TU Graz/ TU Graz/ Services/ News+Stories/

Starting signal for FET Open projects: Visionary research on biocatalysts, nanostructures and ultrafast information processing

10/13/2020 | TU Graz news | Research

By Susanne Eigner

Over the next few years, work will be carried out at TU Graz on cell factories for industrial algae biotechnology, on a rapid prototyping approach for micro- and nanodevices and on new paradigms for ultra-fast information processing.

Robert Kourist, Anna Maria Coclite, Robert Legenstein and Francesco Greco are pleased about the funding of their research in the EU program FET-Open. © Lunghammer - TU Graz

Into autumn with visionary ideas. At Graz University of Technology, three research projects are starting at once in the FET Open funding line, which has revolutionary technological breakthrough as its goal. “The EU’s FET Open projects are awarded extremely competitively. It's a stroke of luck to get a FET Open project, but three at the same time is almost like hitting the jackpot. Only very visionary projects with long-term potential and great industrial impact will be funded. It is remarkable and gratifying that TU Graz is able to start three projects in different Fields of Expertise in the FET Open Line. I congratulate all those involved and wish them every success. But I am even more excited about the results," says Horst Bischof, Vice Rector for Research at Graz University of Technology. The total volume of the three projects amounts to 9.4 million euros, of which just under 1.5 million euros have been allocated to TU Graz.

Biocatalysts in leaf form

A new generation of biocatalysts is waiting in the wings. Cyanobacteria, also known as microalgae, have increasingly become the focus of interest because of their ability to use light chemically. The principle of algae-based biocatalysts is as simple as it is amazing. With enzymes specifically introduced into the microalgae, the energy of photosynthesis can be used to produce new chemicals. The FET Open project FuturoLEAF develops a light-driven solid state cell factory; new chemical materials are produced in an emission-free and eco-friendly way by photosynthesis. FuturoLEAF is based on nature and simultaneously combines nanotechnology with cell engineering, as Robert Kourist from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at TU Graz explains: "We insert the cyanobacteria into a matrix that reproduces the architecture of a natural plant leaf. This enables us to use the principles of the anatomy and function of plant leaves in photosynthesis for novel bioreactors: this means optimal light utilization with maximum protection of the cells." In the foreseeable future, it should be possible to produce polymers and pharmaceutical materials in an environmentally friendly way.

This research is anchored in the Field of Expertise "Human & Biotechnology", one of five strategic research foci of TU Graz.

FuturoLEAF - Leaf-inspired nanocellulose frameworks for next generation photosynthetic cell factories
Duration: 3 years
Aalto University (Finnland)
Centre national de la recherche scientifique, CNRS (France)
University of Turku (Finnland)
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (Coordinator)
CyanoBioTech (Germany)

5D direct printing process for micro and nano devices

Extremely small but significant: As miniaturized components or devices, micro and nano electromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS for short) have an enormous influence on many technical disciplines. Nevertheless, the actual potential of these components is largely unexplored. One of the reasons for this is the time-consuming and very expensive development. "Complex 3D structures cannot be produced in a tailor-made way with current standard fabrication techniques," explains Francesco Greco from the Institute of Solid State Physics at TU Graz. He and his institute colleague Anna Maria Coclite are part of the FET Open project 5D-NanoPrinting, which aims to overcome these limitations and give MEMS/NEMS more freedom of design. "We want to establish an innovative, integrated technological approach based on a two-photon 3D direct printing process. This rapid prototyping is expected to become a new gold standard for micro- and nanotechnologies, similar to what 3D printing represents for manufacturing technologies," explains Coclite. The approach is based on new functional materials that can be polymerized using a two-photon process and have specific functional properties. This technology is particularly interesting for rapid prototyping to test new principles and configurations before the final design of the MEMS/NEMS; for the production of complex 3D devices or adaptable devices; and for the production of very specific MEMS/NEMS, such as hearing prostheses, in correspondingly small quantities.

This research is anchored in the Field of Expertise "Advanced Materials Science", one of five strategic research foci of TU Graz.

5D NanoPrinting - Functional and Dynamic 3D Nano- MicroDevices by Direct Multi-Photon Lithography
Duration: 4 years
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, CNR (Italy)
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, IIT (Italy; Coordinator)
University of Groningen (Netherlands)
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)
ST-Microelectronics (Italy)
Project website: https://www.5dnanoprinting.eu

Ultrafast computing units according to the "dendritic" principle

Ultra fast, safe and energy-saving: The increasing demands on data processing increase the need for high-speed, real-time and low-energy calculations. This also requires completely new hardware concepts. In the FET Open project ADOPD, the participating research groups are developing ultra-fast computing units based on optical-fibre technologies that function according to the principles of information processing in the brain. Robert Legenstein from the Institute of Theoretical Computer Science at TU Graz explains: "Such information processing takes place in our brain, namely by neurons in their tree-like (dendritic) branches. This dendritic information processing is highly compressed, runs in parallel and also enables non-linear calculations. And we want to transfer this to novel computer hardware." The calculation properties are first modelled and in a second step transferred to optical systems consisting of fibre optics and other optical components. For the first prototype, the proven single-mode fibre technology is used to build an optical dendritic unit (ODU). From there, we will move on to state-of-the-art multimode fibres to obtain a fully optical second, more compact prototype of a dendritic tree with significantly higher computing power.

This research is anchored in the Field of Expertise "Information, Communication and Computing", one of five strategic research foci of TU Graz.

ADOPD - Adaptive Optical Dendrites
Duration: 3 years
Spanish National Research Council, CSIC (Spain)
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (Germany; Coordinator)
University of the Balearic Islands (Spain)
Leoni Fiber Optics GmbH (Germany)

FET Open: New and future technologies

The FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) programme line of the EU's Horizon 2020 research funding programme focuses on cooperative research that seeks technological breakthroughs and achieves major social or industrial impact. As one of the three FET funding lines (along with FET Proactive and FET Flagships), FET Open enables new visionary ideas with long-term potential to be developed and research groups to be established. The aim of FET Open projects is an "early lab demonstrator" or a "proof of principle/proof of concept" of a new technology. FET Open projects have a funding amount of about 3 million euros, with an average duration of 3 years and a consortium of at least three partner organisations but usually consisting of 3-6 participating institutions. Further information can be obtained, for example, from the FFG in this programme description.


Robert KOURIST, Univ.-Prof. Dr.rer.nat.
Phone: +43 316 873 4071, kouristnoSpam@tugraz.at

5D NanoPrinting:
Francesco GRECO, Dr. Dott.
Phone: +43 316 873 8471, francesco.greconoSpam@tugraz.at

Robert LEGENSTEIN, Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn.
Phone: +43 316 873 5824, leginoSpam@igi.tugraz.at