Dossiers' Archive

People in today’s industrialised society live healthier, longer lives than previous generations. Age-related illnesses and ailments are also increasing as a result. Engineers and life scientists are researching constantly improving diagnostic methods to enable better detection and treatment of these problems and are developing a wide variety of treatments that combine modern technologies with biological-medical know-how. For this reason, ETH Zurich has launched the strategic research focus “Medical Technology and Health”. The new “Health Sciences and Technologies” department (D-HEST) will come into operation on 1 January, 2012 as a visible signal to the outside world. The first students will complete the new study programmes beginning in autumn 2011. This dossier summarises the wide variety of activities arising from research and teaching in this area. 31.10.11
Micro- and nanosystems are part and parcel of today’s technology. No bigger than a few ten-thousandths of a millimetre, the semi-conductors, photonic devices, quick high-frequency transistors and quantum devices are produced under cleanroom conditions in special labs that contain hardly any particles in the air so as not to contaminate the mini-components. However, it’s not just electronics that nanomaterials are revolutionising, but also the energy and consumer goods industries. And medicine and medical technology would be unthinkable nowadays without the tiny little helpers. Nevertheless, producing, processing and using nanomaterials is not without its risks for humans and the environment. These need to be explored. The dossier Nanotechnology provides information on all nano-related projects currently underway at ETH Zurich and their contribution to risk management. 12.05.11
Under its seventh Research Framework Programme, the EU tendered for major projects, so-called flagship initiatives, in the field of Future and Emerging Technologies (FET). With the FET flagships, the EU is looking to promote large-scale, ambitious research projects with a visionary goal in information and communications technology (ICT) by offering EUR one billion over a period of ten years. Twenty-six consortiums submitted projects. In March this year the six most promising candidates were nominated, including two projects with considerable ETH-Zurich involvement: ‘FuturICT’ and ‘Guardian Angels’. The finalists their projects publicly at the second FET conference and exhibition in Budapest on 4-6 May. The research groups will then have until May 2012 to put together a detailed proposal, which the final decision will be based upon. The successful consortiums will finally be able to start work in 2013. 04.05.11
The UN General Assembly has declared 2011 the “International Year of Chemistry”. Chemistry has contributed a great deal to our welfare both in the past and the present. It’s not just an abstract, theoretical science; chemistry is everywhere and affects so many aspects of our daily lives. It is the key to a deeper understanding of nature as countless chemical reactions take place in the smallest unit of life, the cell. Chemistry also plays a significant role in solving the problems of today, such as energy and environmental issues. Its fruits help shape our future, which is why the slogan of the International Year of Chemistry 2011 is “Chemistry – Our Life, Our Future”. The year also marks the hundredth anniversary of Marie Curie’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911 for the discovery of the elements radium and polonium. Chemistry is also an important branch of research at ETH Zurich, and its Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences (D-CHAB) is one of the largest at the university. A dossier will thus be dedicated to the Year of Chemistry, summarising all the articles published on the subject in ETH Life over the year. 17.12.10
A new term for biological variety appeared in the biologist’s vocabulary during the mid-1980s: “biodiversity”. It was coined by American evolutionary biologist Eduard O. Wilson, who popularized it beyond the bounds of the field. This eventually included politics. In 1992, representatives from over 160 states signed the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) in Rio de Janeiro, committing themselves amongst other things to curbing the loss of biological diversity. Nearly 20 years on, the UN has now declared 2010 the Year of Biodiversity and is thus looking to set an example. After all, biological diversity is more under threat than ever. The CBD has not been able to change anything, either. Genes, species and habitats – the three pillars of the concept of biological diversity – are disappearing at a breathtaking rate after millions of years of successful existence. The chief culprit is mankind and his method of land use. Consequently, ETH Life will be devoting its attention to biodiversity this year, presenting some background knowledge and the latest from biodiversity research at ETH Zurich at regular intervals in this dossier. 04.01.10
Studying at ETH Zurich means receiving one of the best educations in the world. Many successful entrepreneurs, scientists or engineers began their career with an ETH Zurich study programme. But studying at ETH Zurich doesn’t just mean swotting theory. Even at this early stage, students can already gain experience in research and practice and learn entrepreneurial thinking. This is tried out and implemented in fascinating study projects where students can let theoretical knowledge flow into practical projects or turn their own ideas into reality during their education. For instance, robots learn to sail, rolls of film are taught to fly or everyday life at ETH Zurich is investigated for environmental sins. This dossier summarises the wide variety of projects for students. 06.08.09
Charles Darwin is the big topic for the whole of 2009. The great British natural scientist was born on 12.2.1809, and 50 years later in 1859 he published his work “On the Origin of Species”, which shook many people’s philosophy of life and the way they saw themselves. In his book Darwin explained the origin of the great diversity of plants and animals and ultimately of human beings. By so doing he caused serious offence among society and in the church at that time. Nevertheless Darwin’s Theory of Evolution has gained acceptance and forms the foundation of present-day biology. In addition the term “evolution” is familiar not only to biologists. Evolutionary processes also have an impact in other fields, e.g. in computer science and product development. This dossier summarizes the articles on the subject of Evolution – not only in a biological context – and about the Darwin Year. Peter Rueegg, 19.02.09
The Swiss Bobsleigh Federation joined forces with ETH Zurich and several industrial companies to develop the 4- and 2-man bobs for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The alliance, founded in 2007 under the name Citius, developed and produced two prototypes, of which the 2-man bob was shown publicly at the Swiss Innovation Forum in early November 2008. In the coming weeks and months, ETH Life will report how bobsleigh driving changed over the course of a century, what results were obtained from wind tunnel and ice track trials, and how the scientists met the new challenge of bobsleigh construction. About 14 months still remain until the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. An eternity, or so it seems. For the bobsleigh designers, it means a lot of work in a very short time, because more 2- and 4-man bobs will be built in the coming months. Simone Ulmer, 11.02.09
In order to sustain our lifestyle, people in the industrial nations in particular use resources and energy, primarily fossil fuels like oil, natural gas or coal, in a big way. Burning these substances produces carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases largely responsible for climate change and which are turning the Earth into a greenhouse. Society, economy and ecology of the Earth are all closely related to one another in this “game”. ETH Zurich is therefore not only researching the causes and effects of the man-made climate change but also new means of generating energy and how a sustainable lifestyle can be achieved. ETH Life provides regular updates on various activities in these fields and compiles the separate articles in this “Energy, Climate and Sustainability” dossier. 11.02.09