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Empa

Materials

Fire-resistant concrete promises safer, cheaper and more efficient construction

By cutting construction time, requiring less equipment and making less noise, self-compacting concrete has a number of benefits over conventional vibrated concrete. But where it falls down is resistance to fire which results in flaking and splitting. Scientists have now found a way to overcome this, by doping the concrete mix with a special polymer that they say better equips it to withstand high temperatures and in turn, maintain the integrity of a structure. Read More

Energy

"Fool's gold" nanocrystals present cheap, abundant alternative to lithium in batteries

As energy production moves towards solar and wind-powered alternatives, battery systems to store intermittently-produced electricity have never been more important. Unfortunately, many of the materials needed to make high-performance batteries for this purpose are rapidly diminishing and becoming increasingly expensive as a result. Now researchers have created a new type of storage battery that is made from a range of cheap and abundant materials and shows promise for high-efficiency performance.Read More

Hybrid road sweeper keeps air cleaner, too

A Swiss joint venture has developed a hybrid-electric powertrain for road sweepers that's said to consume half the energy of diesel-hydraulic vehicles and reduce emissions by more than 60 percent. The modular system can also be adapted to cleaner fuel types such as hydrogen. Read More

Medical

Self-moistening chest strap could be used for multi-day ECGs

In order to conduct electrical signals from the skin, the electrodes on heart rate monitors need to be slightly moist. That's why gel is first applied to patients' skin. Unfortunately, that gel dries up within 24 hours. Now, however, scientists from Switzerland's Empa research institute are developing a solution – a self-moistening heart rate-monitoring chest strap, for use in situations where electrocardiograms (ECGs) need to be recorded over a period of several days.

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Science

Empa invents chemical computer faster than a satnav

If you’re going out for pizza in Budapest, which would you choose to get you there; a smartphone with GPS or a drop of gel on a little maze? A team of scientists from Switzerland, Hungary, Japan and Scotland under the leadership of Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, thinks that the gel might be your better bet because that little bit of plastic and goo is a chemical computer capable of navigating a maze faster than a satnav.Read More

Automotive

Affordable, lightweight ceramic/aluminum brake rotors developed

When it comes to making cars more energy-efficient – whether they're battery- or gas-powered – getting their weight down is one of the best things you can do. Unfortunately, the cast iron brake rotors currently used in most vehicles are quite heavy. Lighter ceramic rotors certainly do exist, although their high price mostly limits their application to expensive sports cars. Soon, however, ceramic-coated aluminum rotors may be a cost-effective lightweight alternative for economy cars. Read More

Environment

Moth eyes inspire more efficient photoelectrochemical cells

As nocturnal creatures, moths need to maximize how well they can see in the dark whilst remaining less visible to avoid predators. This ability to collect as much of the available light as possible and at the same time reflect as little as possible, has inspired Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) to design a new type of photoelectrochemical cell using relatively low cost materials. Read More

Environment

Sponges made from wood waste may soak up oil spills

As the Deepwater Horizon incident showed us, oil spills can be huge environmental disasters. That said, there are also considerable challenges in dealing with the waste products generated by the forestry and agriculture industries. Now, scientists from Switzerland's Empa research group have come up with a method of addressing the one problem with the other – they've developed sponges made from cellulose waste, that can soak up 50 times their own weight in oil. Read More

Health & Wellbeing

Diamond Armor bullet-proof suit provides stylish protection for a cool US$3.2 million

If you're looking to extend your bulletproof wardrobe with something that won't be out of place alongside other garments, such as the Miguel Caballero bullet-proof polo shirt, the Bullet-Proof Gentleman’s Square and Garrison Bespoke's bulletproof three-piece suit, then the Diamond Armor could be a good fit. Developed by SuitArt, the Diamond Armor is a diamond-studded, bullet-proof, air-conditioned, bespoke-tailored suit costing US$3.2 million, making it the most expensive custom-tailored suit in the world.Read More

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