Discovering the origin of our Sun

The Sun is a star that formed 4.6 billion years ago in our Milky Way Galaxy. It is the largest and most massive object in our Solar System, whose energy enables life on our planet. What happened at the time of its birth? Was its formation similar to most stars in our Galaxy, or did it form in special circumstances? ERC grantee Maria Lugaro at the ELKH Konkoly Observatory in Budapest seeks to answer these questions by investigating the Solar System’s chemical origin. Her discoveries could help untangle the secrets of stars’ potential to harbour Earth-like planets, and ultimately life.

Since time immemorial, we have wondered if our planet is unique in the Universe. The answer to this age-old question depends on many factors, including the origin of our Sun. Were the circumstances of our Sun’s birth unique, or was it a typical occurrence? Knowing this is crucial for understanding how our Solar System and life within it compare to other planetary systems.

Our Sun is just one of hundreds of billions of stars in the Galaxy. Stars are born in cold and dense interstellar clouds of dust and gas called stellar nurseries. These star-forming regions of accumulated dust and gas collapse due to gravity and form stars.

Most stars are born in families and several generations may even coexist together in a stellar nursery. As it turns out, it is the size of the Sun’s stellar family that could give scientists clues about the uniqueness of our Solar System.

‘The Sun being born in a small or a large family may have affected its potential to harbour habitable terrestrial planets like Earth,’ says Maria Lugaro, an astrophysicist at the Konkoly Observatory and principal investigator of the ERC-funded RADIOSTAR project, who is exploring the circumstances of the Sun’s birth.

Lugaro is studying how nuclear reactions inside stars produced the chemical matter that builds up our Sun, planets and bodies. To look back 4.6 billion years, Lugaro and her team use radioactive nuclei as clocks that can reveal the time of astrophysical events before and around the Sun’s birth.

Powerful clues to cosmic history

The method they apply is similar to the one in which scientists use carbon-14 to determine the age of fossils and archaeological specimens. Scientists use radioactive elements because they decay in a predictable way. For example, every 5730 years, carbon-14 decays by half.

‘However, if we want to measure cosmic intervals related to the birth of the Sun, we need radioactive clocks that decay in much longer times than carbon-14’, says Lugaro. ‘Approximately twenty such nuclei exist, ranging from aluminium-26, with a decay time of nearly a million years, to nuclei such as curium-247 with a 16-million-year decay time.’

To measure a given cosmic interval using radioactive nuclei, scientists need to know the decay time, which can be measured in nuclear laboratories. They also need to know their value at the point in time in the Universe’s history that they are interested in measuring. Luckily, this historic data is stored in meteorites.

‘We know the numbers of many radioactive nuclei at the time of the Sun’s birth because they can be measured by analysing the composition of meteorites,’ explains Lugaro. ‘These nuclei provide powerful clues to investigate the circumstances of the Sun’s birth, but only if we can understand where they come from.’

Therefore, the project team aims to go even further back into cosmic history. They want to look at the time of the formation of the interstellar cloud that gave birth to the Sun.

The origin of the Sun’s interstellar cloud

In order to reproduce the evolution of the galaxy and stars, scientists are applying sophisticated mathematical programs. This allows them to derive the time that elapsed between the interstellar cloud formation and the Sun’s birth.

‘The longer this time, the more likely the Sun was born in a large family of different generations of stars. While the shorter time would mean it was born with just a few siblings, no parents, no grandparents coexisting, or even alone’, says Lugaro.

So far, Lugaro’s results confirm previous discoveries in this field, indicating that this pre-birth period lasted for at least 10 million years. This suggests that the Sun’s stellar cloud was large enough to allow the birth of several generations of stars.

Just the right amount of water 

Stellar members of our Sun’s large family may have created just the right conditions for the existence of a habitable terrestrial planet like Earth, explains Lugaro. This is because stellar members can produce and eject aluminium-26, whose radioactive decay produces a lot of heat, making ice melt and water evaporate.

