Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news Sustainable & Responsible Development

In conversation with our young researchers: Adelene Lai

Environmental Cheminformatics.

With over 350,000 environmental chemicals registered for production and use across the world, there are simply more than researchers can analyse. Increased computational resources are critical.

PhD candidate Adelene Lai at Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) is an environmental cheminformatician who develops workflows, algorithms, and software to help identify environmental chemicals.

16% of annual deaths worldwide attributed to air, water, and soil pollution

Adelene Lai’s research explores how to make the most of computational resources, software and databases to analyse and understand the thousands of measured chemical signals.

The researcher explains that “we measure thousands of signals in a single sample, but we understand very few.” Indeed, the approach to assessing environmental chemicals remains “one-by-one”, though they exist in multitudes as complex mixtures (“soup”) in our environment.

“Recent boosts in computational power and improved tools have also been essential for analysing large amounts of measured data, which for environmental samples is very important, as there are typically many samples from multiple locations and timepoints, e.g. water samples from multiple sites throughout Luxembourg over multiple months.”

Adelene Lai

Environmental Chemistry to be in its own Big Data phase

The cheminformatician develops workflows, algorithms, and software to help identify environmental chemicals.

“Environmental Chemistry is approaching its own Big Data phase, and we need to do things in increasingly automated and ‘smart’ ways. For example, we developed a highly automated workflow to help the Swiss authorities identify unknown chemicals in wastewater coming from industrial sources using Open tools and databases.”

Adelene Lai

More recently, the scientist teamed up with the Luxembourgish Water Management Agency to help identify pharmaceuticals and pesticides in local surface water, where Adelene concentrated on database mining, data curation, and data visualisation.

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

“Three main reasons: the Schymanski group at LCSB is visionary, unique, and interdisciplinary in its approach to identifying environmental chemical pollutants; Luxembourg has a strong emphasis on Open Science, specifically at the LCSB through Responsible and Reproducible Research (R3); and the research culture in Luxembourg is very dynamic and open to new ideas.”

3rd year PhD candidate Adelene Lai is an environmental cheminformatician

Adelene Lai is a member of the group of FNR ATTRACT Fellow Associate Prof Emma Schymanski. Adelene has been selected to attend the prestigious 2021 interdisciplinary Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in June 2021.

Excerpts from Spotlight on Young Researchers: Identifying environmental pollutants

Latest news Sustainable & Responsible Development

Researching happiness effects of same-sex and different-sex partnerships


New research uses panel data from the Netherlands to explore whether there is a causal effect of partnership on subjective well-being. The results suggest that both different-sex and same-sex marital partnership improves well-being, and the benefits of marriage appear to outweigh those of cohabitation.

Due to the heterogeneity of partnership formation and stability, the effect of marital partnership on well-being may differ between same-sex and different-sex couples. The issues of the well-being and marital partnership of same-sex couples are largely unexplored in the literature.

Researcher Shuai Chen of the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER)’s recent book chapter1 entitled “Happiness and Partnerships” was co-authored with the renowned Dutch economist Jan C. van Ours of Erasmus University Rotterdam and Tinbergen Institute.  Published in March 2021 in the “Handbook of Labor, Human Resources and Population Economics”, the authors first begin discussing theoretical foundations for partnership formations focusing on marriage between a man and a women and also describing cohabitation and same-sex partnerships.

Second, the authors present an overview of empirical studies on happiness and partnerships exploring methodological issues and highlighting main findings:


Partnership formation

Partnership formation seems to increase happiness with same-sex partnerships being no different than different-sex partnerships.



Marriage generates more happiness than cohabitation; and reverse causality does not seem to be important.

Partnered individuals generally happier than singles

Partnered individuals are generally happier than singles. The positive association between partnership and happiness has multiple explanations. A simple comparison of singles and partnered individuals is insufficient to establish the origin of the positive association.

It is possible that some individual characteristics affect both the probability to be partnered and happiness in the same direction. It is also possible that happier people are more likely to find a partner. Thus, they are not simply happier because they are in a partnership but because they were already happier before they found a partner. Moreover, there could be a causal effect of partnership formation on happiness. Finally, it is possible that a shock to one’s happiness changes the likelihood of partnership formation of that individual. This is reverse causality from the perspective of the link from partnership to happiness.

Positive effect on subjective well-being is statistically identical for same-sex and different-sex couples

To account for time-invariant unobserved personal characteristics influencing subjective well-being, we use a linear fixed effects model to investigate the effects of partnership. The authors also control for covariates that may be correlated to both partnership and well-being such as drinking and smoking behaviour and body mass index, as well as demographic and socioeconomic variables.

