University of Innsbruck

From Glaciers to Rain­fall: Ten Years in the Andes

Scientists at the University of Innsbruck have been studying the water cycle and glaciers in the Andes near Huaraz in northern Peru for a long time. They recently documented a previously unreported rainfall phenomenon. These light rainfalls, known locally as "Pushpa", mark the beginning of the sowing season. Their unpredictability from one year to the next complicates matters for farmers, a situation potentially worsened by climate change.

Inter­act­ing polarons

In physics, quasiparticles are used to describe complex processes in solids. In ultracold quantum gases, these quasiparticles can be reproduced and studied. Now, for the first time, Austrian scientists led by Rudolf Grimm have been able to observe in experiments how Fermi polarons – a special type of quasiparticle – can interact with each other. Their findings have been published in Nature Physics.

El Niño's Chang­ing Pat­terns: Human Influ­ence on Nat­u­ral Vari­abil­ity

Two recent scientific studies led by Dr. Paul Wilcox from the Department of Geology at the University of Innsbruck provide new insights into Earth's climate dynamics, with a particular focus on the El Niño phenomenon. The results show how El Niño responds to natural factors over extended periods, while highlighting the increasing role of human activities in shaping this climatic phenomenon in the modern era.

Cross-alpine tran­sit protests

When the large highways crossing the Austrian and Swiss Alps were built, citizens’ movements protesting the transalpine traffic started to form in both countries from the 1970s onwards. They found common ground in blaming EU policy but overall employed distinct methods, also with varying success, and never really joined forces. In a recent project, historians in Innsbruck, Basel and Munich made these two environmental initiatives the subject of their comparative research. 

Statis­tics of the invis­i­ble

In order to obtain information about dark matter and dark energy from the huge amounts of data to be generated by the new ESA probe Euclid, Innsbruck astrophysicist Laila Linke and her team are using novel statistical methods. As soon as Euclid sends its first data to Earth, the researchers intend to have a tool ready to gain new information on the most important questions concerning the invisible side of the cosmos.

Glacier Loss Day indi­cates record break­ing glacier melt

In the summer of 2022, one of Tyrol's largest glaciers experienced its most significant loss of mass on record. Last year, the Hintereisferner in Tyrol, Austria, reached its Glacier Loss Day (GLD) earlier than ever before. The GLD serves as an indicator of a glacier's health throughout the year, similar to how the Earth Overshoot Day measures Earth's resource consumption. Annelies Voordendag, together with a team of glaciologists at the Department for Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences at the University of Innsbruck, employs cutting-edge laser scanning techniques to determine the GLD.

ERC Grant for Bio­di­ver­sity Research

For his research on the influence of biodiversity on long-term forest dynamics, Rubén D. Manzanedo has been awarded a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). Currently a researcher at ETH Zurich, Dr. Manzanedo applied for the grant, which is endowed with around 1.5 million euros, through the University of Innsbruck.

Pav­ing the way for advanced quan­tum sen­sors

Quantum physics has allowed for the creation of sensors far surpassing the precision of classical devices. Now, several studies in Nature show that the precision of these quantum sensors can be significantly improved using entanglement produced by finite-range interactions. Innsbruck researchers led by Christian Roos were able to demonstrate this enhancement using entangled ion-chains with up to 51 particles.

Sci­en­tists develop fermionic quan­tum pro­ces­sor

Researchers from Austria and USA have designed a new type of quantum computer that uses fermionic atoms to simulate complex physical systems. The processor uses programmable neutral atom arrays and is capable of simulating fermionic models in a hardware-efficient manner using fermionic gates. The team led by Peter Zoller demonstrated how the new quantum processor can efficiently simulate fermionic models from quantum chemistry and particle physics.

RNA-drug inter­ac­tions

How active compounds affect RNA and thus the expression of genes is of great interest for the development of potential therapeutics. Innsbruck chemists have now used a method they recently developed to study the binding of the aminoglycoside Neomycin B to a so-called mRNA riboswitch.

The car­bon cycle is speed­ing up

Soil is the largest natural carbon storage in the world. In Northern ecosystems particularly large amounts of carbon are stored, but they are also particularly strongly affected by global warming. A recently published study by an international team led by Michael Bahn of the University of Innsbruck investigated how ongoing warming affects the uptake and release of carbon dioxide in subarctic grassland. The researchers used a geothermally active area in Iceland as a natural „climate chamber”.

Nega­tively charged and yet pretty cold

Anions, negatively charged ions, are reluctant to be cooled. Physicists led by Matthias Weidemüller from Heidelberg University and Roland Wester from the University of Innsbruck have now developed a method for cooling molecular anions to below 3 Kelvin in a remarkably short time. This enables, for example, new investigations of chemical reactions in space.

A new strat­egy enables molec­u­lar diver­sity

The research group led by chemist Thomas Magauer has accomplsihed a divergent strategy to synthesize nine complex natural compounds. The developed method requires significantly less time and results in a variety of compounds with different structures and biological properties.

Wittgen­stein Award for quan­tum physi­cist Hans Briegel

Hans J. Briegel, a physicist researching at the intersection of quantum information, machine learning and philosophy, was awarded Austria's highest science prize, the Wittgenstein Prize, on Thursday. Briegel is "one of the most creative researchers in a field in which Austria plays a leading role," said the international jury.

Alps: Light­ning activ­ity dou­bled in a few decades

In the high altitudes of the European Eastern Alps, the number of detected lightning strikes has doubled in the course of the last 40 years. Causes for this are to be found in the effects of the climate crisis. A team of Innsbruck researchers from the Departments of Geosciences, Atmospheric Sciences and Statistics has now published their findings in the journal Climate Dynamics.

Moral­ity and com­pe­ti­tion in sci­ence

How does competition influence moral behaviour? Studies have so far found evidence for both a negative and a positive influence of competition on moral behaviour. Researchers from Innsbruck, Vienna, Stockholm and Amsterdam are using this unanswered question in a meta-study to investigate the extent to which different study designs can be responsible for variability in scientific results. The study was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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