Three new ERC Starting Grants at UC3M

The Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) is receiving almost 4.5 million Euros from the European Research Council (ERC) after obtaining three new Starting Grants. These grants are allocated to excellent researchers with post-doctoral experience of between 2 and 7 years so that they can lead research groups whose activity is included in their respective fields. The UC3M is the most successful Spanish university in this announcement from the ERC with three new Starting Grants thanks to projects submitted by professors Stefano Discetti, Daniel García González, and Mario Merino Martínez. 

Stefano Discetti is a researcher at the UC3M’s Department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering. Within the framework of his ERC project, called NEXTFLOW (Next-generation flow diagnostics for control), he aims to improve the capabilities of flow measurement techniques, which are essential when designing and improving many industrial applications. “It is difficult to obtain complete measurements of the behaviour of fluid flows as each experiment usually provides only a partial description of the velocity, temperature, or pressure distribution”, Stefano Discetti explains. Data mining and artificial intelligence will be used within the framework of the project to obtain a more complete flow description by combining the advantages of different measurement techniques and to extract simplified models for flow control directly from the data. These findings could provide new tools and concepts for flow measurement with potential to shorten the distance between laboratory experiments and the characterisation and control of flows in real applications. This could contribute to an improvement in processes and a reduced environmental impact in different industrial sectors, especially in aviation

Daniel García González is a researcher at the UC3M’s Department of Continuum Mechanics and Structural Analysis. His ERC research project is called 4D-BIOMAP (Biomechanical Stimulation based on 4D Printed Magneto-Active Polymers). The project aims to develop a new methodology that will allow for simulating pathological processes where mechanics plays an important role, such as in wound healing or the central nervous system’s response. These methods will then be used to design devices that interact with the human body in different ways, i.e., promoting cell migration or mediating electrophysiological responses. “It is an interdisciplinary project where the problem is addressed from different approaches that involve diverse disciplines such as solid mechanics, magnetism and bioengineering, while combining computational, experimental and theoretical methodologies,” the researcher explains. In the medium to long term, the results obtained from this project could contribute to developing nano-robots for drug delivery or a new generation of artificial muscles, among other experimental systems. 

Mario Merino Martínez is a researcher at the UC3M’s Department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering. The object of research of his ERC Starting Grant project, called ZARATHUSTRA (Revolutionising advanced electrodeless plasma thrusters for space transportation), are space plasma thrusters, a booming field of aerospace engineering. It focuses, in particular, on thrusters that do not rely on electrodes which may erode over time. This project aims to unravel the physics of their operation and innovate their design. For this purpose, a multidisciplinary approach will be followed to investigate the mechanisms behind the electromagnetic heating of the plasma and its turbulence and anomalous transport, and to carry out a proof of concept of a new class of thruster previously patented. “If everything develops correctly, a new aerospace technology could be developed at the university by a new circle of young researchers within the Space Propulsion and Plasmas Team,  trained in the latest techniques. In addition to this, we may be able to apply this understanding to other areas in the physics of plasmas, in nuclear fusion by magnetic confinement,” Mario Merino explains.  

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