Here's how beautiful research can be! On this page we have gathered the most exciting vistas from our labs from the "Insights" section of our research magazine. You want more? That's easy, you just have to subscribe (for free) to Empa Quarterly here.

Empa Quarterly #76: One peculiar pet


The body is the house of the soul, as the philosopher Philon of Alexandria put it some 2,000 years ago. In this house, the so-called cochlea, the snail, is our pet. The delicate bony structure in the inner ear houses our sense of hearing. Researchers at Empa's Center for X-ray Analytics in Dübendorf, in collaboration with the group of Image Guided Therapy at the Artog Center in Bern, examined the cochleae of healthy subjects using microcomputed tomography. The aim of the imaging technique is to precisely determine the microanatomy of the cochlea in order to optimize surgical interventions when inserting hearing prostheses. If hearing is impaired but the auditory nerve still intact, a cochlear implant can help. Inserting the tiny implants is risky, however. Computer tomography scans can provide helpful insights.

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Empa Quarterly #75: Floral splendor from the lab


The New York and Istanbul based artist Sonia Li has created an artificial flower garden with her walk-through installation as the center of the compassion mandala,"Buddhaverse", which also features two technologies from Empa's Advanced Fibers lab: an artificial turf made of bicomponent fibers with a polyamide core and a recycled polymer film coated with a conductive nano-metal layer in Empa's plasma coating facility. Lasers were used to cut floral motifs out of the film, which shimmer in a multicolored way in the installation's UV light. The conductivity of the nano-coating will be used to create a space with interactive multi-sensory experiences when the work is developed further, the artist said. Sonia Li was supported by the TaDA Textile and Design Alliance during the previous grant period. The temporary installation was showcased at the final exhibition at the end of her residency. TaDA promotes interdisciplinary works by artists from all over the world that combine contemporary art with textile innovation and tradition in Eastern Switzerland.

Image: Ladina Bischof / TaDA (

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Empa Quarterly #74: Teaching fungi how to write


Spalted wood is a highly sought-after material in the high-end furniture industry. In a newly developed process, Empa scientists led by Francis Schwarze have succeeded at controlling the spread of fungi in native wood types. Recently, they created an elaborate clock one meter in diameter made of spalted ash, beech and maple wood using the soft rot fungus Kretzschmaria deusta. The fungi were even taught to write some words, and just like first graders, they are still a bit shaky when writing particular letters. Image: Empa

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