This Winners Session features the Top 10 breakthroughs in the Engineering and Technology category. Several of the presented projects are developing eco-friendly materials and Clean Energy solutions, including safer, more energy-efficient batteries and a new method of cement production that reduces CO2 emissions, thereby ensuring that housing is both affordable and sustainable. New medical technologies show us a future in which it will be normal to navigate micromagnets and miniature robots through our bodies to, for example, administer drugs in a targeted manner. Viewers are also introduced to topics such as optimal transport theory, ultra-precise clocks, and the digitalisation of workspaces through the example of a chemistry lab. Jury Chair Joël Mesot emphasises the essential aspect of ground-breaking work in the field of New Medical Technologies and Clean Energy Solutions: “In order to be successful, technology alone is not sufficient. It needs to be socially accepted, and it needs to be economically viable.”


We are delighted to announce the ten winners in the category Engineering and Technology:


Breaking the Wall to Solar Kerosene
Stefan Brendelberger’s technology converts concentrated solar energy water and CO2 into renewable kerosene, to replace fossil fuels in the aviation sector.


Breaking the Wall of Efficient Batteries
Yi Cui has pioneered nanotechnology-based materials design to enable novel breakthrough materials which have ten times higher charge storage capacity than the current technology, a key element to clean energy strategies.


Breaking the Wall of Transport
Alessio Figalli devises creative new tools and techniques to solve mathematical questions. He has used optimal transport theory to mathematically understand a great range of systems in nature, the atmosphere and machine learning. 


Breaking the Wall towards ultra-broadband Signal Processing
Christian Koos tackles the problem of limited bandwidth by combining electronics with photonic circuits and with optical frequency combs as ultra-precise clocks.


Breaking the Wall of Chemistry
Teodoro Laino leads a pioneering project integrating AI, Cloud and Automation to accelerate a new way of doing chemistry that is more digital and without the need for chemists to be in the lab.


Breaking the Wall of Safe Energy Storage
Yi Chun Lu explores safe alternatives to batteries used in electric vehicles and consumer electronics, which are both flammable and toxic.


Breaking the Wall of Inefficient Drug Delivery
Simone Schürle develops diagnostic and therapeutic systems at the nano-and microscale with the aim to tackle a range of challenging problems in health care, including a recent breakthrough using micro-magnets to improve targeted drug delivery.


Breaking the Wall to Wireless Medical  Robots inside our Body
Metin Sitti has created wireless, soft, miniature mobile robots, inspired by soft-bodied tiny animals that can navigate and function safely inside the human body.


Breaking the Wall of Housing People while minimising Climate Change
Karen Scrivener has come up with a solution that reduces CO2 emissions in cement production, to ensure that housing and infrastructure are safe and affordable as well as more sustainable.


Breaking the Wall of Building with Molecules
Frank Stefan Tautz has achieved a breakthrough in nanofabrication through the first-ever combination of AI and nanotechnology, whereby an autonomous artificial intelligence learns to grip and move molecules.

Dr. Stefan Brendelberger is a researcher at DLR since 2007. His primary research interest is in the solar thermochemical cycles for production of renewable fuels, especially the process and reactor development. Also he is interested in numerical simulation and heat management. Dr. Brendelberger supervises PhD students and is the Project leader of SUN-to-LIQUID. In 2017, he was a MC Fellow MHC Diadikasia, Greece. His focus was on metal hydrid hydrogen compressor. In 2014, he was a Research Assistant at CSIRO, Australia. Dr. Stefan Brendelberger did his PhD in Mechanical Engineering RWTH Aachen in 2012. 2006 he did a YGT at ESA, Netherlands, where he was focused on the technology assessment of advanced energy systems. In 2005 he did his Physics Diploma at the University of Karlsruhe. Dr. Brendelberger studied abroad in Barcelona and Krakow.

