CER researchers identify particularly rare red-listed algae species in Hungarian standing waters

Researchers at the Institute of Aquatic Ecology at the ELKH Centre for Ecological Research have demonstrated that even a shallow, spinach-colored standing water can be good habitat for many less common species. The rarity of a species depends on its occurrence and abundance rate. It is a great challenge to determine the geographical area of microscopic species. In addition, it is an even more difficult task in the case of rare species. The CER researchers identified several algae that are rare worldwide, including red-listed species in Hungary. The results of the research were recently published in the Biologia journal.

The quest to understand how the world works always presents new challenges for researchers. In the 20th century, those problems had to be solved, which were important from social and economic points of view. From the middle of the last century, eutrophication caused undesirable changes in water quality. Assemblages of aquatic organisms, including phytoplanktic ones, as well as their composition were significantly influenced by nutrient load. Additionally, extreme climatic changes in recent decades have caused drastic fluctuations in water flow, which can lead to a significant decrease in water levels leading to the drying up of the lakes in extreme cases. Furthermore, the rise in air temperature may be accompanied by a rise in the temperature of waters in Hungary. Finally, these circumstances may contribute to the spread of species favor warm waters. This means that, there is a risk that invasive, potentially toxic species may appear in Hungarian waters and may become dominant there, potentially displacing the current microflora. Together, these changes could fundamentally alter the structure of the ecosystem. To know the origin of the changes and to determine whether the current conditions can be preserved or restored, researchers need to assess the current status of our waters and the composition of the assemblages living here, as well as monitoring the changes.

Thus nowadays, it is very important to preserve, maintain and protect biodiversity. Microscopic photosynthetic organisms, such as eukaryotic algae and cyanobacteria, are bioindicators responding quickly to nutrient load and pollution. As a result, they are particularly useful for characterizing the status of waters and for mapping the habitats of current and future protected species, as well as for forecasting possible disruptions. However, this also requires knowledge of the local and global distribution of each taxon.

While intensive research was carried out to get to know the algal flora of Hungary until the early 1970s, in recent decades, researches focused mainly on the EU Water Framework Directive. As a result, there is decrease in public and available taxonomical data of our waters. There are hundreds of watercourses and standing waters in Hungary, yet only little information is about the phytoplankton composition here, especially in relation to the distribution of rare species.

In 2019, researchers – as part of the Hungarian Monitoring Program – studied more than 60 standing water with a surface area of more than 50 hectares during the vegetation period, i.e. from May to September. The studied standing waters included reservoirs, oxbows, gravel pit lakes and soda lakes, in which 20 species were identified that are less common in Hungary. These included one species that had not been reported in Hungary for 30 years (Closteriopsis longissima), and another that had appeared for the first time (Stauridium privum). The researchers were able to identify only one species from the Hungarian Red List (Cylindrotheca gracilis). Describing the Hungarian and also global distribution of each species, as well as presenting the very similar species, will assist experts in the classification process.

Rare species in Hungary: (a) Cylindrotheca gracilis, (b) Desmatractum indutum, (c) Stauridium privum, (d) Tetrastrum triacanthum, (e) Nodularia spumigena, (f) Kolkwitziella acuta, (g) Trachelomonas bacillifera var. minima, (h) Trachelomonas woycickii var. pusilla, (i) Chaetoceros muelleri, (j) Coronastrum ellipsoideum (apical view). Scale size: 10 µm.

Although researchers expected to find rare species in less polluted waters, most were found in eutrophic and hypertrophic, i.e. nutrient-rich waters. This means that shallow (average 1.5 m deep), hypertrophic oxbows such as Nagy-Morotva, which is used for fishing, can be good habitat for very valuable species.