If individual fixed effects are ignored, happiness is about 0.50 higher (on our scale of 0 to 10) for partnered individuals than it is for singles. Clearly, happier individuals are more likely to form partnerships, but there is still a significant positive effect of partnership formation on well-being.

The authors also find that the positive effect on subjective well-being is statistically identical for same-sex and different-sex couples.

Shuai Shen and Jan C. van Ours investigate whether partnership dynamics cause changes in the subjective well-being of the individuals involved. They also study potential differences of the subjective well-being effects between same-sex and different-sex couples. To establish a causal effect from partnership dynamics to well-being, the authors account for selectivity which occurs if happier people are more likely to form partnerships.

Causal effect from partnership formation to subjective well-being

The authors find that there is a causal effect from partnership formation to subjective well-being but there is also a selection effect, each of which explains around 50% of the positive association between partnership dynamics and subjective well-being.

The causal effect on well-being is the same for different-sex and same-sex couples. Furthermore, Shuai and Jan discover positive well-being effects of cohabitation although these effects are smaller than those of marriage.

Partnership formation and dissolution are likely to exert different influences on couple’s subjective well-being. The authors investigate such symmetries and indeed find opposite effects with similar magnitudes on subjective well-being during these two periods.

Finally, Shuai and Jan analyse whether the well-being effect of marital partnership is cohort-specific and detect a difference between birth cohorts. Cohabitation only benefits younger cohorts but not older cohorts.

Meet the researchers

Shuai Chen

Research Associate in Economics, Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER), Luxembourg

Jan C. van Ours

Professor of Applied Economics, Erasmus School of Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Professorial Fellow at the Department of Economics, University of Melbourne; CEPR Research Fellow

The authors’ research is based on data from the Longitudinal Internet Studies for the Social Sciences (LISS) panel administered by CentERdata. The panel is a random sample of households drawn from the Dutch population consisting of more than 6,500 households and over 10,000 individuals.

Cite this paper: Chen, S., & van Ours, J. C. (2021). Happiness and Partnerships. In K. Zimmermann (Ed.), Handbook of Labor, Human Resources and Population Economics Springer.


In conversation with our young researchers: Adelene Lai

PhD candidate Adelene Lai at Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) is an environmental cheminformatician who develops workflows, algorithms, and software to help identify environmental chemicals. 16% of annual deaths worldwide attributed to air, water, and soil pollution […]

From lab to startup: digitalUs

Whenever you go online, you leave a digital trail of information footprint. It says where you’ve been, how long you’ve been there and what you’ve been doing. Whenever you sign up for an online service, send an email and […]

Industrial & Service Transformation Latest news

From lab to startup: digitalUs


While most Know Your Customer (KYC) solutions operate under a proprietary data silo mode, digitalUs has developed solutions dedicated to compliance officers to launch searches upon request with no data being stored locally. Discover how the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust’s spin-off to be is moving out of the lab.

Whenever you go online, you leave a digital trail of information footprint. It says where you’ve been, how long you’ve been there and what you’ve been doing. Whenever you sign up for an online service, send an email and upload your photo, this personal information is accessible and therefore adds to your digital footprint.

From this initial observation, Beltran Borja Fiz Pontiveros developed a proof of concept, backed by Luxembourg National Research Fund’s JUMP programme, along with business partners, to test AI-based technology to reliably match various public data-sources for any given person to compute a comprehensible digital profile. digitalUs is set to empower compliance officers with additional risk intelligence data making the most of the wealth of data that is publicly available to produce a unified digital footprint.

From the idea to the proof of concept

After Beltran Borja Fiz Pontiveros completed his PhD at the University of Luxembourg, he started working on a project that aimed to de-anonymise online users by trying to link information they made publicly available to other media sources.

The original idea emerged with a group of friends who were using social media and apps. We were all very surprised to see how much data we could find on each other. Combining all digital sources, we were able to build an entire profile using our digital footprint.

I was working on a project that aimed to de-anonymise online users by trying to link information they made publicly available to other media sources. It soon became clear that this linking process could be applied to a plethora of sources, from social media and other public sharing platforms to obscure forums and leaked information.

— Beltran Borja Fiz Pontiveros

As a postdoc, Beltran was involved in a Horizon 2020 project about regulatory working with compliance officers. Being faced with KYC procedures, he realised that compliance officers met the same data collection challenges.

The researcher applied to FNR’s JUMP programme to create a proof of concept testing an AI-based technology to reliably match various public data-sources for any given person to compute a comprehensible digital profile. Soon, he realised that combining data sources for one unique individual allows to create a public digital profile that includes commercially exploitable information.

By starting with a small amount of data on a user, and through multiple search and match iterations, we were able to augment the initial data to generate a user’s online public footprint.

