Saturday, July 13, 2024
HomescienceFrom sailing oil tankers to forest rangers

From sailing oil tankers to forest rangers

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Roger Eggers wants today's ships to return to the future. As a senior project manager at the Dutch marine research institute Marine, Eggers leads the EU-funded OPTIWISE project, which is investigating how to harness wind energy to power cargo ships, passenger ships and oil tankers. He has studied ship design for the past 15 years, while also being an avid windsurfing and sailing enthusiast.

“Initially, it was a mixture of hobby and professional interests. I had worked on some sailing yacht projects, so when the idea of ​​using wind to provide energy in sailing came up, it made perfect sense for me to get involved in it. This happened when wind propulsion was not taken seriously Grandfather in the industry, but carbon emissions regulations mean that shipowners are becoming increasingly interested in wind energy from an economic perspective.See the speeds reached by yachts in the America's Cup, it's clear that there is a lot of energy freedom there.

Weather forecasts have become more accurate than in the past, allowing ships to follow a course with the most favorable winds. “It is possible that more than 50% of the ship's thrust is provided by the wind.” In late October and early November 2023, a ship with sails made its first ocean crossing to deliver rocket parts to the European Space Agency in Guyana, France. We hope that larger ships will be built in the future.

In 2024, there will certainly be progress, with a few additional ships launched, but more will be designed and some ships with sails, rotors, suction wings and kites will be designed and built to take advantage of the wind. “We have seen a real acceleration this year, with the number of installations carried out in one year remaining the same as in the last 10 years.”

Food odors and larval proteins

For Janina Seubert, it's all about smells and sensations. Seubert, a cognitive neuroscientist at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, is investigating the role of smell in shaping the public's food preferences. Seubert leads the EU-funded OLFINK project on how taste preferences are formed in the human brain, and as part of efforts to make diets healthier and more environmentally sustainable, he plans, in a future initiative, to evaluate the potential for mealworm-derived mealworm consumption. protein.

“When people come to Sweden for the first time and eat salty licorice, they recognize the smell of licorice, but they may be shocked when they encounter such a salty taste. I was fascinated by how the sense of smell creates emotions and stimulates our appetite. If we see a menu with pictures in a restaurant, This does not create the same level of desire as if there was the delicious smell of bread, pasta, or sauce coming from the kitchen. We need smells to create the desire to eat. Smelling vanilla, for example, we have a sense of sweetness. We believe that over time, Known odors that combine with certain flavors amplify taste in the area of ​​the insular cortex, deep in the brain. But we also wonder where sweetness comes into memory. Most foods we encounter fall into one category, such as sausage or cheese, but we want to know whether There was a range of acceptable flavors and whether people learn to be more accepting when food tastes different from their expectations. The taste of mealworms is not unpleasant. What makes it unpleasant is the way we think about it. We are exploring whether there are ways to present it in a way that makes people They want to consume it. People often continue to eat foods that are not good for them and find it difficult to eat foods that are better for them. We want to investigate why people are so interested in ultra-processed foods and find it difficult to switch to healthier options. We can apply this knowledge to situations in which people overeat. Volunteers will be exposed to familiar foods in liquid form, with a new flavor and a little artificial sweetener, and their reactions will be analyzed by brain scans. “We will investigate whether calorie intake affects how quickly people develop a preference for a new smell and see if this changes with their calorie need – comparing hungry people to satiated people.”

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Forest guards

Christophe Orazio is a forest expert – an expert on forests who is also determined to protect them from threats, including climate change. As Executive Director of the France-based European Institute of Planted Forests, Orazio co-manages the EU-funded SUPERB project, which is working to enhance a large pine forest in the southwest of the country by planting hardwood hedges on 20,000 hectares. The hedges are intended to protect the pine trees, which were planted during the Napoleonic era, from storms, drought, forest fires and even pests, factors that could be exacerbated as global temperatures rise. At the same time, hedges help biodiversity because they provide shelter for birds, mammals and other creatures.

“We had big fires last year due to heat and drought. We've had hotter years and drier years, but we haven't had both at the same time.” The fires will pose a major challenge to forests in France, but they are not the only concern caused by climate change.

