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CO2-free fuel made from renewable electricity24 November 2015
“move“ – on course for the mobility of the future

The demonstration and technology platform “move” enables Empa researchers to develop new vehicle drive concepts with significantly lower CO2 emissions and test them in practice. It uses surplus electricity from photovoltaic plants or hydropower stations as an energy source. On the one hand, this enables batteries in electric cars to be charged. On the other hand, the electricity can also be converted into hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles or synthetic methane for natural gas/biogas vehicles.
Higher efficiency thanks to perovskite magic crystal23 November 2015
Tandem solar cells are simply better

Stacking two solar cells one over the other has advantages: Because the energy is “harvested” in two stages, and overall the sunlight can be converted to electricity more efficiently. Empa researchers have come up with a procedure that makes it possible to produce thin film tandem solar cells in which a thin perovskite layer is used. The processing of perovskite takes place at just 50 degrees Celsius and such a process is potentially applicable  for low cost roll-to-roll production in future.
Electrochemistry to satisfy mass demand12 November 2015
Super environmentally friendly: the “fool’s gold battery”

High-performance lithium ion batteries face a major problem: Lithium will eventually start to run out as batteries are deployed in electric cars and stationary storage units. Researchers from Empa and ETH Zurich have now discovered an alternative: the “fool’s gold battery”. It consists of iron, sulfur, sodium and magnesium – all elements that are in plentiful supply. This means that giant storage batteries could be built on the cheap and used stationary in buildings or next to power plants, for instance.
Concrete degradation5 November 2015
Structure of “concrete disease” solved

When bridges, dam walls and other structures made of concrete are streaked with dark cracks after a few decades, the culprit is AAR: the alkali-aggregate reaction. Also called the “concrete disease” or even “concrete cancer”, it is a chemical reaction between substances contained in the material and moisture seeping in from outside. AAR damages concrete structures all over the world and makes complex renovations or reconstructions necessary. Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and Empa have now solved the structure of the material produced in the course of AAR at atomic level – and have thereby discovered a previously unknown crystalline arrangement of the atoms. They have now published their results in Cement and Concrete Research, the top journal in the field of building material research.
New class of materials: hybrid aerogels with biopolymers30th October 2015
Hybrid Aerogels as Superinsulators

Although they are considered to be the best insulators of all, silicate-based aerogels have the disadvantages of being brittle and tending to produce dust. With the development of a hybrid aerogel using biopolymers, researchers at Empa and MINES ParisTech University have overcome these problems whilst retaining the outstanding insulating properties of these ultra-light, porous yet solid materials.

EmpaNews 50 published19 October 2015
Nanoparticles - invisible threat?

The production of tiny particles and their industrial use is deemed a key technology of the 21st century. Nanoparticles revolutionize many applications – from industrial products such as sunscreens or waterproofing agents for wood all the way to therapeutics. However, their manufacture, usage and disposal can also harbor risks for humans and the environment. In order to pinpoint and minimize these hazards, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) launched the National Research Program “Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials” (NRP 64). The five-year interdisciplinary program is due to finish at the end of 2015. Empa is in charge of 5 of the 23 scientific Projects. We present them here.

See the whole story (pdf)

Empa researchers optimize diesel cat29 September 2015
Diesel exhaust gases without any nitric oxides – is that possible?

The scandal surrounding VW has thrust nitric oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel vehicles into the limelight. Owing to the different engine technologies, these have always been higher than in gasoline-powered cars. On the other hand, diesel consumes less fuel. If a way can be found to “denitrify” diesel emissions efficiently, we would have an economical, clean engine. Empa researchers are thus working hard on optimizing the catalytic converter technology for diesel.
Personnel25 September 2015
Alex Dommann appointed to Empa’s Board of Directors

On application of the Director of Empa, Professor Gian-Luca Bona, the ETH Board appointed Dr Alex Dommann (*1958) as the new member of the General Management as from 1 October 2015.
Using body heat to keep a shelter warm24 September 2015
A "magic tent" for mountaineers

In collaboration with the start-up "Polarmond", scientists at Empa developed an «all-in-one» shelter system. Inside the shelter conditions remain comfortable whatever the weather outdoors, thanks to a sophisticated dehumidifying system and a fine-tuned temperature control mechanism.
Focus Atmosphere18 August 2015
Anesthetics in Antarctica

Inhalation anesthetics, so-called fluranes, are widely used during surgery. Just how much of these strong greenhouse gases is produced worldwide remains a mystery; industry is keeping its cards close to its chest.
Detailed life cycle assessments for industrial products of the future6 August 2015
Safe motorcycle helmets – made of carrot fibers?