Beltran Borja Fiz Pontiveros

digitalUs to empower compliance officers

The digitalUs technology developed at the SnT provides a solution to automate, and significantly speed-up the background screening process of individuals. It relies on a novel methodology to match the same entity across multiple publicly data sources.

digitalUs empowers compliance officers with additional risk intelligence data. We are automating the entire process of searching online, putting data together and therefore reducing the manual work.

Beltran Borja Fiz Pontiveros

GDPR by design, digitalUs can launch searches upon request and no data is stored locally. The solution is powered by unique technology, tested during the research phase, that taps into the wealth of data, publicly available, including watch lists, business registers, social media and much more, to produce a unified digital footprint.

digitalUs is co-founded by a team from the University of Luxembourg.

Meet the digitalUs team

Beltran Borja Fiz Pontiveros

Co-Founder and CEO

Beltran Borja Fiz Pontiveros is co-founder and CEO of digitalUs.

Georgios Varisteas

Co-Founder and CTO 

Georgios Varisteas is a postdoc with a decade-long industry experience as a software engineer in tech giants such as Microsoft and IBM. He provides the expertise and excellence required to design, build and scale the digitalUs service.

Oxana Turtureanu

Co-Founder and CPO

Oxana Turtureanu, fresh out of the innovation and entrepreneurship master programme and with five years of experience in compliance in the banking sector, is very familiar with the customer pain points and ensures our product is polished to meet the customer needs.

Raphaël Frank


Raphaël Frank, co-founder of the first spin-off at SnT, provides the experience and know-how of launching a successful product in Luxembourg.

digitalUs is set to be the next SnT’s spin-off, being launched in October 2021

More about digitalUs


From lab to startup

About Luxembourg Latest news

Luxembourg: third most attractive city worldwide

Luxembourg ranked third most attractive city in the world according to the AIRINC’s Global 150 Cities Index based on salaries, taxes, costs, and quality of life.

The only EU city in top 20 of the index’s financial category

AIRINC’s Global 150 Cities Index aims to establish how attractive the locations are to live in based on local salary levels, tax rates, living costs and living conditions.

The city ranked 15th in the financial ranking list of 150 cities selected, with top scores achieved by cities in Bahrain, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. As such, Luxembourg is the only EU city in top 20 of the index’s financial category.

AIRINC’s 2021 Global 150 Cities Index 

As far as the lifestyle ranking is concerned, Luxembourg placed 21, with Prague, Zurich and Vienna topping the list.

Overall, Zurich, Geneva and Luxembourg lead the pack in the latest edition of the rankings followed by Munich and Calgary in the top five.

More about the AIRINC’s Global 150 Cities Index

Industrial & Service Transformation Latest news

Researchers X Entrepreneurs: German Castignani

German Castignani is a former research associate of the Luxembourg’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) and current research fellow at the University of Luxembourg. He’s also a successful entrepreneur, being Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Motion-S, SnT’s first ever spinoff launched in 2014.

Research and entrepreneurship have more in common than we often think. German Castignani is one such role model who took the entrepreneurial leap, contributing to making smart mobility a reality. 

An Entrepreneurial Researcher

After earning his Master’s degree and working in the private sector in Argentina, German Castignani did a research internship in France, which piqued his interest in research.

“Something that really cleared my choice to become a researcher has been the strong focus we can put on a single subject, putting all our energy and mind-set to achieve a scientific goal. This is something that as an engineer is difficult to achieve.”

— German Castignani

After completing his PhD in wireless networking in France, the Italian-Argentinian national came to Luxembourg, where he added an entrepreneurial touch to his vehicular telematics research, co-founding the SnT’s first spin-off Motion-S.

Working in the field of vehicular telematics, German Castignani’s research specifically focuses on how to make use of driving data, including GPS,sensors and car-data to provide driver risk profiles based on road safety statistics. Together with his research team and the support of a Ministry of Economy RDI project, he worked on a methodology for data augmentation and mapping of driving patterns to well-known contributory factors for road accidents to build objective risk scores. Thanks to this methodology, it is possible to cluster drivers into well-defined risk categories, as well as provide a risk score based on how exposed the driver is to road fatalities.

To German Castignani, research instigates entrepreneurial mindsets and dedicated skills.

“As a researcher, we need to work hard to find the balance between the economic aspects related to the commercialisation of a research-based product, and the continuity of the research activity, to make such a product continuously evolve in the right direction.”

German Castignani

Today, the research activities of Motion-S are also supported by the National Research Fund (FNR) through an Industrial Fellowship Ph.D. project, in which the company focus the main trends in the usage of car-data to understand new risks and insurance-related pricing models in the connected and automated vehicle era.