The new pest threat includes the spread of a moth infecting maritime pine trees, and another infecting oak trees. You can weaken it by removing some of the leafy cover.” Two years ago, it was very bad for the pines. Spruce forests are suffering now, but next on the list could be oak, which could be a big problem because 65% of the trees our forests are made of of oak, and if droughts become more frequent, pedunculated oaks and much of our forest landscape could be transformed in the next 20 to 30 years.

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About 10 to 15 years ago, foresters' main concern was how to produce as much timber as possible and make as much money as possible. Nowadays, forest owners are concerned with ensuring that forests grow and survive for 30 to 40 years. There is also public pressure to protect biodiversity and increase forest resilience, so there is now a strong desire to try new things. We test dozens of tree species across a climate gradient from the UK to Spain to simulate climate change and help forest managers choose trees for the future. As part of another project, we are also testing mixed plantings with rows of pine and birch trees. The idea of ​​using fencing to protect planted forests is already gaining interest among some forest owners, even before the results of the project are known.

Christos Natanos calls for the use of artificial intelligence to help people with complex brain disorders. As research director at the Decision Support Systems Laboratory at the National Technical University of Athens in Greece, he leads an EU-funded project called MES-CoBraD, which uses patient data collected by doctors and trains artificial intelligence to help diagnose neurological diseases, such as epilepsy and stroke. . Dementia. The overall goal is to provide faster diagnosis and personalized care.

“We use patients' clinical data, collected during regular visits to their doctor or hospital, and analyze it. This can include laboratory results, medical tests, brain waves, sleep patterns and questionnaires. We then design and train the AI ​​to think like an expert, diagnose and suggest treatments.

Once upon a time, doctors were seen as gurus who walked the corridors of hospitals and delivered prophecies as infallible as the ancient prophecies. Today, medical practice has become more precise and realistic, and young doctors are realizing how technologies such as artificial intelligence can improve their work and patients' perspectives.

The role of doctors will change. They will spend less time meticulously analyzing laboratory test results, and much more time with their patients – just as automation in commercial aircraft has taken the aeronautical engineer out of the cockpit and made pilots focus more on safety and communications. The year 2023 will see an increase in public awareness of artificial intelligence and a revival of ethical discussions around its use. However, when I interviewed patients and their families about AI diagnostic tools at King's College Hospital in London, they were reluctant to discuss much about ethics, privacy, or human-machine conflicts. His priority was the health of his loved ones. That's why we hope we will soon see a significant increase in artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies in everyday healthcare and greater acceptance of the role they can play in helping patients.

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Berta Gonzalvo makes no secret of her enthusiasm for plastics, but not for ordinary plastics. The research director at the Aitiip Technology Center, in the Spanish city of Zaragoza, specializes in developing plastics from non-consumable foods, such as lemon peel and cornstarch. In the BARBARA project, funded by the European Union and led by Aitiip, high-performance synthetic materials have emerged from food waste, marking increasing innovation in the European bioeconomy to find solutions for the one-third of man-made food that never reaches access. Expendables.
“Today it has become possible to manufacture polymers, additives, fibers and dyes from food and agricultural waste. In our project, we have been able to manufacture high-performance materials that can be used in cars, on dashboards and on door handles. At the moment, we are implementing projects for exterior parts that must have properties Good mechanicals, such as bumpers and mirror caps.

We will be producing bioplastic parts for cars in the next two or three years. The number of bioplastic parts will increase over time. We are moving forward with the production of new bioplastics and new biofibers that can be used around the batteries of next generation electric vehicles. We are even developing a new generation of carbon fibers based on natural resources, including lignin extracted from wood.

But the first market opportunity for bioplastics in the industry is flexible packaging and rigid packaging. We need to do more and replace many plastics from fossil fuels, such as the high-performance materials used in many car parts. Europe's strategy is to encourage circular biomaterials, so we will need new technologies and materials to meet future demand.

The opinions of the interviewees do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission.

This article was originally published on HorizonEuropean Union Journal of Research and Innovation.

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