Nagy-Morotva, Photo: Gabriella Bodnár

Despite the fact that many articles are published today about new species and the new appearance of rare species, it can be said that only a small percentage of the algal flora of waters and wetlands is known. Heraclitus said, “you cannot step into the same river twice.” In fact, this universal phrases is also truth for standing waters. Although the succession of algal associations over time is known, species composition may still change from one year to the next. And while the presence of dominant species can be predicted, that of companion species cannot.

Currently, Hungarian waters are under-sampled. However, the findings presented here demonstrate that even with a small number of sample, several little-known species may be identified. However, in order to prevent this knowledge from being lost, it is essential to publish findings on them and to continue the long-term, comprehensive study of the waters.

Publication:

T-Krasznai, E., B-Béres, V. Rarely mentioned species in Hungary: Can we step into the same lake? Biologia (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11756-021-00750-9

Researchers of CSFK coordinated the archaeometric study of one of the most important late Roman treasure finds in the framework of the Seuso Research Project

The latest results of the non-destructive archaeometric study of the Seuso Treasure, one of the most important late Roman treasure finds, have been published in one of the leading journals in the field of archaeometry and archaeology. The research that attracted considerable interest from the public was performed within the framework of the Seuso Research Project, and was coordinated by the Hungarian National Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and the ELKH Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences (CSFK), Institute for Geological and Geochemical Research.

Objects of the Seuso Treasure (photo: A. Dabasi–J. Kardos (HNM))

The non-destructive analytical method using a handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (hXRF),  is increasingly prominent in the Hungarian archaeometric research. The advantage of the method is that no sampling and, in most cases, no sample preparation is required. Objects can therefore be analysed in situ in the museums or at the excavation sites. For the analysis of the Seuso objects, the hXRF instruments belonging to the ELKH CSFK Institute for Geological and Geochemical Research, and the ELKH Research Centre for Natural Sciences (TTK), Institute of Materials and Environmental Chemistry, were used. This allowed the performance of the two instruments from different manufacturers to be compared.

The Seuso objects were analysed along a pre-configured grid comprising several hundred points in contrast to previous studies on other late Roman silver objects. Such detailed studies had not previously been performed on late Roman treasure finds. The aim of the research was to determine the elemental composition of the late Roman Seuso Treasure silver vessels to classify the objects, to detect chemical differences between the objects, as well as chemical inhomogeneity within the objects, to determine the raw material (ore) used and to characterise the gilding and joining techniques.

The results from the four platters and basin were previously published in a Hungarian archaeometric journal, but the composite objects, which are the subject of this recently published paper, show a much more interesting picture. The results demonstrate that all the objects were made from high-quality silver. Copper was added intentionally to improve the mechanical properties of soft silver. Intentional alloying is indicated by the fact that those parts, which are mechanically more unstable (e.g. handles, bases), were constructed from a silver alloy with higher copper content. In contrast, those parts that were decorated with fine, detailed repoussé scenes (such as the bodies of the vessels), were manufactured from a silver alloy with lower copper content. The Bi/Pb ratio is a good geochemical indicator of the provenance of silver ingots from different sources. As well as the Bi/Pb ratio, the chemical composition suggests that the parts of the composite objects were manufactured from different silver ingots. The ewers were constructed in two ways: either the base and the body were made separately (i.e. the Hippolytus and Geometric Ewers), or the ewer was raised from a single silver sheet (i.e. the Dionysiac and Animal Ewers). The composite objects were assembled using three methods: mechanical attachment; low-temperature, lead-tin soft solders; or high-temperature, copper-silver hard solders. Additionally, two types of gilding were revealed by the XRF analysis, one with remnants of mercury, i.e. fire-gilding, and another type without remnants of mercury, presumably diffusion bonding.

These results contribute to a more detailed reconstruction of late Roman craftsmanship, including silversmithing, manufacturing, alloying, decoration and assembling practices. Furthermore, they can be used as a base for the planning of sampling sites for trace element and lead isotope analysis, which can contribute to the determination of the provenance of the used silver ores.

Au/Ag vs. Bi/Pb ratio of the Seuso objects based on the hXRF measurements.