An entrepreneurial success story

German Castignani encourages researchers to launch a start-up, citing for example the satisfaction of seeing their research become a reality.

“This is a fantastic adventure I can recommend to any researcher that is eager to see his ideas being deployed and spread in real-life.”

German Castignani

Motion-S provides fleets telematics, on the one hand, delivering premium analytics to companies doing tracking and fleet management, and insurance analytics and risk assessment, on the other.

Recently, the company has successfully fundraised EUR 1m from Group <a>, a leading automotive equipment supplier in Latin America. Thanks to this investment, the startup is set to continue designing smart solutions with further integration of data providers and platforms while developing new mobility profiling algorithms to better explain mobility costs, going beyond risk analytics.

Luxembourg as a research and business destination

“Luxembourg is a well-established place to perform both applied and fundamental research. The diversity of the origin of the researchers, the variety of research topics and the very complete funding scheme that cover all the subjects and degrees of careers, make Luxembourg one of the best places to carry on research projects.”

German Castignani

More about Smart mobility: What does the future hold?

Discover how Motion-s contributes to smart mobility

About Luxembourg Latest news

Girls and adolescents from low-income homes more at risk from secondary impacts of COVID-19

New research study reveals that girls and adolescents from low-income homes may be especially vulnerable to negative secondary impacts of COVID-19 that can affect mental health. 

Dr Pascale Engel de Abreu, an Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Luxembourg, led international study to examine the well-being of adolescents in Luxembourg, Germany, and Brazil who are differently affected by the global health crisis.

COVID-19 exacerbates pre-existing inequalities

Countries have taken drastic measures to minimise social interactions to fight COVID-19. These measures often led to temporary closure of schools and of extra-​curricular activities, which dramatically changed the daily lives of adolescents.

The study found that girls and adolescents from low-income households are more likely to suffer the negative psychological consequences of COVID-19 than boys and adolescents from more affluent households.

“Lower levels of well-being during the pandemic were associated with being a girl, with lower socioeconomic status and lower levels of life satisfaction before the pandemic.”

Prof. Dr. Pascale Engel de Abreu

Results of the study showed that gender, socioeconomic status, intrapersonal factors, quantity and type of schoolwork, and relationships with adults were important common predictors of individual differences in subjective well-being during COVID-19. Fear of illness emerged as the strongest correlate of emotional well-being across the three countries.

Children in Luxembourg, Germany and Brazil experienced a significant drop in life satisfaction 

When examining the sociodemographic characteristics and other background variables, the analysis showed that the three country groups did not differ significantly in terms of gender distribution and age. In other terms, there are fundamental similarities in the factors that shape adolescent well-being, despite the different contexts.

Still, some significant cross-country differences emerged on the other reported variables. For instance, the three groups differed significantly from each other on socioeconomic status and wealth and cultural possessions indicators.

More than 1,600 adolescents between 10 and 16 years old from Luxembourg, Germany and Brazil filled in an online self-report questionnaire between May and July 2020. The outcome variables included measures of life satisfaction and emotional well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study encompassed a range of socio-demographic, interpersonal and intrapersonal covariates.

Open access study “Subjective Well-Being of Adolescents in Luxembourg, Germany, and Brazil During the COVID-19 Pandemic” by Pascale Engel de Abreu, Sascha Neumann, Cyril Wealer, Neander Abreu, Elizeu Coutinho Macedo and Claudine Kirsch has been published in Journal of Adolescent Health.

Read more Covid-19 secondary impact Covid-19: Health/Wealth trade-off

Latest news Personalised Healthcare

Luxembourg paves the way for a new era of healthcare digitalisation

How can digital tools be integrated into healthcare processes? How should data be visualised to personalise patient care? These are among the many questions that Professor Jochen Klucken will be analysing over the next five years. 

Supported by a 3.3 MEUR FNR PEARL Chair, Prof. Dr Klucken will develop digital health concepts for Luxembourg through a joint research programme involving the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine of the University of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Institute of Health and the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg.

Towards real-life healthcare data

Data-driven medicine and innovative digital tools are to add to existing healthcare procedures and change the way patients, healthcare providers, and researchers will work together in the near future. New digital patient-centred healthcare services will address the patients’ needs, continuously monitor and accompany individual patient journeys, and support healthcare providers in making clinical decisions. Real-life healthcare data will become available, and thus, add value. Its application in medicine has an enormous potential to reduce disease burden, improve healthcare and generate new solutions and services.

Yet, aspects pertaining to the integration into healthcare pathways and the evidence proving the benefit of these new services for patients, healthcare providers and society are not sufficiently clear – this will therefore be the focus of the FNR Digital Medicine Research Project.