Although we think of water as essential for life, too much of it can actually inhibit life. In fact, planets completely covered in water are less likely to sustain life than water-poor planets. That is why the heat created by aluminium-26 may have been essential for our planet, allowing just the right amount of water coverage.

Through the meteoritic analysis, scientists know that there was a lot of aluminium-26 at the Sun’s birth. However, they still do not know if this is a special or ‘normal’ case. ‘If we can understand where the aluminium-26 came from in the young Solar System, then we can have a reason for its origin, and determine how likely this could apply to other stars in the Galaxy’, says Lugaro.

By the end of the project, Lugaro and her team aim to understand the type of stellar nursery in which the Sun was born. Their goal is to produce a picture of the Sun’s birth that explains all radioactive nuclei known to be present in the early Solar System.

Expanding expertise and developing new tools

Lugaro says that the ERC grant enabled her to acquire a permanent position at the Konkoly Observatory, as well as strengthen her research team and develop new tools. She was able to expand her group’s expertise from focusing mostly on the modelling of nuclear reactions in stars to modelling the evolution of the galaxy as well. Her team currently consists of fifteen members with expertise ranging from astrophysics and astronomy to mathematics, computer science and meteoritic science.

‘With the ERC grant, I have been able to develop new concepts and tools and seek answers for topical questions around the Sun’s formation whose understanding is relevant not only for my specific scientific work but for the community as a whole,’ says Lugaro.

 

New H2020 neutron research project of the ELKH Centre for Energy Research launched in January for industrial introduction of an international materials testing standard

The researchers of the ELKH Centre for Energy Research (ELKH CER) have won an EU H2020 project proposal to promote innovation in Hungary. The CER staff of the Neutron Spectroscopy Department received the nearly EUR 350,000 three-year project grant for the development and introduction of a new industrial testing standard for non-destructive materials. The EASI-STRESS project involves four major European research infrastructures (RIs), one university, two technology transfer companies and seven top industrial enterprises as partners. Four of the latter also have significant industry involvements in Hungary. Subsidiaries of well-known companies such as Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens, EDF (a French nuclear power plant manufacturer), NEMAK (a foundry giant with an automotive supplier factory in Győr, for example), the world’s largest steel producer (Acelor-Mittal) and a 3D metal-printing company (Volum-E) are involved in the work.

One of the research infrastructures participating in the EASI-STRESS project is the Budapest Research Reactor, which operates at the ELKH-CER Csillebérc campus. On the left is the 10-megawatt nuclear reactor building complex, on the right is the reactor core-block and around it a suite of BNC’s neutron diffraction equipment.

The aim of the project is non-destructive X-ray and neutron diffraction analysis of internal residual stresses in materials/components, strengthening the dissemination of the measurement method and tools, and developing new standards in close cooperation with industry. This technique allows a better understanding of the formation of internal residual stresses during the manufacture of various devices and to predict the in-use variation of stresses, and as a result the possible life-time and reliability of the products. In this way, comparing and incorporating directly the measured data into existing industrial design and modelling tools will enable us to produce better products. With the introduction of this method at an industry level, manufacturers will be able to detect defects in the production of components such as the formation of cracks due to poor welds or bending at the wrong speed and temperature. Additionally, as a quality assurance procedure, it will also be possible to identify materials that fatigue due to environmental influences during the use of objects, and potentially increase service life as a result.

The essence of the method is the following: the parameters of the manufacturing processes greatly influence the material structure. For example, in castings, the rate of solidification affects the position of the atoms in the alloy materials, and if the ideal crystal structure is not formed, an ‘internal stress remains’ within the material. By X-ray diffraction on the surface of the components, while with neutrons in the bulk of the materials we can ‘see’ the atomic level microstructure and the internal stress value and distribution can be calculated from the diffraction patterns.

