Europe has set a course for a low-carbon economy, but what does this mean in practice? This month, Horizon looks at the carbon-free innovations set to change our lives, from neighbourhoods that can produce more energy than they consume, to Europe's renewable energy cooperatives. We also explore new technologies to minimise the risk of nuclear meltdown, and find out how a tie-up between researchers in the EU and North Africa could help bring renewable energy innovations to the Mediterranean region.
Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island - all three nuclear disasters were caused by human error, in one form or another. Now researchers are working on ways to ensure nuclear power plants remain safe – by making safety systems that can operate automatically.
A growing number of environmentally minded people are putting their money where their mouths are and directly investing in projects such as solar and wind farms, thanks to a rise in community-based financing schemes such as crowdfunding and renewable energy cooperatives.
An experimental project connecting renewable energy researchers in the EU with colleagues in Morocco and Tunisia could help pave the way for a market in renewable energy and energy efficiency that spans the Mediterranean, according to Claude Ayache, senior advisor for European affairs at the EU’s public-private green energy partnership, InnoEnergy.
In November, Horizon takes a deep dive into the captivating, diverse world of clouds to understand what they mean for climate change. We speak to atmospheric physicist Prof. Pier Siebesma about why clouds are still one of the biggest sources of uncertainty when it comes to climate change and how new field studies are helping to reduce some of the unknowns. We speak to a researcher about flying through tropical clouds to collect particles at high altitudes to paint a full picture of the role of clouds and aerosols in our planet’s climate. And we also delve into research investigating how global warming is changing clouds and why this could bring about extreme weather and rain, and we look at how aerosols – crucial for cloud formation - are changing due to anthropogenic pollution.
In October, Horizon discovers a futuristic world of transparent e-books, plastic solar cells and electronic skin with a look at some of the applications of organic electronics. We speak to organic chemist Prof. Andreas Hirsch about how using carbon rather than silicon in electronics can make them flexible, lightweight and biocompatible and could lead to a new generation of human-looking robots and ‘chemical’ computing. We take a look at work to create electronic skin – self-healing, stretchable material that can mimic some of the functions of human skin – and its potential uses. We discover how thin, flexible, plastic solar cells could turn surfaces such as cars and fabric into sources of renewable energy, and we uncover some novel approaches to charging wearable electronics.
Live vaccines can give health effects beyond just protecting us from a specific disease and may even help us combat other infections such as Covid-19, according to Christine Stabell Benn, a professor in global health at the University of Southern Denmark.
Using light as an energy source, photosynthetic microalgae can be used to produce products like biofuels and cosmetics. But algae grown in a reactor block out the light on which they feed. New reactor designs could solve this problem and help the industry move forward.
Prof. Christine Stabell Benn is studying the wider effects of common vaccines.
Stephan Borrmann’s detective work required help from a high-altitude former spy plane.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.