Crackpot idea or recipe for success? This is a question entrepreneurs often face. Is it worth converting the production process to a new, ecologically better material? Empa has developed an analysis method that enables companies to simulate possible scenarios – and therefore avoid bad investments. Here’s an example: Nanofibers made of carrot waste from the production of carrot juice, which can be used to reinforce synthetic parts.
Useful things from gelatine29 July 2015
Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

ETH and Empa researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibres. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water-resistant.
THRIVE sets its sights on waste heat27 July 2015
Waste not, want not

As part of the National Research Program “Energy Turnaround” NRP 70 the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is supporting the interdisciplinary research project “THRIVE”. With IBM Research – Zurich and the Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil as leading houses, scientists from Empa, ETH Zurich, HEIG-VD and PSI will be teaming up with industrial partners until 2017 to develop a heat pump that is powered by waste heat.
EmpaNews 49 published20 July 2015
Concrete heating

An unique experiment is currently underway in Seelisberg: a construction physicist from Lucerne had Empa researchers install six cubic meters of special concrete in the garage of his vacation home. The concrete stores heat during the summer and releases it in the winter as and when needed. The system enables the house to be heated for weeks – sustainably and ecologically.

See the whole story (pdf)
Pictures can be downloaded here.

Video «Wunderbeton als Wärmespeicher» (German language), SRF Einstein, 12.03.2015

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Fuel crucial for life cycle assessment15 July 2015
Are fuel cells environmentally friendly? Not always!

Fuel cells are regarded as the technology of the future for both cars and household heating systems. As a result, they have a key role to play in the switch to renewable energies. But are fuel cells always more environmentally friendly? An international team of scientists headed by Empa performed a series of calculations and reached a conclusion: It depends on the fuel.  
EU project for nanomedical innovations2 July 2015
Launch of first European nanomedicine characterization lab

Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, is part of the «European Nanomedicine Characterization Laboratory», a European project funded by the EU framework program «Horizon 2020». Its goal is to reach a level of international excellence in nanomedicine characterization for diseases like cancer, diabetes, inflammatory diseases or infections. This competence will be made accessible to all organizations developing candidate nanomedicines prior to their submission to regulatory agencies to get approval for clinical trials and, later on, for marketing authorization.
New EU project on the hunt for super-solar cell26 June 2015
«Sharc25» aims at 25% efficiency with thin-film solar cells

«Sharc25», a European research project launched in May, is setting out to develop extremely efficient thin-film solar cells for the next generation of more cost-effective solar modules. Eleven research partners from eight countries are part of the consortium, which is coordinated by the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW). The project will run for 3.5 years and receive €4.6 Mio in EU funding through the «Horizon 2020» program plus €1.6 Mio provided by the Swiss government to support the participation of Swiss partners including Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. The results are expected to give the European solar industry a major boost.
Flisom closes 4th financing round12 June 2015
With pilot plant inaugurated, Swiss PV start-up Flisom ready to take off

At the inauguration of its pilot production plant near Zurich, Swiss start-up Flisom who develops innovative technologies for manufacturing flexible low-cost, high-performance thin film solar cells based on CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-(di)selenide) secured another investment of CHF 10 million following an earlier investment of CHF 42.5 million just two years ago. With its roll-to-roll manufactu-ring the company is capable of producing 1 meter-wide rolls – an unprecedented capacity. A long-standing research cooperation between Flisom and Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, was the basis for this successful scale-up from lab to industrial levels.
MedTech Day – from idea to product9 June 2015
Innovations in medical technology

Medical technology is an important (and research-intensive) growth market for the Swiss economy.  So it's no surprise that this research area plays a central role at Empa; ten of the 30 research laboratories focus, among other things, on the topics of the development, characterisation and analysis of materials as well as on surface coatings. During the MedTech Day on 20 May 2015, Empa researchers presented the latest discoveries made by their laboratories. 

Clean in every aspect4 June 2015
Innovative hybrid-electric powertrain for road sweepers

Empa, ETH Zürich and the road sweeper manufacturer Bucher Municipal have jointly developed a pioneering hybrid-electric powertrain for road sweepers in a CTI project. The concept is based on a gas-driven engine, which provides power to the electric motors. Compared to conventional sweepers, the energy consumption has been halved and CO2 emissions reduced by more than 60 percent. Bucher Municipal is currently working on a concept study to investigate possible commercialisation of the new technologies.

Empa features in a bestseller22. May 2015
WAVE Trophy inspires a spy thriller!