BNC staff have significant experience in neutron diffraction stress analysis – this is why they have been invited to this EU project. The image on the left shows the sample table of one of the BNC’s spectrometers, where the microstructure of a gas turbine wheel is being tested. On the right is an experimental set-up with a bending device for the sample in the neutron beam, thus enabling in-situ stress generation during the neutron diffraction measurements.

In the modern production of machine parts, heat treatment and shaping by mechanical deformation are often used simultaneously. For example, in the case of multicomponent alloys, the metallurgical or phase composition in the object, including the residual stresses, depends on the processes used. In engineering design, large software packages have been developed to model such processes, the experimental validation of which is a prerequisite for the introduction of design results into production. Diffraction stress analysis is one of the most efficient non-destructive experimental methods, which means that the standardization of such measurement procedures would allow for industry-wide application. Incorporating this knowledge tool into the design process of metallic parts will result in reduced material consumption and more reliable and longer-lasting products, which would also mean significant environment and cost savings.

In the project, the industrial companies will define and produce test samples according to their profile, and also providing real components for the experiments. Diffraction measurements are to be performed by RIs, X-ray examinations at the two largest European synchrotron sources (ESRF-Grenoble, HZG-Hamburg), neutron experiments at the world’s largest neutron research facility (ILL-Grenoble) and at the Budapest Neutron Centre (BNC) as the largest Hungarian research infrastructure, a unit of the ELKH-CER. The University of Manchester, as well as the Danish and French tech-transfer companies (DTI, CETIM), will ensure the coordination of modelling and validation, while they will also be responsible for introducing the procedure as a European standard.

 

 

 

Drug residues can affect the fish body and scale shape

Pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) in natural waters can affect the body and scale shape of fish – stated researchers from the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences (MATE), based on water and fish samples taken from small watercourses in the Budapest Metropolitan Region. Examination of imperceptible deformations with new types of data can help to estimate the environmental risks of micropollutants. The study was carried out within the framework of an NVKP project led by the ELKH Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, with the participation of the ELKH Centre for Ecological Research.

“The current wastewater treatment technologies are unable to remove the drug residues, so they can pass through wastewater treatment plants more or less unhindered. Thus, 54 different active substances were detected in the water samples taken from the small watercourses of the Budapest agglomeration. However, in the framework of the complex project, we were also curious to see if there was any correlation between the presence of the pharmaceutically active compounds and the shape of the fish in the given watercourse”- emphasizes Dr. Ádám Staszny, an expert at the Institute of Aquaculture and Environmental Safety, MATE.

According to the results published in the prestigious journal PeerJ on February 11, four of the detected active substances were clearly found to cause changes in the shape of fish. These were the antidepressant drug citalopram, propranolol for cardiovascular disease, codeine for rheumatic pain, and trimetazidine for coronary heart disease.

“These PhACs have been found in very low concentrations (typically at the ngL-1 level) in natural waters, which means that they have a negligible effect on human health. However, their mixtures had an effect on fish”- points out Mr. Staszny. As he added, further studies are needed to understand the exact mechanism of the phenomenon uncovered, but it seems that the new method may also be promising in ecotoxicological practice.

The study was supported by the National Competitiveness and Excellence Program, Hungary (project number: NVKP_16-1-2016-0003, project leader: Attila Csaba Kondor). In the framework of the project, the researchers led by the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences (CSFK) investigated the measurable PhACs concentrations and their possible risks in the waters of the Budapest Metropolitan Region. The research focusing on fish was coordinated by the Department of Freshwater Fish Ecology, Institute of Aquaculture and Environmental Safety, MATE (coordinators: Dr. András Weiperth and Vera Juhász) under the leadership of Dr. Árpád Ferincz.

Vortex indicating planet formation observed by an international research team led by CSFK astronomer

József Varga, an astronomer at the Leiden University and the ELKH Konkoly Observatory, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, is the leader of an international research group that discovered a vortex of gas and dust around a young star with the new MATISSE instrument in Chile, which was built with Hungarian contribution. Researchers say it is possible that a nascent planet is also hiding in the vortex. The celestial body HD 163296 under investigation is a much-studied young star located 330 light-years from Earth in the Sagittarius constellation. Earlier, evidence for the presence of three large exoplanets around the star had been found, though they are much farther away from the fourth supposed planet that has now been discovered.