Publications:

Mozgai, V., Bajnóczi, B., May, Z., Mráv, Zs. (2021): Non-destructive handheld XRF study of archaeological composite silver objects – the case study of the late Roman Seuso Treasure. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 13(5):83.

Mozgai, V., Bajnóczi, B., May, Z., Mráv, Zs. (2020): A hordozható XRF alkalmazási lehetőségei és korlátai római ezüsttálak archeometriai vizsgálatában. Archeometriai Műhely 17(3):253–270.

Recently discovered Brutus-manuscript brings fresh perspective on early modern Hungarian historiography

The Venetian heterodox émigré, Gian Michele Bruto (in Latin: Johannes Michael Brutus, 1517-1592) worked on his monumental Hungarian history as court-historian of István Báthory first in Gyulafehérvár from 1574 and then in Krakow from 1576. The aim of Rerum Ungaricarum libri, a continuation of Bonfini’s Decades, was to present the century of Hungarian decline in a single comprehensive narrative – from the death of King Matthias through the loss of Buda and Szigetvár to the election of István Báthory as Prince of Transylvania – and to legitimize the rule of the Szapolyai dynasty in the east of the country. The work was completed but never printed, and only fragmentary manuscripts were available for the 19th century academic edition.

Photo: Péter Kasza, Gábor Petneházi/BTK

In July 2020, two researchers from Szeged, Péter Kasza and Gábor Petneházi, discovered an almost completely intact, 2,000-page autograph manuscript of Brutus’s work in Trento, Italy, which fundamentally changed everything that was known about the work and Brutus’s role as a historian. The discovery of this sensational manuscript has shed light on the necessity of further investigation in the field of humanist historiography in general, and the two experts will therefore continue their research at the Institute of History of the ELKH Research Centre for the Humanities from March this year. In addition to working on Brutus, their task will be to prepare and coordinate the publication of historical works from the 16th and 17th centuries that have been forgotten and remain in manuscript and/or which have not been published in a critical edition and deal with the history of Hungary from a new perspective, whilst obtaining additional funding.

Gábor Petneházi and Péter Kasza

The Trento find is of outstanding importance: not only does the manuscript contain the author’s autograph corrections – presenting unique information about Brutus’s writing methods and technique – but it also bears the annotations of its later users. These provide important information on the political and intellectual elites who played an important role in the creation of historical works and decided on the policy for making manuscripts public. With the significant support of the Embassy of Hungary in Rome, the Diocesan Library of Trento agreed to digitize the manuscript and send the two manuscript volumes, which are of priceless scientific value, to Hungary for a few months for exhibition purposes.

Photo: Péter Kasza, Gábor Petneházi

An exhibition presenting the manuscript tradition of humanist historiography in Hungary is being organized with the participation of the institutions concerned.

EK researcher Péter Barna receives major international recognition

The International Union for Vacuum Science, Technique and Applications (IUVSTA) has elected Dr. Péter Barna B. as its honorary president. The physicist is the retired scientific advisor of the Institute for Technical Physics and Materials Science of the ELKH Centre for Energy Research (EK), a Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, winner of the Eötvös József Wreath, and Honorary Professor at Kossuth Lajos University (now University of Debrecen). In addition, the award for best young presenter at the triennial International Conference on Thin Films will now bear his name. The ‘IUVSTA Peter Barna Prize’ was awarded for the first time at an online conference with more than 250 participants, which took place in Budapest on November 22-26, 2020.

IUVSTA is one of the oldest and most important international scientific organizations. Its 35 national organizations represent a community of around 30,000 researchers and engineering experts. IUVSTA, which has been active since 1958 and was officially registered in Brussels in 1962, regularly organizes international congresses, conferences, schools and workshops for thousands of people. Hungary has been its member since 1965. IUVSTA’s main strength is that its work is interdisciplinary and innovation has been a key focus from the outset. It currently has nine divisions covering the cutting-edge vacuum-based areas of materials science and that of advanced technologies serving the rapid evolution of information technology, communications, logistics, robotics, medical diagnostics, medical devices, transportation, etc. Thus, the organization’s activities also include thin films and nanostructures, which has been Dr. Peter Barna B’s main research area since the 1960s.