New evaluation methods to shape the rising age of digitalisation in medicine

Composed of experts in medicine, data science, health economy, IT engineering and social science, the Digital Medicine Group (Dmed), led by Professor Dr Klucken, will address the medical benefits, structural and procedural changes, and social acceptance of the resulting digital healthcare services.

“We want to understand how patient-centred, personalised healthcare technologies can be tailored to patient needs and integrated into the existing healthcare structures and procedures. We believe that shaping the rising age of digitalisation in medicine requires the development of new evaluation methods.”

Prof Dr Klucken

Enabling fast, efficient and transparent information for patients and their healthcare teams

Digital Medicine Research will use Parkinson’s disease as an example to develop and unlock the potential of digitalisation. Building on the experiences of Prof. Dr Klucken with sensor-based gait analysis in Parkinson’s disease, the first task will be to understand how patients, doctors and therapists could make use of the “data” that are continuously recorded in the patient @home environment. From these first experiences, the use of other patient-centred digital tools, including wearable sensors and smartphone apps, will be evaluated and integrated into the management of the everyday healthcare process.

Thus, not only patients and caregivers, but also doctors, therapists and professional care-providers are warmly welcomed to participate in shaping and evaluating new digitally-supported integrated healthcare management processes.

The Digital Medicine Group will align with digital health strategies in Luxembourg to combine innovative digital healthcare technology solutions and health informatics with the needs of patients and healthcare services providers.

We will contribute to the innovation in digital healthcare solutions and improve healthcare by enabling fast, efficient and transparent information for patients and their healthcare teams.

Prof Dr Klucken

Luxembourg, a unique environment to shape digitalisation process in medicine

Luxembourg provides a unique environment to shape this digitalisation process in medicine. It boasts a comprehensive healthcare ecosystem with close interaction of policymakers, healthcare providers, academic institutions and society/patients. This also aligns with the present changes in medical education, specializations in medicine and the interdisciplinary research activities in biomedicine and medical engineering underpinning the multidisciplinary nature of digitalisation in medicine.

The FNR PEARL Chair in Digital Medicine will support this process with a strong understanding of patient-centered applications and integration into existing and future healthcare services.

The Digital Medicine Group was set up in March 2021 and works in very close collaboration with the National Centre for Excellence in Research on Parkinson’s Disease project. It is supported by the FNR-PEARL Programme at the Luxembourg Center for Systems Biomedicine of the University of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Institute of Health and the dMed Research Clinic at the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg.

Industrial & Service Transformation Latest news

MeluXina: Research Luxembourg to conduct large-scale experiments

Luxembourg’s new supercomputer, MeluXina, was launched on 7 June as part of the country’s data-driven innovation strategy, addressing the needs of companies, start-ups as well as public and research institutions.

Several research projects have been granted early access to MeluXina to perform large-scale experiments and test their software on the system.

MeluXina to assess the scalability of models studied in research projects

For one month, several research projects will undergo large-scale experiments and test their software on the system before MeluXina’s operations actually begin. The projects result from collaborations within research groups and between research and industry. They were selected based on their potential impact on society, the economy and science, as well as their ability to exploit the resources of the supercomputer.

Early access to MeluXina provides an excellent opportunity for researchers to evaluate the scalability of the models studied in the research projects and to run their prototypes in a production environment. The primary results will encourage other researchers to run their projects in MeluXina, thus establishing public-private partnerships for academic and industrial research on advanced research.

Selected projects to support Luxembourg research excellence

At national level, one of the short- and medium-term needs is the skills required by industry to exploit the capacity and benefits offered by the new supercomputer. Against this background, the selected projects support the existing pillars of research excellence in the priority areas of materials science, physics and biology, materials and simulation, computer science and ICT.


Head of the Blast-Comet project, Simone Zorzan outlined what it is all about. “It revolves around two quite well-known software in bioinformatics. One is a standard for the analysis of genes and genomes, while the other is used for the analysis of proteins,” he said before elaborating. “During the past few years I developed a software, that was able to run these two tools on the LIST HPC; it distributes the calculation across several nodes and speeds up the processing of the biological information”.

This software currently implements the two biological tools, Blast and Comet. Both software now make use of multiple nodes. Blast is the most used software to analyse biological sequences, while Comet is a well-known software to identify proteins on large inputs resulting from mass spectrometry measurements. In the future the underlying architecture could be adapted to other bioinformatic tools.

The idea behind this submission is to explore possible interest by biologists in the MeluXina infrastructure, to evaluate the performances with respect to larger inputs and to ideally provide a user-friendly interface for non-computer science-savvy users.