During their observations in March and June 2019, the researchers studied the inner dust disk around the star with their telescopes, during which they observed a ring of warm dust particles at a distance from the star comparable to Mercury’s orbit around our Sun. They were surprised to find that one side of the disk was much brighter than the other. Subsequently, after comparing to previous measurements, it was concluded that this bright cluster is orbiting the star with an orbital period of approximately one month. Astronomers have also used computer simulations to verify their hypothesis that this cluster of hot dust could actually be a vortex. Such vortices have a higher density and pressure of matter (gas and dust) than the rest of the disk, which, according to current planet formation theories, creates the perfect conditions for the birth of a new planet. This is because the formation of a planet originally requires dust particles consisting of small particles like smoke. The grains of dust stick together, forming larger and larger particles, until they eventually form a planet under the influence of gravity. The process of planet formation is still unclear in many respects, but discoveries like this one bring us closer to the understanding the birth of planets such as Earth.

Schematic image of the dust disk around the star HD 163296 in infrared light. The bright part in the upper right is the supposed vortex where a new planet can form. (©) J. Varga et al.

The researchers made their observations leading to the discovery with MATISSE (Multi AperTure mid-Infrared SpectroScopic Experiment). This is the next-generation instrument of the VLTI (Very Large Telescope Interferometer) which is a telescope network at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Paranal Observatory in Chile. VLTI combines the light of four telescopes, creating a virtual telescope of up to 200 meters in diameter. This is necessary because even today’s largest 10-meter-diameter optical telescopes alone would not be able to resolve the now-discovered orbital disk, but by combining the light from multiple telescopes — by increasing the resolution — this becomes possible. MATISSE detects infrared light emitted by the dust in the disk as thermal radiation.

The MATISSE instrument is located at the Paranal Observatory of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). (©)

The MATISSE instrument was largely built in collaboration of research institutes in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria, though engineers from the CSFK Institute of Astronomy also took part in its creation. The contribution by Hungarian engineers included the thermal simulation of the instrument with respect to the thermal load caused by motors operating at temperatures near absolute zero degrees, the design and manufacture of a calibration camera of an instrument unit in Hungary, and the calculation of possible vibrations during the transport of MATISSE. The instrument was mounted on the Chilean telescope system at the turn of 2017-2018, and saw its ‘first light’ in 2018, i.e. it was directed at a celestial object for the first time in that year. In recognition of the Hungarian technical contribution, the researchers at the CSFK Institute of Astronomy were given a guaranteed observation opportunity on the instrument, with the aim to examine young eruptive stars showing large brightness changes. In addition, József Varga, an astronomer at CSFK, who is currently working at Leiden University as an internationally recognized expert in the MATISSE Team, is participating in MATISSE’s large research program on star formation with his Dutch colleagues. The first result of this major research is the discovery of a vortex in a disk around the star HD 163296.

For the astronomers, the first real scientific findings of the MATISSE consortium mark the beginning of further research on star formation. One of their goals is to study even more star systems where the young star is surrounded by a disk of dust and gas, thereby gaining an even better understanding of the formation process of planets like Earth. The research group of the CSFK Institute of Astronomy, led by Péter Ábrahám, continues to participate in the research project, the work of which is supported by NKFIH’s four-year fundamental research grant.

The article on the new results has already been accepted by the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. The article, which includes the name of József Varga and two other Hungarian astronomers among its authors, will be published soon.