Dr. Péter Barna B.

The justification of the decision highlights, on the one hand, that Dr. Peter Barna B. has made significant scientific achievements in the field of thin film structure evolution, which was recognized in 2010 with the IUVSTA Prize for Science. This is the Union’s highest scientific prize, and is awarded every three years. It was presented to Dr. Peter Barna B. at the 18th International Vacuum Congress in Beijing. On the other hand, this international recognition also refers to the significant contribution the outstanding researcher made to the development and effective functioning of the Union’s structure and forms of operation between 1970 and 2000. Dr. Péter Barna B. has chaired several committees of the Union, and served as member of the Executive Council between 1981 and 1986. As a member of the International Thin Films Committee, he was one of the initiators and the first secretary of the IUVSTA Thin Films Division, and was involved in the organization of the International Conference on Thin Films as part of the Thin Films Divisions’ program.

Based on the experience of the international schools he previously organized, he initiated and then launched the ‘IUVSTA Schools’ series by organizing the first three thin film schools (1993, 1996 and 1999) in collaboration with the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste. He was also one of the initiators and organizers of the Joint Vacuum Conference (JVC), a series of conferences organized at first in 1979 by the vacuum associations of Austria-Hungary and later other Central and Eastern European countries. Within the framework of IUVSTA, he has been involved in the organization of 32 international events, 11 of which he has chaired, directed or served as secretary of; 16 of these were held in Hungary.

 

CER organizes adventure walks at the National Botanic Garden in Vácrátót

Hungary’s richest botanical collection set to reopen with a program series full of adventures and science from May. The ELKH Ecological Research Center is organizing new thematic walks in the National Botanic Garden Vácrátót, where visitors relax and have fun while gaining knowledge of nature and the connections between various species of wildlife through their experiences in the garden.

The garden, which features more than 12,000 species and varieties, presents an inexhaustibly diverse number of themes and offers countless possibilities for different adventure walks. On the Tulip Mania Walk, which takes place when the tulips are flowering, visitors can enjoy this popular flower and its exciting cultural history, as well as an illustration of the transformations of some wild species can undergo through human breeding activities. In addition to experimenting with colors, the Color Walk also draws attention to how important is the color of flowers to pollinators as they become increasingly endangered. The Bamboo Walk introduces a plant with special properties and also warns gardeners of the potential dangers of flood weeds. The Plants of the Bible Walk takes us to an age when man lived in more or less harmony with the nature around him and obtained his local, fresh food from a natural source. The Garden History Walks present a magnificent place in cultural history and gardening, the romantic landscape garden of Vácrátót, which also enjoys the protection of monuments, paying tribute to the generous, patriotic thinking of the creator and donor of the garden, Count Sándor Vigyázó.

Exploring a variety of topics, the 2-2.5-hour adventure walks are led by curators from the National Botanical Garden, who are passionate about their profession, the garden and the plants, and therefore want to share the joy of discovery with others. They profess what the great Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus stated in 1767: botany is a “lovable science” (scientia amabilis). They hope that participants will return with knowledge and experience to look forward to another visit to the National Botanic Garden.