Explaining CazymeClust, project leader Malte Herold stated. “The project goes in a similar direction as Comet-blast as on the basis we want to compare sequences of genes and proteins,” he began. “But we want to do this on a larger scale. When you want to compare millions of sequences there are other approaches that are more efficient. A recent paper showcased a clustering approach to identify and characterise the unknown fraction of genes in microbial communities. We want to test their approach and apply it to a different dataset of samples enriched in carbohydrate active enzymes”.

Genes of unknown function are among the biggest challenges in molecular biology, especially in microbial systems, where 40%-60% of the predicted genes are unknown. Systematically addressing this problem is challenging. With clustering methods it is sometimes possible to directly identify gene functions or determine sets of unknown genes that are important in a particular environment.

“We hope that with the access to MeluXina, we can build a reference gene catalogue of carbohydrate active enzymes as a screening tool for future projects and potentially identify new important enzymes,” Malte stated.

How will MeluXina help? “Even when using efficient clustering approaches, for datasets consisting of hundreds of millions of genes, it is not possible on normal computers, so we need an HPC for this.  The new infrastructure allows us to test this method on a large dataset” Malte said.

The approach of CazymeClust is to explore a wide combination of inhouse or publicly available datasets enriched in carbohydrate active enzymes, such as samples from anaerobic digesters or termite gut.

Exploring MeluXina Capabilities to Perform High-resolution Terrestrial Systems Simulations

“This early access proposal is about exploring MeluXina capabilities to perform high resolution terrestrial system simulations. So what terrestrial system means here is a complete system from the land to the atmosphere.” explained the project leader Mauro Sulis.

This proposal aims at exploring the opportunities offered by the deployment of the petascale (faster processing of traditional supercomputer applications) HPC infrastructure of MeluXina to perform a suite of numerical experiments on regional-scale terrestrial systems at increased spatial resolution. In particular, the impact of using a convection-permitting atmospheric model setup for simulating extreme weather events will be showcased.

Mauro continued, “When we talk about HPC-enabled terrestrial system simulations, something that is important to consider is that “behind” this kind of scientific activity there is always a laborious technical procedure consisting in “porting” the adopted numerical code (or suite of codes) to a new machine. Porting means finding the optimal configuration of your model in terms of compilers and optimisation flags and exploiting in the best way the complex hardware architecture and software stack of the machine”.

For this early access proposal, the aim is to use this granted computing time to find the most suitable configuration of the numerical terrestrial system model used in some of his scientific projects . This will mean gaining time in running simulations from a scientific perspective and reducing the energy bill and the environmental impact.

But what does this project hope to achieve in one month? Mauro explained that he wants to gain additional insights on some of the technical (e.g., code performance diagnostics) and technological (e.g., storage/compute unbalance) challenges faced by his scientific activities carried out across the ENVISION Unit. “And if I want to look ahead, while remaining far from a fully-fledged digital twin of the Earth, the numerical experiments conducted in this proposal could be deemed as preliminary steps toward this direction”.

Echoing the sentiments of all three projects, by using a vehicle driving analogy to explain the situation of the projects working with MeluXina, Simone painted an image of where LIST currently stands. “We still don’t have the keys to access  and we don’t know exactly what kind of “engine” is under the hood,  or how to get most of the power while driving, what kind of reaction it will have to the different and extreme driving situations, , with which accessories it is shipped and which ones we can add…  So we need to become skilled drivers and engineers, to achieve the best performances on the avenues LIST will run in the future. We have done an important training on the LIST HPC, but we could have some learning to do to get things up to speed with MeluXina”.

Digital Twin of a Biomass Furnace

The proposed digital twin concept has a significant impact on processing of biomass and is considered as a crucial step along the processing chain to the desired high quality biomass furnace encompassing functionality and durability. Creating a digital twin helps to unveil the underlying physics of biomass conversion, and thus, gaining a deepened understanding. The latter enables engineers to design improved reactors and operate them at more favourable conditions with a higher output at reduced costs contributing to a resource efficient Europe. The Digital Twin can also predict responses of the biomass furnace to safety critical events and uncover previously unknown issues before they become critical and thus targets also the societal aspect of safe and reliable processes.

Exploring the chemical space of drug-like molecules

This project will contribute to the generation of one of the first databases of quantum mechanical properties for large drug-like molecules which could be used for the development of ML-assisted chemical space exploration tools for the discovery of chemicals with a desired combination of properties for a given application. Hence, this data will be the basis of future academic and industrial investigations in the direction of rational design of chemical compounds.