The article is available at:

The asymmetric inner disk of the Herbig Ae star HD 163296 in the eyes of VLTI/MATISSE: evidence for a vortex? J. Varga et. al., accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Original: https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202039400

Freely accessible (in English): https://arxiv.org/abs/2012.05697v1

Contact: József Varga; varga@strw.leidenuniv.nl

 

A unique new method developed by researchers in Szeged uses the most advanced artificial intelligence to enable a more thorough examination of the brain cells’ function

There is an increasingly strong emphasis on mapping the unique properties of cells in life science research. This is extremely important because the unique characteristics of the building blocks of various organs and tissues provide important information for better understanding the background of malfunctions and the earliest possible detection of disease processes. Researchers at the ELKH Szeged Biological Research Centre and the University of Szeged have developed a unique new method for studying the physiological function of brain cells. With their proprietary, artificial intelligence-controlled, automated microscope system, they are able to find any cell within a living tissue sample, stimulate cells with predefined characteristics, and collect biological information by recording response processes. The developed new method may open up new perspectives in the early diagnosis and understanding of such worldwide spread diseases as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, thus supporting the development of effective therapies.

The Biological Image Processing and Machine Learning Working Group of the ELKH Szeged Biological Research Centre led by bioinformatician Dr Péter Horváth, and Dr Gábor Tamás, professor of neurobiology, head of the Cerebral Neural Networks Research Group at the University of Szeged, have been working together for several years on system microscopy solutions that have opened new avenues for the study of individual cells. Their latest development is the Autopatcher, an electrophysiological procedure using artificial intelligence, which was featured in the highly prestigious journal Nature Communications on February 10. The method is unique in several respects: cell tests are performed on native (unstained or otherwise unlabeled) brain tissue samples using machine vision and artificial intelligence. Using deep learning algorithms, the software, based on the analysis of thousands of images, is able to automatically determine the location of the micropipette integrated into the microscope based on the camera image and precisely move the pipette, automatically detecting target cells and their spatial displacement. Depending on the purpose of the test, the artificial intelligence-controlled system selects each target cell to ensure that the success of the measurement is as high as possible. The new technology will contribute, among others, to the discovery of new human cell types or a better understanding of the connections of brain neurons. Professor Gábor Tamás had previously discovered a new type of human brain cell in a similar way, and the new method just developed also anticipates further discoveries of great significance.

Machine vision and automation

Machine learning – i.e. artificial intelligence, or one of its varieties called deep learning – algorithms based on the images of the camera built into the microscope system control the micropipette. Machine vision provides much more precise targeting, measured in micrometers, than the human eye. After the machine-learning phase, the system is already able to detect specific cell types in an unknown brain tissue sample. A miniature electrode built into a pipette directed to the membrane of the selected cell is capable of individually stimulating the cells. By following the response to finely controlled stimulation, important information about physiological cell activity can be obtained without damaging the cell. In other cases, using the air pressure control system built into the pipette, it is possible to remove even the nucleus and the cytoplasm, and carry out molecular single-cell analysis on this basis, which can be an important source of genetic information, for example in combination with gene sequencing, explains Krisztián Koós, the first author of a paper published by the research group. The research and the development of the microscope system have great long-term potential: they can put drug trials on a new footing, for example, by allowing cell-level drug effects to be traced on a living tissue sample. By installing another micropipette, the system can make it possible to investigate the connections between neurons: to determine the characteristics of the cellular response to stimulation, and analyze the influence of stimulus propagation.

Unlabeled, precise cell analysis

Label-free examination of cells is another important innovation of the development project carried out in Szeged. Staining methods widely used to identify cell types (e.g. fluorescent staining) necessarily result in cell death in living tissues, so studies of cell function are precluded. Although there are other, less drastic cell labeling methods (e.g. genetically modified fluorescent cell labeling methods), their use is not feasible for many cell types. This means that native (unstained) cell testing overcomes a number of disadvantages that have so far hampered the testing of individual cells.

The operation of an automated system microscope is clearly illustrated in this video.