Yi Cui is a Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University and leader of the Yi Cui Group. He has published about 500 research papers and has an H-index of 203 (Google). In 2014, he was ranked NO.1 in Materials Science by Thomson Reuters as “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds”. He is a Fellow of Materials Research Society, Electrochemical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry. He is a Co-Director of the Bay Area Photovoltaics Consortium, of Battery 500 Consortium and of Stanford StorageX Initiative. He is a world leading scientist to break the wall of efficient batteries.

Alessio Figalli earned his doctorate in 2007 under the supervision of Luigi Ambrosio at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and Cédric Villani at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon. He was a faculty at the University of Texas-Austin, before moving to ETH Zürich in 2016 as a chaired professor. Since 2019 he is the director of the “FIM-Institute for Mathematical Research” at ETH Zürich.

Christian Koos received the Dr.-Ing. degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Karlsruhe in 2007. From 2008 to 2010, he was affiliated with the Corporate Research department of Carl Zeiss AG, where he led the technology forecast in the field of nanotechnology. In 2010, he joined Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) as professor in the department of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology. His research covers photonics, optical communications, and optoelectronic signal processing. Christian is co-founder of high-tech start-up companies in the field of photonics.

Dr. Teodoro Laino was a Master and PhD Student at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, with an MSc in Chemistry in 2001 and PhD in Chemistry in 2006. After a short period (2006-2008) at the University of Zurich, he joined IBM Research in 2008. The focus of his research is accelerated discovery for Chemistry and materials: explore AI, Cloud, Robotic and Computing technologies to accelerated the R&D process in chemical industries.

Dr Yi-Chun Lu received her BSc degree from the National Tsing Hua University in 2007, and a PhD from MIT in 2012. She is an associate professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). She is also a founding member of Young Academy of Science of Hong Kong and was the recipient of Hong Kong SAR Research Grants Council Early Career Award (2014). Her research interest is developing fundamental understandings and material design principles for clean energy storage and conversion.

Simone Schürle is assistant professor at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, heading the responsive biomedical system lab. She develops diagnostic and therapeutic systems at the nanoscale and microscale, in order to tackle steep problems in medicine. Schuerle attended MIT, researching nanosensors for cancer diagnostics as well as methods to enhance drug transport (2014-2017). In 2013, she earned her PhD at the ETHZ. Schuerle has received several awards and fellowships, and was honored by the WEF for her scientific contributions. In 2014, she co-founded the spin-off MagnebotiX, offering magnetic micromanipulation systems.

Metin Sitti has pioneered many research areas, including wireless miniature medical robots, gecko-inspired microfiber adhesives, bio-inspired miniature robots, and physical intelligence. He is a director at Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany. As side academic positions, he is a professor at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, professor at Koç University in Turkey and honorary professor at University of Stuttgart in Germany. Beforehand, he was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University (2002-2014) and a research scientist at UC Berkeley (1999-2002) in USA. He is the founder of the start-up nanoGriptech, Inc. Sitti is the recipient of the ERC Advanced Grant, Rahmi Koç Science Prize, SPIE Nanoengineering Pioneer Award and NSF CAREER Award.

Prof. Karen Scrivener, Professor at EPFL, has been working on cement and concrete for 40 years. Her career moving from academia to industry and back, gives her a unique insight into both the scientific fundamentals and practical realities of this fascinating material. Her main focus is on lowering CO2 emissions from this important material. This has led to the development of LC3 cement which can cut CO2 emissions by up to 40%. Through her roles in Journal editing, and leading think groups on sustainability she has become one of the most influential people in the field.

Following undergraduate studies in Physics in Hamburg, Stefan Tautz obtained a MPhil in Theoretical Physics and a PhD in Low Temperature Physics, both at the University of Cambridge. After a post-doc at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, he took up a position at TU Ilmenau in Germany. In 2001, he became Associate Professor of Physics at International University Bremen (as of 2007: Jacobs University), from where he moved to Forschungszentrum Jülich to become director of the Peter Grünberg Institute and Professor at RWTH Aachen University in 2007. His research interest is Quantum Nanoscience.

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