“Anyone who has ever walked through a museum exhibition with a qualified art historian, or taken a sightseeing tour led by a dedicated architect, knows how much more one sees when the subject is ‘illuminated’”, says Erzsébet Fráter, curator of the National Botanic Garden and one of the leaders of the adventure walks. “It often happens on a walk like this that I learn something new about a building or industrial monument, or just a painting, a sculpture or an activity, that I thought I already knew well. It is not surprising that these city walks have become so popular, because learning through experience, wondering about the world, immersing oneself in stories from which human destinies unfold is a memory that lasts a lifetime. ”

“In addition to providing excellent recreation for all ages, the experience walks with us are extremely important,” adds Erzsébet Fráter. “The attitude of society to the living environment significantly impacts the effectiveness of nature conservation measures. It is extremely important to make people fall in love with plants, preferably at a younger age, because we protect what we know and love. The stakes are higher than we might think, as individual responses to the Earth’s ecological situation and their behavior based on it are critical to the future.”

About the National Botanical Garden

One of the most important Hungarian workshops for the study of flora and the natural environment is the Institute of Ecology and Botany of the ELKH Centre for Ecological Research and the National Botanical Garden. At Vácrátót, the arboretum, which is located in a 19th-century castle garden, hosts the richest collection of scientific living plants in Hungary, providing an excellent opportunity for experiential learning: it brings people moving farther and farther away from living nature closer by presenting the stunning diversity of flora.

The National Botanical Garden is a floral theme park, with all the stunning richness that entails. Plants accompany us in our daily lives, without them there would be no human life on Earth, as they alone are able to produce organic matter from inorganic materials by utilizing sunlight while sequestering carbon dioxide. They play an essential role in civilization: they nourish us, they flavor and add aroma to our food as herbs and spices and they beautify and heal us, can be fashioned into countless objects as wood and cane, their fibers dress us, and they decorate our gardens and homes with their beauty.

National parks and botanical gardens are widely used, activity-stimulating mediums for the transmission of environmental and sustainability messages around the world, and their role in gene conservation and environmental education has become highly valued today. While botanical gardens used to for the display of herbs and exotic specialties, they are now used more for the rescue and display of species. There are many species that are now extinct in their natural habitats and can only be found in some botanical gardens. Together, this dual role of research and dissemination of information, as well as attracting tourists, offers excellent opportunities to promote an ecological approach to the environment, to educate the general public, to raise environmental awareness and to awaken a sense of responsibility for the environment.

 

BLKI researchers are looking for a solution to slow down aging and age-related memory impairment by investigating the great pond snail

The great pond snail (Lymnaea stagnalis) has been used for neurobiological research at the ELKH Balaton Limnological Research Institute for more than 30 years. Partly supported by the National Brain Research Program (NAP), the Ecophysiological and Environmental Toxicological Research Group has identified new homolog sequences in Lymnaea to vertebrate genes involved in aging. The latest findings, as well as an overview of the results originating from age-related studies utilizing Lymnaea, have been published in the prestigious The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Sussex (Brighton, UK).

In modern society, the general increase of life span supported by rapid advances in medical interventions also resulted in a growing number of people being affected by age-related changes to the nervous system, such as decreased learning and memory, and diseases and conditions such as mild cognitive impairment and dementia. This can have a dramatic impact on quality of life, and can also impose emotional and financial burdens not just on the affected individuals but also their carers, relatives and the society as a whole. As a result, there is a great social and economic need to better understand the mechanisms underlying these neurophysiological processes leading to therapeutic interventions.

Researchers are looking for possible solutions to slow down or even reverse the loss of memory associated with aging. However, relatively little information is currently available on the key molecules, signaling pathways, and cellular changes responsible for aging and age-related memory impairment.

Due to the complexity of their nervous systems, the study of aging processes in vertebrates is not an easy task at the level of neural circuits and individually identified neurons. As a result, aging research relies heavily on invertebrate model organisms. One such invertebrate model animal is the great pond snail (Lymnaea stagnalis), which has been a well-known and popular subject for aging and memory research for decades. The research team had previously studied the effect of PACAP protein and IGF-1 hormone on reversing aging in Lymnaea. The researchers then established that neural circuits can be re-programmed pharmacologically to rejuvenate old animals and to improve memory.