Extended Discrete Element Method  (XDEM)

On the scientific aspect, this study will demonstrate the large-scale performance of the XDEM software, with a special focus on the original load-balancing policies and dynamic load-balancing specially designed for particles. XDEM has multi-physics applications such as biomass furnace, blast furnace and additive manufacturing that are ubiquitous in Luxembourg’s industry. Efficient parallel numerical methods and analysis tools provide more detailed results, permit faster technological development and innovation and constitute an economic advantage.

FEniCS Project Finite Element Software

The FEniCS Project finite element software is a computing platform for quickly translating scientific models into efficient finite element simulations. It has been used to develop robust and scalable finite element solvers for challenging problems in diverse application areas including Physics, Mathematics, Engineering and Biology.

The project brings together experts at the University of Luxembourg, University of Cambridge and Rafinex Sarl. It proposes to assess the scalability of four state-of-the-art finite element solvers implemented in the FEniCS Project with strong relevance to real problems in Science and Engineering. Strong and weak scaling tests will be carried out on MeluXina using up to 25600 processes.


GigaSOM.jl is a Julia package for clustering data from flow and mass cytometry. It is developed because the existing methods could not easily contain the datasets that are produced now. The motivation for the whole project came from Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) who use the software regularly now.

In case the users of GigaSOM would like to run it on the new supercomputer, they will have some assurance that the application is “compatible”, and they won’t need to solve various installation and portability problems.

GigaSOM is routinely used for diagnosing and evaluating human samples, which (in turn) partially contributes to answering many complicated research questions in immunology and oncology.

Pure GPU Constraint Solver

The GPU Constraint Solver project aims to design a novel software architecture for solving constraint problems, a general method for many optimisation problems. Constraint solvers are very compute intensive, parallel machines offer a great opportunity to improve the solvers’ performance. The novel architecture exploits mathematical properties to guarantee correct results on parallel machines.

The essential outcome is to test the validity of the chosen theoretical approach to parallel constraint solvers. This work is set in an overall research line, planned in a FNR CORE proposal. The research line addresses the suitability of lattice theory to other parallel programming models (beyond constraint solvers), and even to define a new general purpose parallel model. Results from this scalability study will be very useful in the course of this CORE project.

Scalable A.I. Recommitment System

The University of Luxembourg and the European Investment Bank (EIB) through the STAREBEI programme are working together to encourage private equity partners to invest in innovative and sustainable technologies. The funded research project “Sustainable and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence Recommitment System (STAIRS) ” proposes an innovative approach to generate efficient recommitment strategies to guide institutional investors with the aid of AI-based algorithms.

Visualising simulation ensembles of ferroelectric/dielectric superlattices for energy applications

The Visualising simulation ensembles of ferroelectric/dielectric superlattices for energy applications (VISIBLE ENERGY)”  project brings together LIST’s Materials Research and Technology and IT for Innovative Services units. Together they will be producing and processing large amounts of data, with LIST’s giant Visualisation Wall also implicated.

The project aims endeavours to optimise artificial ferroic materials for several applications, potentially for energy storage and low power electronics. The idea of this project is to use some of the new infrastructure LIST has, such as the Visualisation Wall, as this is very well suited to large scale data.

Find out more details about University of Luxembourg’s projects : Ten University projects granted early access to MeluXina

Read more about LIST project

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In conversation with our young researchers: Rutuja Bhusari

Gas sensors are an important part of our everyday lives to identify potentially dangerous gases emitted by all kinds of common furniture in our cars, houses, and other indoor environments. Yet, gas sensors based on metal oxide materials operate at high temperatures, meaning they need a lot of energy.

PhD candidate Rutuja Bhusari at Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) is seeking to create a gas sensor powered by nature combining materials at nanoscale.

Using natural light to power gas sensors

Rutuja Bhusari’s research explores how to reduce the energy consumption of gas sensors. And that’s quite a challenge. Indeed, metal oxides are semiconductor in nature, meaning they have either a low or no current at all passing through them. They need external energy source like heat to increase their sensitivity towards presence of different gases in the atmosphere.

Metal-oxide based gas sensors usually work at high temperatures which leads to certain application disadvantages. In my work, I use light to activate charge carriers and heterostructures to make use of properties of two materials in one, to overcome the need to use heat to operate these gas sensors.”

Rutuja Bhusari
Rutuja working on the synthesis of nanomaterials in a chemical lab
@Fnr Spotlight on Young Researchers: A gas sensor powered by natural light

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

“Luxembourg presented me with two opportunities in one package. When I completed my masters, I wanted to do a PhD in the exact topic I am working on and wouldn’t settle for anything else. LIST, FNR and Renaud Leturcq gave me the chance to do the same. This happens very rarely in life that you get what you want, and you don’t have to compromise! Other than my work, I am extremely passionate about travelling. Luxembourg, being strategically located in centre of Europe, has presented me many instances to fuel my wanderlust. I could not ask for anything more from life.