 

The system plans the path of the pipette to approach the target cell and avoids any obstructions. (Source: Nature Communications)

Bacteria everywhere – novel investigations on carbonate formation mechanisms in the collaboration of researchers of earth science, biology and physics

The collaboration of researchers from the Eötvös Loránd Research Network, the Eötvös Loránd University and the University of Pannonia has resulted a new publication in one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary journals, PLOS ONE.

Attila Demény (member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, director of the Institute for Geological and Geochemical Research, ELKH Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences) and his research group discovered a peculiar phenomenon a few years ago concerning the stable isotope geochemical data of speleothems and the hydrogen and oxygen isotope ratios of their fluid inclusions. It was found that solutions enclosed in small cavities of speleothems do not retain the 18O/16O ratio characteristics of dripping water, but show significant 16O enrichment (Demény et al., 2016). The shift in the composition of the dripping water is caused by the precipitation of a previously unrecognized type of carbonate, amorphous calcium carbonate (“ACC”), which exchanges the 18O and 16O isotopes with H2O molecules in the entrapped solution during recrystallization to calcite (Demény et al., 2016). The next question was, what causes amorphous calcium carbonate precipitation and why it remains stable on the speleothem surface for weeks to months while amorphous carbonate precipitated under laboratory conditions transforms to calcite in minutes?

As the possibility arose that bacteria living on the surface of speleothems may be responsible for the precipitation of the amorphous material, researchers in earth science and biology started a collaboration. In the framework of the NKFI FK123871 project, Nóra Enyedi and Judit Makk, researchers at the Department of Microbiology of Eötvös Loránd University, and Péter Németh, researcher at the Institute of Materials and Environmental Chemistry of the Research Centre for Natural Sciences, examined in detail the mineralogical characteristics of bacterial carbonate. In addition to the morphological and structural analysis of carbonate, microbiological studies spectacularly show the stabilizing effect of the lipid-rich bacterial organic coating. The research team published the results in Scientific Reports of the Nature journal family.

Carbonate precipitation on the surface of cultivated bacteria (black arrows)

Another aspect of the extensive research on cave carbonate formations is the geochemistry of “clumped isotopes,” that can be used to determine carbonate formation temperature. During carbonate precipitation from aqueous solution, the ionic species of dissolved carbon in solution (dissolved CO2, H2CO3, CO32–, HCO3) are in dynamic equilibrium with each other. With the exchange of 18O and 16O isotopes, temperature-dependent thermodynamic equilibrium between the different species is expected. In contrast to thermodynamic equilibrium, however, the heavy isotopes of carbon and oxygen (13C and 18O) are preferentially clumped and the bonds are not broken due to the higher binding strength compared to light isotopes. The higher the formation temperature, the easier the break-up  and the thermodynamic equilibrium to be reached. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology discovered the temperature dependence of heavy isotope clumping in 2006, establishing a new scientific field, “clumped isotope geochemistry”. The ELKH Institute for Nuclear Research in Debrecen (ATOMKI) has established a laboratory suitable for measuring clumped isotopes within the framework of a GINOP project (“IKER” project).

Thermo Scientific™ 253 Plus  mass spectrometer and a Thermo Scientific™ Kiel IV automatic preparation unit at the Nuclear Physics Institute

The institutes began a collaboration to investigate Hungarian speleothems, and then, as a next step, to analyze the relationship between the bacterial carbonate precipitation described above and the clumped isotope compositions. The results obtained on speleothems differed significantly from the expected compositions for the given cave temperatures, suggesting that bacterial carbonate precipitation may have influenced the degree of heavy isotope clumping. Researchers in earth sciences and microbiology used the Baradla Cave as a natural laboratory, and with the permission and assistance of the Aggtelek National Park sampled and analyzed the carbonate precipitated on site. The essential condition of cave research is the participation of licensed cave research professionals, in this case Szabolcs Leél-Őssy, a lecturer at Eötvös Loránd University.

