Grant 2015 – Allocations for research for sustainable energy and for healthy ageing

Chalmers researcher Anna Martinelli and Marija Cvijovic at the University of Gothenburg


Mathematical models for healthy ageing and longevity, and new materials to develop fuel cells and biodiesel – this is the goal of the two scientists who receive the Hasselblad Foundation’s annual research funding.


For the fifth consecutive year, the Hasselblad Foundation allocates research grants to female scientists. This year the grant of SEK 1 million each is awarded to the Chalmers researcher Anna Martinelli and Marija Cvijovic at the University of Gothenburg.

– Thanks to the grant from the Hasselblad Foundation I can recruit new competence to my research and advance the research, says Marija Cvijovi, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Gothenburg.


Prevent diseases

Marija Cvijovic hopes that her research and mathematical knowledge can contribute to give us a healthy old age. Although we, in our part of the world, live longer than ever before, many are stricken by severe diseases like Alzheimer’s already in their 60s.
­– In Sweden we live long at a population level, but we want to ensure that we can also feel better longer, which would mean that most of us wouldn’t suffer from age-related diseases until during our last years, says Marija Cvijovic.


Marija’s research is not about curing or finding a treatment, rather about preventing, so that those diseases affect us as late in life as possible.
­– It’s important that we stay healthy. To have Alzheimer’s for 20 years is difficult both for the individual, the family and the society.


Mathematical models of life
But how can a mathematical model help make us healthier as elderly?
– We create a model of life in the computer and can analyze large amounts of data at the same time.

The advantage of a mathematical model is that we can examine phenomena in large scale and far into the future. We can’t follow a person throughout life. It takes too much time, and moreover, we’d have to follow an incredible number of people, says Marija Cvijovic.


If scientists can develop a good mathematical model, they can create different scenarios and anticipate what may happen.


From yeast cell to human
So far, researchers use yeast cells in their experiments, since the mechanisms which take place in a yeast cell are quite similar to those occurring in a human.

– It will take time to take the crucial step from yeast to human. I hope it happens in my lifetime. Within the next ten to fifteen years, I think we can help prevent certain diseases at yeast level, says Marija Cvijovic.


Anna Martinelli & Marija Cvijovic


New materials for sustainable energy
Anna Martinelli, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers is awarded the Hasselblad Foundation grant to develop new materials for sustainable energy.

The goal of the research is to develop super functional ionic liquids that can be used to produce clean energy in the form of, e.g. fuel cells or to produce biodiesel.
Ionic liquids, considered as optimal candidates to replace conventional electrolyte and solvent, consist of a kind of salt that is liquid at room temperature.


Ionic liquids can contribute to clean energy
The need to reduce emissions from the transport sector is driving this trend towards electric and hybrid vehicles. Energy systems based on fuel cells, in which electricity is produced when hydrogen is burned with only water as sole byproduct, is a solution with great potential. But a large-scale commercialization of the technology is limited by the performance of the electrolyte. Here ionic liquids can play an important role because of their high conductivity at temperatures above 120 degrees Celsius.


From lab to market
If Anna and her research team manage to find materials that work on a small scale, the big challenge will be to make them work in a real fuel cell, i.e. bringing research from the lab to the market.
– If we succeed, the fuel cell may become a more attractive technology, Anna Martinelli says.