Society is built on curiosity; the drive to find answers to life’s abounding questions. This curiosity continues to fuel our brightest minds today. Cassi Camilleri talks to ALICE experiment leader Prof. Paolo Giubellino about his work at CERN and how it impacts our daily lives.
Prof. Ing. Edward Gatt & Dr Ing. Owen Casha – Faculty of ICT
Physicist Dr Giacinto De Cataldo (Head of the HMPID detector) got in touch with Gatt and Casha to work on two microelectronics projects for CERN. Their first project was the O2 Project—a series of upgrades for the ALICE experiment. One of upgrades focuses on improving the Ring-Imaging Cherenkov detector (RICH), found in the HMPID detector, a device that identifies the type of electrically charged particles being emitted by the detector. The second project is the implementation of a Remotely Configurable L0 Trigger Fan-out Module for the ALICE Detector. It involves the clocking management of the ALICE detector with high precision. This research could also be used in consumer telecommunication systems, improving radio frequency circuits’ performance. Finally, Gatt is researching how to improve chip designs used to detect physical phenomena from particle collisions with the aim of making them more intelligent and power-efficient.
Kevin Napoli – Computing CERN Openlab Student
“My summer experience at CERN was remarkable. The sharing of knowledge among students and researchers was the highlight of the trip. During the openlab programme we attended lectures about security, machine learning, computer hardware, software optimisation and lots more, many of which are topics not covered at our home university. We also played a role in the ALICE experiment and I worked on my project alongside top notch computer scientists. Another positive aspect of the programme were the various trips to companies and universities in Switzerland. Being able to say that I have worked at CERN is something I will value throughout my career.”
Julia Vella – Physics CERN Summer Student
ʻThe months spent at CERN for the summer student internship programme were not only an invaluable experience, but also an insight to future potential careers for my colleagues and I. Based within the HMPID detector of the ALICE experiment, we had a six-week lecture program focused on the fundamental properties of nature. The bulk of the work we were involved in centred on implementing programming languages to process raw data from collisions into useful knowledge. Geneva provided a change of pace for us that was conducive to both hard work and extra curricular activities. Travelling across borders, visiting main projects and control centres at CERN, while also socialising with students from all over the globe, made it an all-encompassing experience not easily matched.ʼ
Josef Magri – M.Sc. Student
The HMPID takes snapshots of the faint patterns generated by the high-energy collisions, passing this information through the RICH electronics module which cleans and transforms it for analysis. Magri is working to optimise the electronic circuits and control boards to improve how data is handled. So far, he has manipulated computer processes to create parallelism, allowing for processes that previously happened one after the other to occur simultaneously. He also used high-throughput interconnects, which, when coupled with parallelism, are expected to increase data collection tenfold. Magri’s work will be combined with that of other researchers and integrated by 2020 in order to improve the detector’s accuracy, potentially revealing building blocks of matter that might have yet to be seen.
Clive Seguna – Ph.D. student
Working in close collaboration with Magri, Seguna is developing novel electronic circuitry for the CPV and HMPID detectors, that will boost the speed at which collisions are read, going from 4 kHz to 50 kHz, the speed at which the beams interact: true real time. Seguna’s research will be taken on at CERN between 2020–2023.
A magnificent feat of engineering, the LHC goes where no other machine has gone before.Continue reading
The European Organisation for Nuclear Research—CERN—is synonymous with the world’s brightest minds, cutting-edge research and groundbreaking discoveries. Lars Lorenz interviews Dr Kevin Vella (Faculty of ICT) about the University of Malta’s involvement at CERN and its game-changing tech contribution to the ALICE experiment.
Crowdfunding has proven to be a revolutionary business-financing phenomenon. From an A to Z list of every indie game, record or publication imaginable, to rebuilding homes, rehoming puppies and sending people to the Olympics, crowdfunding platforms have shown they can be just the right kind of push to get hatchlings to fly the nest. Having a local crowdfunding platform gives entrepreneurs and communities in Malta a unique edge.
Crowdfunding is a place where local ideas, concepts and projects meet and can receive public support. But, in a world of large crowdfunding opportunities across the globe, what does Malta actually stand to gain by having a platform with a local focus?
