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The-creators-of-the-future-get-down-to-business

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The creators of the future get down to business

Marjatta Pietilä | 31.3.2017

​Research suits inquisitive, playful people with a sense of adventure and a burning ambition to blaze new trails and seek solutions. You also need to understand the needs of business and society. So we are talking about multi-talented people. 

Senior Scientist Kimmo Halunen has been in VTT's cyber security team for four years. Key leadership roles include a project on the growth area of cyber security. Halunen believes that cyber security will become a growing area of technology R&D. The public and media have also become more interested in cyber and information security, because security vulnerabilities impact rapidly on everyday life.

– Researchers are currently focusing on major cyber security issues such as privacy protection, the security of critical infrastructure, problems caused by the Internet of Things, and reliable authentication. Multiple actors are gathering data on us. We should know what kind of data this is, how it is being used and by whom. To ensure that society functions, solutions are needed to secure critical infrastructure – such as water, electricity and heat production and distribution – even during crises. So far, we have no way of telling what kinds of vulnerabilities devices in the IoT will bring, and how to make the use of such devices safe, says Halunen.

– I work on authentication. Hot topics in this area include distributed blockchains, i.e., technology for making the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, secure. Blockchains are full of potential, but we need to begin by finding the best application relationships. The aim is to build security and confidence between the various parties. This is important to actors such as banks and insurance companies, as well as private and public-sector administration.

Halunen became a researcher out of a passion for facing challenges. He loves seeking solutions to issues that are important to him, the private sector and society. It feels great when your own research gains visibility and someone uses your ideas.

– VTT understands that cyber security is growing in importance and is worth investing in. Key areas include testing the information security of selected devices and eliminating vulnerabilities before their adoption, adaptive information security, security level measurement and automatic repair during attacks, the development of cryptographic methods that are computationally light but effective, and protecting and testing the critical infrastructure of the IoT so that automated systems and processes continue working during crises, says Halunen.

– The more devices and functions go online, the more we need to invest in cyber security, and the more demand for VTT will grow in this field.


Training shoes out of thin air and other magic tricks

Johanna Kihlman, Head of VTT's Catalyst Technologies Team, is interested in catalysts, their optimisation and manufacture, their laboratory-scale testing, the manufacture of large batches for demos and pilots, and reviewing the results of test runs. The aim is to develop renewable products such as biopetroleum, biodiesel, synthetic natural gas and chemicals. Customers include the forest, energy and fuel industries.

The team participated in the NSE Biofuels project, completed in 2011, as a partner of Neste Oil and Stora Enso. Since then, it has worked on Tekes and EU projects related to the processing of biomass gasification gas, and to fuel production and fuel cells. The aim is to optimise production processes, making them more efficient and economical.

– There is a need to get renewable fuels and production technologies, with moderate investment levels and tolerable investor risks, onto the markets. This would enable the construction of small and efficient production plants close to raw material sources, instead of large and expensive central units, says Kihlman.

Key issues for the research include fulfilling the Paris and EU climate objectives and, in the long run (by 2050), forecasting policy implications and trends in relation to clean energy production.

– Right now, the hottest topic is the production of fuels and petrochemicals from thin air, using surplus electricity from solar and wind generation to produce hydrogen from water by electrolysis, and the carbon dioxide from waste gases produced by production plants. We will demonstrate this process in the SOLETAIR project next summer. As a concrete application, this could be used to produce material used in training shoes from thin air, as it were, since the process is ideal for making raw materials for polyurethane.

– VTT understands the potential of recycling C1-chemistry, i.e., carbon dioxide, for the manufacture of various products. This is sure to become a key investment area in the research field. The aim is to develop the related process technology and produce renewable goods with higher added value.

Kihlman's work largely consists of cooperation inside her own team and with customers and research partners. She enjoys seeing research projects through their entire lifecycle, from the laboratory to the pilot stage, and then to the customer. 

– I certainly feel lucky, since I'm still just as excited about my work after seven years at VTT as on my first day, she says with a laugh.


3D-printed components for electric motors

Principal Investigator Jenni Pippuri joined VTT six years ago from the ABB Corporate Research Center in Switzerland. She works on developing electric motors and powertrains, exploring the potential of AM techniques for making electric motor components. Jenni leads VTT's spearhead research in electric powertrains. The goal is to raise the profile of VTT's research in this area within and outside VTT, and to promote the impact of such research.

– The big question in the world of powertrain research is how to improve the energy efficiency of electric vehicles at component and system level, and how design and production techniques can be used to lower component production costs. The concepts and structures of electric motors need to be tuned for vehicular applications, to enable their more-efficient mass production for a range of purposes. A key issue is the sufficiency of materials, since materials with limited availability are used in many components, Pippuri says.

– I am investigating how to produce different types of electric motors using AM. My colleagues and I have used 3D techniques to print components and the soft magnetic materials needed in them. We will begin building the first prototype electric motors at the beginning of the year. This work is extremely interesting and highly interdisciplinary. It requires a range of skills in various areas of material technology, manufacturing and electric motor technology.

Pippuri laughs when asked what aspects of this work interest her: since research involves continuous trailblazing, it is suitable for inquisitive people, she says. Good and relevant results are made possible by VTT's multidisciplinary expertise and teamwork.

– In recent years, VTT has built an outstanding infrastructure for the research and development of electric powertrains. We have excellent facilities for testing batteries and also have the 'electric bus mule', which we use to test components and systems. We have a wide range of possibilities for engaging in research projects and providing customers with services. I foresee us becoming more focused on the design and testing of entire electric vehicle systems, while investigating the kind of battery charging infrastructure required. We are seek active collaboration with the electric motor and vehicle industry, and are exploring the kinds of solutions that would best serve them, adds Pippuri.

 

Images: Sirpa Levonperä


Kimmo_Halunen

Kimmo Halunen

  • Senior Scientist, Cyber Security Team
  • PhD topic – Very Smooth Hash Function Analysis and Multi-collisions in Generalised Iterated Hash Functions, Department of Information Technology at the University of Oulu, 2012
  • Joined VTT in 2013
  • Hobbies: playing the guitar, judo and spending time with his family

 

xJohanna_Kihlman.jpg

​Johanna Kihlman

  • Leader of VTT's Catalyst Technologies Team
  • MSc (Chemical Technology), Helsinki University of Technology, 2009
  • Postgraduate studies on Carbon Formation in Catalytic Steam Reforming, due for completion in 2018
  • Joined VTT in 2009

 

xJenni_Pippuri.jpg

Jenni Pippuri

  • Senior Scientist, Principal Investigator, Electrical Powertrains and Storage Team
  • Postdoctoral Researcher funded by the Academy of Finland
  • PhD from Aalto University on the modelling and analysis of electrical machines 2010
  • Previous post with ABB Corporate Research, Switzerland
  • Joined VTT in 2011

 

 

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