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Frontier research

24 August 2021

New form of carbon tantalises with prospects for electronics

A newly created form of carbon in a mesh just one atom thick is tantalising scientists with hints that it could sharply improve rechargeable batteries and allow wires so small that they can operate at a scale where metals fail.
10 August 2021

Dry season parasite behaviour could provide new route for malaria treatment

Scientists believe they have cracked the question of how the malaria parasite keeps a low profile in infected people during the dry season in Africa in order to avoid immune attention and trigger outbreaks when the rains and mosquitoes return. The knowledge could open up new ways to combat the disease, which killed 409,000 people, mostly children, in 2019 alone.
04 August 2021

Antifreeze fish inspire new cryoprotectants for human cells and tissues

The idea of cryogenically freezing a person to preserve their body until many years into the future has long been a staple of science fiction stories. However, the need to reliably store biological materials such as cells or tissue is a common concern for scientific research and, increasingly, for society too.
30 June 2021

Q&A: ‘Our society desperately needs objective, truth-based knowledge’

Basic, or ‘frontier’, research that expands the boundaries of our knowledge can help address some of the most important challenges of our time – and it’s important that more people become aware of this, according to Prof. Maria Leptin who has today been appointed president of the EU’s frontier research funding body, the European Research Council (ERC).
14 June 2021

How carbon-intensive industries can scale up CO2 recycling

New technologies that capture and recycle carbon dioxide from industrial processes such as steel and cement making will be vital if the EU is to meet its goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and down to zero by 2050. However, while solutions are emerging, more work is needed in order to roll them out at scale, experts say.
10 June 2021

Extremophiles could hold clues for climate change-tackling technologies

Microscopic organisms known as extremophiles inhabit some of the last places on Earth you might expect to find life, from the extreme pressures of the ocean floor to freezing ice caps. Understanding how these microbes survive by interacting with different metals and gases is opening up new knowledge about Earth’s elements and their potential uses.
01 June 2021

Bird-like robots could assist in medical emergencies and hunt down drones

A bird flaps its wings, glides using air currents and then smoothly descends to perch on a pole. But this is not just any bird, it’s a robot bird. And robots like these could in the next decade be used to respond to emergencies or to hunt down drones posing a threat to safety or security.
25 May 2021

Nanorobots could target cancers and clear blood clots

Tiny nano-sized robots and vehicles that can navigate through blood vessels to reach the site of a disease could be used to deliver drugs to tumours that are otherwise difficult to treat.
18 May 2021

How flood protection can paradoxically put people at risk

Governments who build defences against rising seas can actually increase their citizens’ risk of being flooded – if they fail to take account of the ‘safe development paradox’, according to a flood defence expert.
17 May 2021

How chemists are building molecular assembly lines

Four huge robot arms surround the gleaming metal shell of what will soon be a top-of-the-range automobile. They jerk into life, attaching the bonnet, the wing mirrors, and other panels. It’s the kind of precision operation you can find at car factories around the world these days. But here’s a question worth considering: could we pull off a feat like this only about a billion times smaller?