Who in their wildest dreams would ever have thought that Empa would play a role in a spy novel? What sounds like sheer fantasy is now reality! Now we give away one copy of the hard cover edition in English, signed by the authors. To the person who will send us the most creative book title concerning science at Empa. Please submit your proposal by 15. June to

Techtextil Innovation Award 20155 May 2015
Chest strap heart rate monitor

A team of Empa scientists has, together with industrial partners, developed a novel chest strap device for the long-term monitoring of patients with heart and circulatory problems. What is special about the new system is that it records an electrocardiogram (ECG) of the wearer. It is also self-moistening, which is essential for reliable signal monitoring. At the specialist exhibition «Techtextil» held recently in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the system won the Techtextil Innovation Award 2015.
Medical engineering21 April 2015
Backache – a matter of mechanics

Thanks to a collaboration with the Balgrist University Hospital and University of Pittsburgh, Empa is beginning to decode the mechanics of the lower vertebrae. Researchers would like be able to reveal how wear and tear comes about on vertebral bodies and spinal disks. This would also make choosing the appropriate therapy much easier.

EmpaNews 48 published15 April 2015
Backache – a matter of mechanics

Some say that back pain is the price we pay for walking upright. Others claim that the problem only really started when humankind sat down to reflect and contemplate. Thanks to a collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh and Balgrist University Hospital, Empa is beginning to decode the mechanics of the lower vertebrae. Researchers soon will be able to reveal how wear and tear comes about on vertebral bodies and spinal disks. This will make choosing the appropriate therapy much easier. 

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First measurements of 4th generation coolants24 March 2015
Searching for traces in the atmosphere

4th generation halogenated coolants and foaming agents have only been in use for a few years. They have replaced persistent greenhouse gases such as R134a, which were used in (car) air conditioning units, refrigerators and in a variety of foams. Empa researchers have now published first measurements on the atmospheric distribution and abundance of these new substances. They show that the new coolants are frequently used in Europe - and that their use is increasing.

Empa-led EU project "TREASORES" yields first results18 March 2015
Towards "printed" organic solar cells and LEDs

Flexible optoelectronic devices that can be produced roll-to-roll – much like newspapers are printed – are a highly promising path to cheaper devices such as solar cells and LED lighting panels. Scientists from "TREASORES" project present  prototype flexible solar cell modules as well as novel silver-based transparent electrodes that outperform currently used materials.
«Power-to-Gas» Technology Briefing2 March 2015
Key energy of the future

Our energy supplies are in a state of fundamental flux, the primary challenges being to reduce our CO2 emissions and to move from fossil and nuclear energy sources to renewables. The automobile industry is, of course, also involved in this metamorphosis – in addition to the introduction of vehicles with new power trains, the supply of the appropriate fuels for them is of vital importance. Recently at Empa representatives from the political and financial fields, as well as the automobile industry and various areas of research showed how these challenges might be tackled
Technology Briefing on "Critical Materials"23 February 2015
Are we independent of rare metals?

Numerous metallic elements are regarded as "critical": on one hand, they play an ever more important role in so-called future technologies and on the other, there is a high risk of supply bottlenecks. Small and medium-sized companies are also affected by this, and they are often not sure which of these materials they are dependent on. At a "Technology Briefing" at Empa, strategies for the sustainable use of critical materials were presented and discussed.

A portrait12 February 2015
«The energy future won’t happen by itself»

Urs Elber, Managing Director of Empa's Research Focus Area «Energy», explains how the energy supply will change in the years to come and how Empa supports this transformation.

Empa appoints «Distinguished Senior Researchers»29 January 2015
A passion for research

«Empa ambassadors» – this is the unofficial title for two of Empa's researchers. Karl-Heinz Ernst and Oliver Gröning were recently appointed as «Distinguished Senior Researchers». That is why both researchers will each be giving a promotional lecture to Empa in Dübendorf in the coming weeks, providing insights into their specialist areas.
Measuring blood sugar without taking any blood20 January 2015
Light replaces the needle

Empa and the University Hospital Zurich have joined forces to develop a sensor that gages the blood sugar through skin contact. And best of all: No blood samples are necessary, not even to calibrate the sensor. “Glucolight” is initially to be used in premature babies to avoid hypoglycemia and subsequent brain damage. 
Teamwork with the University of Applied Arts Vienna15 January 2015
Sound masterpiece with an Empa heart

For his latest sound masterpiece, Belgian artist Aernoudt Jacobs turned to Empa technology. It will be on display at the Vienna gallery IM ERSTEN from January 28, 2015. Inside the artwork, there is a membrane made of electroactive polymers, also dubbed “artificial muscles”, which simultaneously generates reflections and sounds.
Environmentally friendly coating for aircraft furniture9 January 2015
Flame protection for the jet set

A new coating protects business jet interiors against fire. Not only is the agent more environmentally friendly than before; it can also be applied more quickly. This new coating could also be used in textiles and wood-based furnishing and architectural systems.

EmpaNewsletter No 25 published. Edition August 2015 main topic: «Unconventional Ideas»