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TAU gets six new Academy of Finland-funded projects in engineering and natural sciences

Published on 7.6.2023
Tampere University
Picture: Jonne Renvall/Tampere University
The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Natural Sciences (LT) has granted Academy Project funding for 79 new projects, which comprise a total of 108 sub-projects. At Tampere University, funding was received by six projects two of which are consortium projects led by the University.

The total amount allocated to such projects was some €48 million. The success rate of the applications was 18%.

The Academy Project funding is intended for the salaries of the research team and other research costs. The funding is granted to a Finnish university or research organisation that manages the use of funding. Academy Project funding is granted for a period of four years. 

The aim of the Academy Project funding instrument is to promote the renewal and diversity of Finnish science and to improve the quality and scientific and other impact of research. The aim is to attain internationally as high a scientific standard of work as possible and to support scientific breakthroughs and top-tier international research collaboration. 

In making the funding decisions, the Research Council put particular emphasis on the scientific quality, novelty, breakthrough potential and feasibility of the projects. 

Morphologically detailed models of astrocytic calcium signalling 

Academy Research Fellow Tiina Manninen’s (MET/BioMediTech) project aims to analyse the general principles of astrocytic information transfer in synapses in two brain areas: the hippocampal and somatosensory cortices. 

Non-neuronal glial cells are still much less studied than neurons. The most abundant glial cells in the nervous system are the astrocytes which are known for their highly complex morphology. It has recently been discovered that astrocytes play an important role not only in providing metabolic and homeostatic support for neurons, but also in participating directly in the information processing and plasticity of the brain. 

To address the involvement of astrocytes in synaptic transmission and plasticity, it is crucial to gain a better understanding of their complex morphology and anatomical organisation in addition to their functions and bidirectional signals between neurons and astrocytes. This is possible by the integration of experimental data into computational modelling. 

Novel light sources for cryogenic logic circuits 

Professor Mircea Guina’s (ENS) project aims to develop a new class of light sources in which electro-mechanical strain modulation using surface acoustic waves enables efficient and high-speed light modulation with low dissipative losses.

Such light sources are needed for building information links from low-temperature superconducting logical circuits to room temperature electronics and photonics systems. The technology developed in the project may offer a more efficient way of connecting large numbers of signals to cryogenic quantum-technology processors, offering a fully solid-state implementation solution compatible with silicon photonics.

AWARE Consortium: Human Augmentation through Aware Extended Reality 

Professor Roope Raisamo (ITC) leads a consortium that examines aware extended reality. 

Extended reality (XR) systems give users improved situational awareness, new information and abilities and also enables co-operation through remote presence. Machine learning-based context understanding, and human state estimation enable an artificial intelligence (AI) to intervene in stressful situations and ensure optimal performance.

The cognitive state of the human is estimated by wearable biosensors and eye-trackers in conjunction with XR devices. The results of the project will enable the optimal use of XR systems for the co-operation of humans and AI technologies. The consortium measures cognitive responses, task performance, and the user experience of humans interacting with AI-powered XR technology.

Professor Jonna Häkkilä from the University of Lapland and Senior Scientist Kati Petterson from VTT participate in the consortium with their own funded sub-projects. 

Flexible manipulator controls for machines

Professor of machine automation Jouni Mattila’s (ENS) project aims to develop control technology that enable the real-time end-point sensing and control of flexible robotic systems. 

Mobile machine electrification is taking place by directly replacing hydraulic actuators with electric ones, which still enables the eye-hand coordination of human operators. To achieve zero carbon footprint and low energy consumption, manufacturers need to replace the existing bulky structures with more lightweight ones. Their drawback is severe flexibilities in the system, which makes them unsuitable for human operator control. 

The bottleneck hindering the wider adoption of lightweight structures is the unavailability of real-world control theory for multi-link flexible manipulators. The development of the technology is based on recovering unknown system states by taking advantage of a low-latency IMU sensor network. 

ConSus consortium: Towards sustainable and carbon neutral concrete construction 

Professor Reijo Kouhia’s (BEN) consortium project develops new concrete mixes that will not produce as much carbon dioxide emissions as the current materials. 

Concrete is the most used construction material in the world. Mainly Portland cement is used for binding the aggregate causing an energy intensive process that produces massive CO2 emissions. Recently, alkali-activated materials (AAM), also known as geopolymers, raised some hopes for more energy saving and ecological concrete production. 

The consortium will develop a new AAM concrete mix whose properties are at least as good as that of the Portland cement-based concrete currently in use. To study its strength, ductility, and fatigue properties, both experimental and theoretical methods will be used. If Portland cement can be replaced by AAM binders, it will significantly decrease energy consumption and the production of greenhouse gases. 

Principal Scientist Kari Kolari from VTT and University Researcher Katja Ohenoja from the University of Oulu also participate in the consortium with their sub-projects.

Impact of aerosol parameter uncertainty on atmospheric aerosol process rates and air quality 

In his Academy Project, professor of physics Miikka Dal Maso (ENS) investigates the interaction surface area of aerosols. 

The project will carry out a thorough theoretical and laboratory study of a key quantity governing many atmospheric processes: the aerosol surface interaction area and the distribution of its size. 

The starting point of the study is that the proper quantification of the interaction surface area is essential for determining secondary aerosol formation rates in the laboratory and field. This is also key for predicting the survival rates of newly formed particles.  

Significant assumptions have been made about the definition of surface interaction areas, which entail great uncertainties. The Aero-Surf project tests these assumptions for atmospherically relevant aerosols and reduces uncertainties. The aim is a better understanding of the role of SIA and its size distribution in atmospheric processes and urban air quality. 

Academy of Finland’s press release, 6 June 2023