[As for Luxembourg itself] it is a very cosmopolitan country, it was very easy for me to adjust here. I have met so many different people, I have a great supervisor and very good colleagues, and I feel that we are like a huge family. Besides LIST, Luxembourg is also a very good place to live. The kind of facilities that the government provides to its citizens are indeed very attractive.”

— Rutuja Bhusari, a final-year PhD candidate at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).

Rutuja Bhusari’s PhD project is funded by the FNR in the framework of the PRIDE Doctoral Unit ‘Materials for Sensing and Energy Harvesting’ (MASSENA). Launched in 2016 by LIST and the University of Luxembourg with the support of the FNR, MASSENA is a Doctoral Training Unit which focuses on materials enabling future applications in sensors and energy harvesting by embracing stimuli from strain, motion, temperature, electric field, light, and chemistry. Towards this goal MASSENA is organised in four thematic clusters: strain sensors and energy harvesters; electronic sensors and energy harvesters; biocluster; electronic structure calculations.

Excerpts from Spotlight on Young Researchers: A gas sensor powered by natural light and Rutuja Bhusari, when research becomes an actor of change

Industrial & Service Transformation Latest news Sustainable & Responsible Development

Green Bonds: Why life cycle assessment is useful?

Green bonds have emerged as a key instrument to fund projects contributing to climate change mitigation or environmental protection. Yet, there is currently no consistent, robust and comparable standard for estimating the environmental impacts of green bonds. This may hamper the growth of sustainable finance. Using life cycle assessment (LCA) can provide a comprehensive environmental assessment of projects throughout their life cycle.

In an in an open access paper, researchers from the Environmental Research and Innovation (ERIN) department of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) examined how effective green bonds are at decarbonising the economy and if there are potential unseen side effects.

Data scarcity and heterogeneity

Undoubtedly, green bonds play an increasing role in financing investments for development and climate transition.

As no global standard exists to report information, a number of initiatives emerged to reduce the risk of greenwashing and increase transparency. They include the Green Bond Principles (GBP), the Climate Bond Initiative or approved verifiers. In addition, it is market practice that issuers hire a second-party opinion provider to check and rate the green bond issuance from an environmental perspective. Despite these efforts, the industry remains self-regulated.

In this context of data scarcity and heterogeneity in use of proceeds, is there any potential for LCA to support a more robust reporting framework? If yes, how does it compare to conventional accounting? And finally, beyond carbon accounting, can LCA give any indication of wider environmental sustainability consequences?

To limit the increase in global average temperature to 2 °C, funds directed towards sustainable projects need to increase substantially.

Lack of appropriate indicators and metrics increase the risk of greenwashing and present a lost opportunity to direct funds towards the most suitable projects.

Technologies on a level playing field and wider inclusion of environmental impacts

Following a life cycle perspective to assess the environmental impacts of a green bond is useful for two reasons. First, it puts technologies on a level playing field. Indeed, some technologies have relatively low emissions during the use phase but at the cost of relatively higher emissions during the construction or end-of-life phase.

Second, linking projects to LCA databases allows for the inclusion of environmental impacts beyond greenhouse gas emissions. While some investors may only be interested in climate change mitigation, others may want to achieve climate change mitigation with as little cost to other environmental goals as possible.

Box and whisker plot showing the improvement (positive) or deterioration (negative) in various environmental indicators relative to the LCA marginal mix reference case, per million euro invested in the Climate Awareness Bonds’ pool, by technology. The box delineates the lower and upper quartiles with the median marked with a line, whiskers show smallest and largest values.

Life cycle assessment-based rules may prove the right tool to measure sustainability

The recently agreed-upon EU framework for sustainable finance explicitly requires economic activities to provide a ‘substantial contribution’ to one of the six listed environmental objectives while not doing ‘significant harm’ to any of the other environmental objectives for the economic activity to be deemed ‘environmentally sustainable’.

The draft proposal for the EU Ecolabel for Financial Products states that bond funds must show a share of 70% in fixed-income instruments that align with the Taxonomy to receive the EU Ecolabel. As elements of this framework become legally binding in the future through delegated acts, conducting this kind of assessment over multiple indicators may become necessary.

In this context, LCA and the ready infrastructure of LCA databases and methodologies can provide the tools to meet future reporting requirements.

Meet the researchers

Thomas Gibon
 Ioana-Ştefania Popescu
Claudia Hitaj
Claudio Petucco
Enrico Benetto

Extracts from Shades of green: life cycle assessment of renewable energy projects financed through green bonds. Letter by Thomas Gibon et al 2020 Environ. Res. Lett. 15 104045

This research is part of LIST REFUND project.