Financing options on the Maltese Islands are notoriously limited. Over 70 per cent of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) resort to traditional lending services like bank loans and overdrafts. Getting a new business off the ground is a daunting task, and 30% of local entrepreneurs admit to finding difficulty in securing investments.
Enter Zaar, the donation and reward-based crowdfunding platform set up by the Malta Business Bureau and the University of Malta [UoM]. The idea initially was to help bridge gaps in the market when it comes to financing for start-ups, innovation, and research projects. A local crowdfunding platform helps local companies by bypassing the legal and bureaucratic obstacles that come with using international platforms. While projects targeting Maltese recipients benefit from local context and backing, backers need not be based in Malta at all. By giving local creators the space to attract funding in the most efficient way, Zaar aims not only to fuel dreams, but to fulfil them.
That being said, Zaar is not just about financing, and one of the company’s core values is about getting good ideas out in the open. In operation for seven months, the platform has managed to fund everything from album launches to charity events. Some of the most successful offspring to date include: a soon-to-be launched Pet Cabin at Mater Dei; eeMod—a modular and multi-functional platform for makers, engineers, and students; funding for the UoM student racing team to build a new formula style car; and a project to bring graphic novels to Malta’s Public Library. Without a little push from Zaar to get public interest going, none of these projects may have made it.
Local crowdfunding also opens up new avenues for researchers and their projects. Governmental and EU funds are becoming harder to come by, but Zaar ensures that every researcher who has ever been told that their field lacks the appeal for funds, at least has the opportunity to try. For the first time, people have the chance to fund studies that they want to see done, and the thought of that is genuinely exciting.
Crowdfunding is going to be a game changer for innovation, and Zaar has the first pin down on the local map.
Malta has a target: by 2020, 10% of the generation of energy should come from the renewables. Luckily, there is a resource which is available almost every third hour a year—sunshine. Dr Ing. Maurice Apap and Ing. Jurgen Bonavia explain how the solar energy can be harvested. Words by Tuovi Mäkipere.
Diabetes prevalence is burgeoning on a global scale. In 2012, 1.5 million people worldwide died as a direct result of the disease, cementing it as an epidemic. By 2030, diabetes is expected to become the world’s seventh leading cause of death. With 12% of the Maltese population suffering from the disease, a research team has come together looking into new methods of detection to stop the disease in its tracks. Words by Yasmine Gatt.
As a child, Prof. Noellie Brockdorff was fascinated by the robots that inhabited the world of Isaac Asimov’s novels. She wanted to know why humans are different to robots. So why are human beings not perfectly rational creatures like robots? Dr Claude Bajada finds out more.
Malta now has a radio telescope. This is a great step forward for the University of Malta as it helps speed up research.
The Department of Physics, Faculty of Science and the Institute of Space Sciences & Astronomy (ISSA; both at the University of Malta) have just acquired a 5.3m dual-reflector parabolic dish, as part of a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) project to extend postgraduate research lab facilities. The radio telescope will now allow students and researchers to study celestial objects such as the sun or the centre of the galaxy through the radio waves they emit.
|Dish diameter: 5.3m
Feed horns: L-Band and K-band
Gain: 44 dBi @ 4GHz
Observing modes: Continuum and line observation
Total weight (including pedestal): 1900 kg
Surface accuracy: 0.5mm
PC-based automated control unit
When pointed to a radio-loud celestial object (an object which emits large amounts of radio waves, such as the sun), the telescope will receive radio waves from these sources and convert them to voltage readings in the feed. The converted signal is then transmitted to a digitiser that converts these signals into bits and bytes.
The digitised signals are then processed and broken down into the different frequency counterparts (similar to what a car radio does with the radio waves it receives from its antenna), which allows for continuum observation of the skies above. The telescope provides a test-bed for several research initiatives being undertaken at ISSA.
Some of its specialisations include improving the hardware and software processing back-ends for radio telescopes. The on-site telescope can speed up this sort of research immensely. ISSA is part of the largest radio telescope project in the world: the SKA (Square Kilometre Array).