Flooding Amsterdam with solar panels

Installing a million solar panels, like Amsterdam intends, sounds like a decent step towards ensuring a decent supply of energy. But it may actually jeopardise the reliability of the electrical grid, putting homes at risk. That’s why researchers from TU Delft are looking at the big picture, taking into account the underground low-voltage network as well as the need for green and blue roofs to save the people of Amsterdam from drowning and choking. Here you can read more about the urban puzzle of where to put a million solar panels.

Smart buildings for a smooth energy transition

New solar and wind farms pop up faster than trendy coffee bars. But the energy transition isn’t only about replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. It is also about transitioning from centralised energy production in a few large power plants, towards distributed and two-way energy distribution. Our electrical grid, which is quite old, hasn’t been designed with two-way energy distribution in mind, let alone been optimised for it. Too much renewable energy may actually jeopardise the reliability of our electrical grid.

With a share of 30% in our national energy consumption, the built environment can play an important role in ensuring the energy transition to be a smooth one. Using smart energy solutions, buildings can help mitigate fluctuations in the supply of and demand for energy. With proper understanding of their exact energy need, whole campuses and neighbourhoods can even become self-sustaining, reducing . The best path towards a sustainable future hasn’t yet been laid out, but the NWO Perspectief programme on Smart Energy Solutions in the Build Environment helps in laying the ground work for a smooth transition.

Millimetre wave radar for improved road safety

It will still take some time for the fully autonomous car to arrive, and they may never be able to navigate Delft city centre where you have to deal with ten pedestrians and fifteen cyclists simultaneously. Not to mention a plethora of small bridges, frequent changes in traffic situations and the erratic non-law-abiding behaviour of said pedestrians and cyclists.

But the goal of millimetre wave radar is not to make this possible, but to improve road safety in general. The technology may require another step reduction in resolution (to see the motor cycle overtaking the oncoming truck), but it is a getting there fast. It will soon become compulsory technology, just like the seatbelt and the airbag. Read more about millimetre wave car rader here.

The Future, batteries not included

It is all about the Internet of Things nowadays. Will it be a billion devices connected to eachother through the internet? A trillion? A gazillion? Fact is that all these devices are likely to be dependent on batteries for performing their tasks. These batteries are an environmental hazard. They also need to be replaced and, eventually, stored or processed. Isn’t there some smart(er) solution?

Indeed there is! It is called intermittent computing. A large proportion of the Internet of Things devices doesn’t continuous power. They can live off energy harvested from the environment, only continuing their tasks once enough energy has been stored. It does require some very smart technical solutions to ensure proper operation under up to a hundred power failures per second. That is what intermittent computing is about, and that is how intermittent computing will replace trillions of batteries.

Some like it noisy, or the predictive power of pollen

Have you every wondered if the predicted rise in sea level due to global warming could be the result of some rounding errors running amok? Or if those annoying variations in stock market prices can somehow be tamed? Mark Veraar may be one of the few people on earth who can actually provide (the semblance of) an answer. Noise is his thing. Well, the advanced mathematical modelling of noise and its consequences is. 

The basis of such modelling lies in the apparent random motion of pollen in air. So, it will be up to pollen to prove that the latest hurricane ravaging the Caribbean was indeed caused by a swallowtail butterfly flapping its wings in China. Here you can read more about Mark Veraar’s research on noise.


Math in times of cholera (and other epidemics)

While you may prefer infectious diseases over redoing a high-school math exam, you should be aware that it is mathematics that helps us understand the spread of such diseases, helps us determine effective measures against this spread and, eventually, helps us control and constrain outbreaks and epidemics. Sure, the most advanced of these disease models require teams of specialised mathematicians to solve them as so many details need to be taken into account. For a bit of basic understanding, however, you don’t have to be a rocket surgeon. High-school math will pretty much do the trick. Read here about a bit of math to constrain epidemics.

Next generation cel-fie

Just like a picture doesn’t convey your personality, thoughts and dreams, sequencing your DNA doesn’t tell the doctor the details of what may be ailing you. Or how to best treat it. To truly understand disease, we must know the intricate patterns of collaborative behaviour of genes, and how these patterns may differ between healthy and diseased cells as well as between patients. Joana Gonçalves creates algorithms to unravel time-series of gene expression data, creating such in-depth cel-fies. She uncovers so-called functional modules and the regulators controlling these. No proverbial cure for cancer yet, but there isn’t much more room anymore for disease to hide.

Read more about Joana’s algorithms to unravel cellular dynamics here.

5G is een standaard in aanbouw

Zoals zoveel goede ideeën, ziet de 5G standaard er op papier indrukwekkend uit. Ook de aanbieders en gebruikers zijn al overtuigd. De paar vingers die wereldwijd de lucht in gaan om wat ‘mogelijke problemen’ in de groep te gooien, negeren we dan ook het liefst. Maar het is nu eenmaal zo dat 5G, zoals op dit moment geïmplementeerd, wat betreft energieverbruik nog onderdoet voor een ouderwetse gloeilamp. Voor elke watt aan energie voor data-overdracht, gaat er 99 watt verloren aan warmte. Daarmee zou 5G meer dan de helft van de wereldwijde energieproductie opeisen! En hoe we dit wel efficiënt moeten maken? Tsja, daar heeft de standaard het niet over. Er moet dus nog een hoop ontwikkeld worden. Lees hier meer over hoe de TU Delft de toekomst van wireless data wil veilig stellen.

Hoe klinkt een vleugelprofiel?

Het zal nog even duren voordat de burgerluchtvaart net zo geruisloos is als een uil die door de nacht glijdt. Vliegtuigmotoren zijn ondertussen wel zo stil geworden dat ze, bij de landing, overstemt worden door de rest van het vliegtuig. Maar waar komt dat geluid dan precies vandaan?

Met moderne microfoon-arrays kan elke geluidsbron met groot detail in kaart gebracht worden – locatie, toonhoogte en volume. En dankzij een verbeterd onderliggend algoritme is het nu zelfs mogelijk om het geluid van alleen de vleugel uiterst precies te bepalen. In windtunnels onderzoeken ze hiermee of deze vleugels nog stiller kunnen worden door gebruik te maken van dezelfde technieken als, jawel, uilen.

Lees hier meer over het visualiseren van vliegtuiggeluid.

A moonshot space programme

To boldly go where no Dutch university has gone before. This year, Delft University will add a third satellite to its CV, to be operated and controlled from the roof of the EWI building. Although this pocketcube has an astonishingly small size of 15 x 5 x 5 cubic centimetres, it will still house multiple instruments.

Better still, after winning a European Space Agency competition, TU Delft may be offered the opportunity to launch a satellite to the dark side of the moon. After being dropped in lunar orbit, it will have to manoeuvre to a position 60,000 kilometres beyond the moon, all by itself. There, it will study meteorite impacts that may help future lunar exploration by robots or humans.

Here you can read more about the TU Delft expanding into space.