Germicide lamp and carbonate sampler in the Baradla Cave (Photo: Ágnes Berentés)

To demonstrate the effect of bacteria on carbonate formation, the sampling surface was illuminated with a germicide (cell-killing) lamp at a sampling point and a control point was kept untreated during the sampling period. The micromorphological characteristics of the collected carbonate samples differed drastically. In contrast to the irregular appearance of biogenic carbonate coated with biofilm, well expressed calcite crystals precipitated from the dripping water on the UV-treated surface. Clumped isotope compositions, in contrast, did not show a systematic relationship with UV treatment. The special composition of the studied speleothems is thus a consequence of the isotope fractionation processes taking place in the dripping water migration pathway, which provides essential information on the paleoclimatological applicability of the speleothems (see the research group’s publication in PLOS ONE).

Research is continuing: genetic analyzes are being conducted to study the effects of cave bacteria, sampling is beginning in other regions of the world, and new scientific collaborations are already starting. The “NANOMIN” project of the Excellence Cooperation Program (KEP-1/2020), launched by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and financed by the Eötvös Loránd Research Network in 2020, has resulted in a breakthrough in interdisciplinary research in addition to connecting research institutes and universities.

Carbonate with irregular morphology and covered by biofilm (left, control site) and abiogenic calcite crystals (right, UV-treated site).

 

Publications

Demény, A., Czuppon, Gy., Kern, Z., Leél-Őssy, Sz., Németh, A., Szabó, M., Tóth, M., Wu, Ch-Ch., Shen,Ch.-Ch., Molnár, M., Németh, T., Németh, P., Óvári, M. (2016a): Recrystallization-induced oxygen isotope changes in inclusion-hosted water of speleothems – Paleoclimatological implications. Quaternary International, 415, 25-32.

Demény, A., Németh, P., Czuppon, Gy., Leél-Őssy, Sz., Szabó, M., Judik, K., Németh, T., Stieber, J. (2016b) Formation of amorphous calcium carbonate in caves and its implications for speleothem research. Scientific Reports, 6:39602, DOI: 10.1038/srep39602

Demény, A., Rinyu, L., Németh, A., Czuppon, Gy., Enyedi, N., Makk, J., Leél-Őssy, Sz., Kesjár, D., Kovács, I. (2021) Bacterial and abiogenic carbonates formed in caves – no vital effect on clumped isotope compositions. PloS ONE 16(1): e0245621.

Enyedi, N.T., Makk, J., Kótai, L., Berényi, B., Klébert, S., Sebestyén, Z., Molnár, Z., Borsodi, A.K., Leél-Őssy, S., Demény, A., Németh, P. (2020) Cave bacteria-induced amorphous calcium carbonate formation. Scientific Reports 10, 8696.

Global manufacturing post COVID-19 – paper about the industry effects of the pandemic

The economic shockwave of the pandemic has affected manufacturing and the accompanying logistics. While reacting countries closed their borders one after the other, residents found themselves shut inside their homes, impacting the global job market by slowing down all industrial procedures, and in many cases forcing them to stop entirely.

Supply has also slowed. Given the almost global shutdown of  flights, terrestrial and oceanic infrastructures have been experiencing unprecedented pressure. Meanwhile, demand for medical equipment has increased to an extent that has been impossible for manufacturers to meet it.

The question arises: how different will manufacturing be in a post-COVID-19 world? This is one of the topics touched by the paper published by ELKH SZTAKI director László Monostori and József Váncza, the head of Research Laboratory on Engineering & Management Intelligence.

The English-language publication, Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic and Their Possible Consequences on Manufacturing, is freely available here.

A cooperation agreement has been signed between the Centre for Energy Research and the Moroccan Centre National de l’Energie, des Sciences et des Techniques Nucléaires

On 19 January 2021, the Centre for Energy Research signed a cooperation agreement with the Moroccan Centre National de l’Energie, des Sciences et des Techniques Nucléaires (CNESTEN). Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event took place online.