Although many age-related findings have been obtained for Lymnaea over the years at the level of neural circuits and associated behaviors, the underlying detailed molecular mechanisms had not yet been studied in the absence of sequences of evolutionarily conserved, relevant key molecules. To make this possible, the research team identified a number of evolutionarily conserved sequences in Lymnaea to genes that are associated with the aging of vertebrates or the development of human neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s disease. Thanks to the findings presented, the research group successfully won the tender of the New National Excellence Program (ÚNKP-20-3-II-PTE-888) and the Cooperative Doctoral Program (KDP-2020-1018493) implemented in 2020 with the support of NKFIH, so it can continue to model aging processes using Lymnaea.

The research team recently identified additional, previously unknown sequences in Lymnaea that are responsible for epigenetic modifications which also play a key role in vertebrate aging, providing the opportunity for a broad-based study of molecular and cellular changes during aging.

The review article highlights that the results of the “Lymnaea aging model” confirmed, among other things, that several consistent, evolutionarily conserved behavioral, anatomical, and physiological processes take place in different invertebrate and vertebrate species (e.g., declined implicit learning and motor functions, reduced neural arborization).

In order to continue the research, the research group also submitted an FK-OTKA application this year entitled “Cellular and molecular mechanisms of age-related changes in a defined neuronal network encoding associative memory”, in which the researchers aim to slow down age-related memory impairment by genetically manipulating evolutionarily conserved genes – klotho [#MT153186], huntingtin [#MT153189], presenilin [#MT153195], RbAp48/RBBP4 [#QNG40052] – that are assumed to play a key role in learning processes (e.g., through NMDA receptors).

Comet Hunter Mission Image Recording Supported by Hungarian Hardware and Software

The Astronomical Institute of CSFK has been contributing to the Comet Interceptor mission of ESA since the idea development stage. The space probe will start in 2029 as the first mission in history to be launched without a known specific target.

The probe targets a comet that will enter to the inner Solar System for the first time since its formation approximately 4.5 billion years ago. The Comet Interceptor mission will wait in space at one of the so-called Lagrange points to discover a suitable target. According to the statistical estimations of the LSST telescope system, that is expected to happen soon.

As the size, brightness and orbital configuration of the target comet as well as the date of the rendezvous are unknown, the camera system needs to be prepared for a wide range of conditions. The development of the Digital Processing Module of the camera is coordinated by CSFK with the support of a Swedish prime contractor. The related hardware is being developed by the REMRED Ltd. and the software by the SGF Ltd, both are companies from Hungary. The consortium of scientific and industrial partners will demonstrate the power of such synergic collaboration, which could play a significant role in space projects at an international level.

Source: https://newatlas.com/space/comet-interceptor-thales-esa/ 

CSFK Astronomical Institute joins ORP, Europe’s largest astronomy network

The Konkoly Thege Miklós Astronomical Institute at the ELKH Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences has announced that it will join the largest collaborative network of ground-based astronomy in Europe. The new OPTICON-RadioNet PILOT (ORP) network is the result of the merger of two pan-European projects that have been operating successfully for decades: OPTICON, which formerly specialized in optical astronomy, and RadioNet, which specializes in radio astronomy. The network is coordinated by the French CNRS in close collaboration with the University of Cambridge in the UK and the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie in Germany.

As researchers learn more about and explore the universe, it is becoming increasingly important in astronomy to have complementary observational techniques to aid our understanding of different astrophysical phenomena. This need led the European Union to connect the OPTICON and RadioNet networks.

The OPTICON-RadioNet PILOT (ORP), which received funding of EUR 15 million from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, is the largest European network for ground-based astronomy (image source: BeabudaiDesign)

The new international collaboration has been awarded EUR 15 million in funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework programme. Its aim is to coordinate astronomical observation tools and methods, provide researchers with access to a variety of optical and radio telescopes, help train new generations of researchers, and open up avenues for new discoveries.

