The first day that Jérôme Delafosse stepped aboard the Energy Observer, an experimental catamaran run on hydrogen, he knew the plan of sailing around the world on clean energy was a realistic one, he says. Now, the explorer and documentary maker is one year into a six-year odyssey around the globe with his friend Victorien Erussard, an ocean racer and former cruise ship officer, to prove that the technology can be used for pollution-free ocean travel in the future.
Requiring drones to identify and authorise themselves before they can fly, which could be achieved by fitting them with SIM cards, could help to protect people's privacy by providing an effective way to register both users and machines, according to air traffic management expert Robin Garrity. He has been working on the U-space plan, which sets out a vision for how drones can be integrated into airspace, particularly in urban environments. It is part of work being conducted by the SESAR Joint Undertaking, a public-private partnership that coordinates EU research activities in air traffic management.
Modern engines - in particular those which inject fuel at high pressure - maximise efficiency and cut carbon dioxide emissions, but may also release harder-to-catch pollution associated with cancers and lung, heart and Alzheimer’s diseases. In response, European researchers are analysing exhaust particles down to one billionth of a metre, which may help in the development of cleaner cars.
Europe’s population is ageing rapidly, yet the majority of car safety equipment is tested using dummies modelled on people under the age of 65. Now researchers are developing vehicles and equipment designed specifically for the physical attributes and abilities of older bodies.
Aviation is one of the most environmentally harmful forms of transportation, accounting for 3% of all EU greenhouse gas emissions. But new aircraft designs inspired by the work of an early 20th-century aviation engineer and natural substances such as honeycomb and grass could help to cut the environmental footprint of flying.
Aircraft seats that temporarily shrink and a joined-up transport system that allows people to easily plan a door-to-door journey could help shift people’s first choice of travel away from cars and towards public transport by reducing the time and effort involved.
Electric ferries and digital communication between ships could help in the quest to decarbonise maritime transport, a sector which is often perceived as being the green option but could still do much to lower its environmental footprint.
Lightweight electric mini-cars could soon be a common sight on the streets of Europe’s cities thanks to longer-lasting batteries, tilting and stackable design, and modular components to bring down the cost of mass production.
The search for alien life with next-generation telescopes, a self-healing heart capable of restarting itself, and safer roads with smarter cars are expected to feature as the some of the key scientific breakthroughs in the coming year.
Free flowing rivers have almost entirely vanished across Europe.
Animal droppings are still used to fertilise crops, as fuel and even for building.
R&I missions will mean rethinking the economy - Prof. Mazzucato.