, with a revised design based on thermally conductive cellular structures packed with catalyst microparticles. With INSTANT, researchers aim to test this novel configuration of the fuel processor on a semi-industrial scale (TRL5). Indicators which will be evaluated during the test sessions include:

  1. H2 productivity for a given catalyst load (target = +30%);
  2. start-up time to full load (target = -30%);
  3. response time to a load change (target = -30%).

Based on the experimental outcomes, INSTANT will also assess the potential for reducing the footprint of the CHP unit, the system volume being currently one of the main constraints for domestic CHP applications, as well as the overall production cost, including life-cycle costs.

If successful, INSTANT will pave the way to a new generation of CHP systems based on hydrogen fuel cells and explore the commercial and social potential of their research work.

Cover photo by Mihály Köles on Unsplash

Anche questo, come tutti i progetti di ricerca del Politecnico di Milano, è possibile grazie ai nostri dottori di ricerca, che sono tra i migliori al mondo. Se vuoi aiutare uno studente bisognoso ad intraprendere il percorso di Dottorato, aiutaci a finanziare una borsa: ogni contributo può fare la differenza. Donate now

ViruSurf : a research engine to study the genoma of Coronavirus

ViruSurf has been developed at the Politecnico di Milano from the resarch group directed by Stefano Ceri. It collects the data related to the sequencing of the Coronavirus (among other projects) to study it and anticipate its mutations. .

From the beginning of the pandemic, labs around the world collect and sequence the genetic material of the virus via the swabs of people affected by COVID-19. It is a huge amount of data which will be fundamental in knowing how the virus will behave in the future. To collect this data in a single database available to all, a research group, directed by Prof. Stefano Ceri developed ViruSurf, a research engine on a database of the Politecnico which contains up to today 200.516 sequences of SARS-CoV-2 (together with 33.256 sequences of other viral species such as SARS, MERS, Ebola and dengue). The web interface of ViruSurf is open access (you can findit at  this link) and you can compute many different research queries. Is also able to implement an algorithm to compute viral mutations, via cloud computing.

ViruSurf has been born within the project GeCo, financed by the European Research Council (read more about it in the MAP#5). Professor Ceri comments for Science Business: “We already had developed a research engine for datasets describing the human genoma, called GenoSurf; at the beginning of the pandemic there was not such a system for viral sequences. We interviewed around 20 virologists around the world to understand their needs. The system is now very easy to use: any researcher can connect and enter queries, to know when a mutation started and when it started to spread around the world.(source).

A paper on this project is available at Nucleic Acids Research.

Discover the project GeCo on the MAP #5

Credits header/home: https://www.centrofiera.it/2021/09/02/elettronica-informatica-high-tech-radio-e-vinile-al-via-la-fiera-dellelettronica/