Within the framework of this network cooperation, the CSFK Astronomical Institute plans to establish the Hungarian VLTI Expertise Centre. The VLTI (Very Large Telescope Interferometer) is the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) telescope system, which offers European astronomers an opportunity unlike any in the world by combining several giant telescopes. With the VLTI, researchers can study the universe at milliarcsecond at near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths.

The European Southern Observatory’s VLTI interferometric telescope system (image source: ESO)

In setting up the Centre, the Astronomical Institute is building on decades of work by Hungarian astronomers and their experience with VLTI instruments (GRAVITY, MATISSE, AMBER, MIDI and PIONIER). One of the strategic goals of the Hungarian VLTI Expertise Centre is to join a network of similar centres in Europe and thus to disseminate cutting-edge interferometric observation methods in Hungary and neighbouring countries.

Dr Péter Ábrahám, scientific advisor to the Astronomical Institute, ORP’s Hungarian coordinator and an expert in astrophysical research, said: “VLTI opens up a new, innovative dimension in cosmic exploration with its previously unimaginable angular resolution measurements. I see ORP as a great opportunity to make this fabulous technique available to other researchers.”

In particular, ORP aims to contribute to the development of a rapidly expanding field of research, time domain astronomy, which obtains information about the interior or environment of celestial objects by observing the changes in their brightness. In this area, the Astronomical Institute, with ORP support, continues to pursue the highly recognized and successful work of the European Space Agency (ESA) on the Gaia space telescope.

“We often think of the starry sky as a constant that never changes. This is less and less true as our brightness measurements reach one-millionth precision, and as our telescopes in space keep a constant eye on hundreds of millions of stars. Every day, Gaia shows that the brightness of millions of objects has changed. From these signals, machine learning is used to select those that might be so exciting for the astronomical community that it is worth pointing ground-based instruments at them immediately. We are particularly interested in the light changes of very young stars that are still being formed, because this can help us understand the formation and early evolution of the Sun and its planetary system,” says Dr Gábor Marton, a research associate at the Astronomical Institute, who is leading the research on Gaia’s ever-changing sources within the ORP project.

Standardizing observing protocols and data processing methods will help break down the barriers between the optical, infrared and radio science disciplines, and help researchers collaborate more effectively when jointly observing astronomical phenomena as they change over time.

Representatives from the astronomical community from 15 European countries, Australia and South Africa, as well as from and 37 institutions have joined the ORP consortium.

 

According to a consortium led by a CSFK researcher, there is currently no risk to human health from pharmaceutical contamination in tap water

As part of an NVKP project that also involved ELKH Centre for Ecological Research and the ELKH Balaton Limnological Research Institute, the ELKH Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences (CSFK) has led a research group that has studied the organic micropollutants of tap water from riverbank filtrated water wells in and around Budapest. The researchers have presented the results of the comprehensive, targeted study in the latest issue of the prestigious international journal Journal of Water Process Engineering. According to their study, the extremely low concentration of pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) detected in tap water does not pose a risk to human health, though the presence of the compounds is a warning sign for experts concerned with medium- and long-term waterbase protection.

In 2020, research led by the CSFK and the resulting publication, which revealed the presence of a total of 32 drug residues in the untreated, raw water of riverbank filtered water bases along the Danube, provoked a significant media response. Although the concentrations were low, the question rightly arose as to whether the situation could have an impact on human health through the consumption of drinking water. In response, a consortium of CSFK, the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, the Lake Balaton Limnological Institute, the Hungarian University of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Aquaprofit Zrt., and UTB Envirotec Zrt. collected 108 water samples from 21 different taps and subjected them to detailed analytical testing.