The parties agreed to utilize the research reactor in Budapest to cooperate on several research topics and help make better use of the research reactor in Morocco. The partnership also covers industrial, agricultural, medical and other fields, the use of radioisotopes, and educational and training opportunities.

On behalf of the Centre for Energy Research, Dr. Ákos Horváth, Director General, Dr. Zoltán Dudás, Head of the Neutron Spectroscopy Department, and Dr. László Szentmiklósi, Head of the Nuclear Analysis and Radiography Department took part in the event. The delegation of the Moroccan Institute joined the video conference via the Hungarian Embassy in Rabat, where Khalid El Mediouri, Director General, signed the agreement at the same time as Dr. Ákos Horváth.

The parties expressed their hope for a fruitful cooperation over the next three years.

HydroCobotics: SZTAKI researchers work on automation of environmentally friendly horticulture procedure

Hydroponics is a sustainable and profitable technique method for growing plants that only uses water and minerals and does not require soil, saving on the available space for growing plants and also enabling more kinds of plants to grow within a relatively small area.

The spread of such systems is slowed by the variety of plants, which makes the automation of quality assurance difficult, not to mention the fact that in most cases human intervention is required to ensure that packaging standards are met. To achieve effective automation, such a system would require the involvement of robots.

The project in question is coordinated by the industry robotics company Hepenix Kft., while Green Drops Farm Kft. a company specializing in hydroponics, is also a member. Within ELKH SZTAKI, the project is led by Research Laboratory on Engineering & Management Intelligence research fellow Imre Paniti.

The goal of this project is to integrate commercially available sensors with a robotic gripper and additional protective equipment designed for this new application, as well as to create and also validate a safety validation protocol for selected scenarios by applying a mobile robot platform with a cobot arm in a vertically designed hydroponic system.

The results from HydroCobotics may enhance the possibilities of hydroponic systems to make this already environmentally friendly and efficient plant production system even more popular. The nine-month long H2020 cascade project began on 1 January 2021.

Knowledge and technology transfer between ELKH and Hungarian innovation actors can be more efficient with the cooperation of MISZ and ELKH

The Hungarian Association for Innovation (MISZ) and the Eötvös Loránd Research Network (ELKH) Secretariat signed a cooperation agreement on January 27, 2021. The common goal of the cooperating parties is to promote the economic and social utilization of the scientific findings generated at the research sites belonging to the ELKH research network, and to strengthen the cooperation between ELKH and other stakeholders interested in innovation. In addition to expressing their intention to cooperate, the parties developed a joint work plan for 2021 that set out the planned activities for the first year of the partnership.

Gábor Szabó, Chairman of MISZ, said: “Several of the ELKH institutes are also direct members of MISZ and play a key role, for example, in the operation of our R&D Department. We want to raise our previous institutional cooperation to a higher level through the agreement signed with the ELKH Secretariat, and based on an elaborated work plan. We believe that the process from basic research to the market can be further enhanced. This type of activity is also recognized separately within the framework of the Hungarian Innovation Grand Prize competition announced by MISZ every year.˝

Miklós Maróth, President of ELKH said in connection with the signing of the agreement: “Due to its size and high-quality research staff, the Eötvös Loránd Research Network is a key player of the Hungarian knowledge-based innovation activity. ELKH considers it its mission to strengthen and develop the Hungarian research network based on the principles of excellence, as well as to promote the relations of the research sector with other stakeholders in the economy and society. As a recognized and responsible Hungarian representative of matters relating to innovation, MISZ can support ELKH effectively in these activities, including enhancing the economic and social impact of scientific research, development and innovation.”

The cooperation of the parties will focus on boosting knowledge and technology transfer processes between domestic innovation stakeholders. In addition to utilizing the scientific results generated at the ELKH research sites for the national economy, the common goal of the two organizations is to contribute to the supply of young researchers and talent management, to strengthen regional knowledge bases building on cooperation between universities and the research network, and to increase the innovation and income-generating capacity of the Hungarian industry, agriculture and the service sector.