'Exploiting the resources of near-Earth space has long been suggested as a means of lowering the costs of future space endeavours. Asteroids and comets, in particular, are generally agreed to be ideal resources, both in terms of their accessibility and their potential wealth. The intense survey efforts of the past decades have led to a growing catalogue of accessible near-Earth objects, but also to the realisation of the potential for exploitation and science of the myriad of objects that the Earth encounters along its orbit. This project aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of alternatives and opportunities for the future design of asteroid retrieval missions. This type of mission seeks to find the most accessible objects in the near Earth space, intercept with them and bring them back to Earth’s vicinity. Moving an entire object into an orbit in the vicinity of Earth entails an obvious engineering challenge, but may also allow a much more flexible mining phase in the Earth’s neighbourhood. Not to mention other advantages such as scientific return or possible future space tourism opportunities. Exploiting the dynamics of invariant manifolds, associated with periodic orbits near the Sun-Earth Lagrange points, may provide an excellent opportunity for low energy transport of asteroids. Thus, asteroid retrieval transfers will be sought from the continuum of low energy transfers enabled by invariant manifold dynamics, computed within the framework of the Circular Restricted Three Body Problem. The final outcome will be a series of robust methodologies and tools for the design of this particular type of mission, but also for other space applications that benefit from very low energy transfers. A catalogue of asteroid retrieval opportunities for known Near Earth Objects in the 2025\ time frame will be presented with defined energy transportation costs and preliminary design of the retriever spacecraft.'
'NanoQuench project is about the development of alternative methods to coat indewelling medical devices to control microbial biofilms with relevance to clinical drug resistance. Biofilms are bacterial communities embedded in a self-produced polymeric matrix that commonly grow on indwelling medical devices, such as catheters. This mode of growing is believed to be regulated by a quorum-sensing (QS) system, a unique mechanism of communication that bacterial cells use through the secretion and uptake of small hormone-like molecules, called autoinducers. Due to their innate resistance to the immune system and low susceptibility to antibiotics, the microbial biofilms are difficult to treat and are a major factor in the morbidity and mortality of most infectious diseases. Methods by which the initial stages of bacterial attachment and biofilm formation can be restricted or prevented are therefore needed. Technologies that avoid catheter biofilm formation are based mainly on the application of conventional antimicrobial agents. However, the high resistance of bacteria within the biofilm makes any single therapeutic intervention unlikely to have sufficient effect.
This project focuses on the development of an integrated technological platform comprising quorum quenching enzymes and novel antibacterial agents (nanoantibiotics), able to counteract biofilm formation and at the same time avoid development of bacterial resistance to the therapy. These functional compounds will be coated onto catheters via layer-by-layer technique or a novel ultrasonic process.'
'The project focuses on the theoretical and applied study of freezing soils in the context of the use of Artificial Ground Freezing (AGF) in excavations and underground construction. The ever-increasing density of urban environments poses new challenges to tunnelling for transit projects. This implies the necessity to carry out open excavations and bored tunnels in the urban environment, often in difficult ground and almost always in the close vicinity of existing buildings and structures. As a test case, the project examines the geotechnical aspects of excavation of Line 1 of Napoli Underground. The work was performed in the urban environment of one of the most densely populated cities in Europe. Monitoring included an extensive set of in-situ data (e.g. buildings displacements, temperature in the ground).
The main objectives of the project are: a deeper understanding of the AGF process and of the effects of thawing frozen ground; development of a novel constitutive model and coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical (THM) formulation to provide an accurate description of the engineering behaviour of frozen/unfrozen soils; comparison between laboratory and field tests to calibrate the thermal properties of the ground, collection and back analysis of an extensive set of in-situ monitored data from a real urban tunnelling project. The most innovative aspect of the project is the way in which theoretical developments, constitutive modelling, laboratory tests, in situ monitoring and coupled analysis will be integrated in a single consistent framework firmly grounded on basic physical principles. The generality of the formulation and of the developed analysis tool allows the enhancement of the field of applications from AGF to the wider range of engineering and environmental problems involving frozen soils such as the analysis of frost heave, the study of the effect of freezing-thawing cycles in cold regions or the prediction of the permafrost fate in a climate change scenario.'
'A digital terrain model is a representation of a real-world terrain in a computer. Terrain models play an important role in geographic information systems, where they are used for numerous purposes, like path planning, visualization, and terrain analysis. One of the main ways to represent a terrain is by a triangulation: some points are sampled from the real terrain, and they are connected by triangles that cover the whole terrain area. This results in a subdivision into triangles. There are many ways to triangulate the points, and choosing the right one is essential to obtain terrain models that represent the real terrain faithfully. In particular, the shape of the triangles is very important: long and skinny triangles should be avoided. However, that is not enough. The current approach to triangulating terrains does not take the elevation of the points into account. This can create artifacts---like spurious pits, interrupted valley lines and artificial dams---, a serious obstacle for performing terrain analysis tasks, especially for hydrology or erosion simulations. This research will study combinatorial and geometric properties of triangulations, in order to design new automated methods to find triangulations with well-shaped triangles and---at the same time---as few artifacts as possible.'