The researchers searched for a total of 102 PhACs in tap water, 19 of which were found to be present, but typically sporadically and at markedly low concentration levels. The most frequently detected drug, found in 54% of the samples, was carbamazepine, which is mainly used for the treatment of epilepsy and depression, with a mean concentration of 8.86 nanograms/liter in the samples as a whole. This is an extremely negligible amount: a person would have to drink two liters of water a day for 80 years to get a total of approximately 0.5 mg of carbamazepine (for comparison, the daily therapeutic dose of this medicine is 800 mg). The antidepressant lamotrigine and the analgesics lidocaine and tramadol also appeared relatively more frequently in tap water, but these substances were only present in every third to fourth tap water sample.

The researchers examined the risks to human health of the detected active substances using international methodological standards, but the drug residues do not pose any risk, even in combination. In addition, one of the most significant features of the study was that concentrations of the more common, persistent substances in the tap water were usually only a fraction of those measured in the river bank filtrate, although riverbank filtrated water consumed in Budapest and urban areas is largely subject to disinfectant chlorination, which has no effect on drug molecules. The researchers also found that the decrease in drug concentrations depended on the distance from the water well. The reasonable explanation for this may be that drinking water passes through large waterways of different types, materials and conditions as it moves away from large waterworks, and the different microbiological and mineral media specific to each waterway section can together cause a decrease in drug residue concentrations.

The leader of the research, Dr Attila Csaba Kondor, indicated that, given the concentrations of the drug residue and insignificant risks, our concerns could be dismissed, were it not for the fact that pollution affecting our natural waters is becoming increasingly significant, and the key question is whether it will reach a level that can affect the entire food chain, including the quality of drinking water. It is easy to see that because the size of the groundwater supply is constant, the concentration of persistent micropollutants will also increase as a result of continuous pollution. Moreover, it is not yet known today how the simultaneous presence of a wide variety of drug residues and other toxic, organic and inorganic compounds interact and how this affects our natural environment, wildlife, and ultimately humanity.

To reduce the risks, under the CLEAREADY project launched by CSFK, researchers are working on a new technology that can remove PhACs in a more cost-effective way than before, even from more contaminated water, thus reducing the burden on drinking water supplies.

Bone-like ceramics and graphene structures developed by EK MFA researchers open up new possibilities in innovative application

Researchers at the Institute of Technical Physics and Materials Science at the Centre for Energy Research of the Eötvös Loránd Research Network (EK MFA) have become the first to produce a gradient-structured Si3N4 ceramic with multi-layer graphene through attritor milling and hot isostatic pressing. The development was part of the Graphene Flagship FLAG-ERA Joint Transnational Call 2017 partnership for graphene innovation developments supported by the European Commission. The partners of the consortium, led by Dr. Csaba Balázsi (EK MFA), are researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute of Ceramic Technology and Systems (Fraunhofer IKTS, Germany) and the Institute of Materials Science of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (IMR SAS, Slovakia).

The Graphene Flagship Partnering Project CERANEA develops graphene-filled ceramic sandwiches that deliver materials with enhanced properties and functionalities.

The mineralized structures of certain bones, seashells and trees have something in common: their composition varies gradually throughout their volume,providing multiple functional roles simultaneously. These are classified as functionally graded materials (FGMs) and can also artificially be engineered with tailored properties for numerous different applications, including biomedical implants, optoelectronic devices, sensors and batteries.

The use of silicon nitride as an implant is very new development in orthopedic surgery. The ceramic-graphene sandwich structure developed by the researchers is very similar to the human bone. The outer part is a Si3N4 bulk ceramic with the same mechanical properties as solid bone. With the addition of graphene, a porous Si3N4-graphene ceramic composite with open and closed porosities – similar to the bone structure – can be formed.

The porosity and conductivity of the final composite can be influenced by the amount of the graphene, something that is extremely significant, given that these properties are also useful for other industrial applications.

The solid-porous structure of bone and the structure of the layered functional gradient Si3N4-graphene ceramic composite developed.

Further information:

https://graphene-flagship.eu/graphene/news/ceramics-and-graphene-open-up-new-possibilities-for-bone-like-materials/