Tag archives for KTH
We’re used to car races all being about being first and fastest. Today there’s a contest in Lausitz, Germany, where the goal is quite different. The main objective here is to come as far as possible on one tiny litre of petrol. The world record is 5000 kilometers and now the question is: Will someone be able to beat that?
Teams from all over the world participate, many of them made up by researchers and professors. Swedish KTH Royal Institute of Technology sends two teams entirely made up by students and the other day I spoke to Jonas Severin, who has built one of the vehicles, “Sleipner”, together with a group of fellow students.
Sleipner runs on petrol, but being much lighter and having a less powerful motor that turns itself off in downhill slopes where the car can roll down by itself, the energy use is very much below a “normal” car.
The speed isn’t exactly breathtaking, Jonas Severin explains, with an average around 30 km/hour. But if the aim is to get as far as possible on as little energy as possible, going there fast can’t be a high priority. Just can’t get both. And as you see on the photos, Sleipner isn’t really the kind of vehicle you imagine packing your family into.
The other Swedish car in the contest, called Spiros, is more like the cars we are used to and has to be able to work in city traffic and pass a normal vehicle test, having proper lights, working brakes etc.
But are these just fun experiments for students? Jonas Severin says that a developed form of Spiros could maybe be out on the market in 10 to 15 years, able to roll for 500 kilomtres on one litre, instead of a max around 40 kilometers/litre for today’s smartcars.
A while left, apparently. But today is the big test for the KTH teams. Will their vehicles make it in the competition?
- Obviously it isn’t easy for a team of students to beat teams of professors, but it’ll be exiting to see how Sleipner does, says Jonas Severin.
Sweden is the most Internet connected country in the world, I recently read in a report. Watching people on Stockholm’s public transports, sitting with their noses buried in their smartphones and mini laptops, e-mailing and Facebooking on their way to work, I’m ready to believe it’s true.
Being connected to people who are not at the same physical spot as yourself can have enormous impacts, as we have seen lately in North Africa, or why not when it comes to spreading the word about a new farmer’s market? Working with a magazine where the contributors are sometimes in cities far apart or even in different countries, I myself have had a great use of services where you can share documents in “the cloud”.
But all these activities on the Internet also have impacts on the global climate, through the electricity used for running all the machines.
Jorge Zapico calls himself a “computer ecologist” and is a researcher at the Centre for Sustainable Communications at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm. He wants to make these impacts more visible both to internet users and developers. Therefore he has constructed Greenalytics, a site which mashes up data from Google Analytics and environmental research and estimates the carbon footprint of websites, including server, infrastructure and final user.
KTH’s own website, for example, caused about 7,1 tons of CO2 emissions during last year, equivalent to driving a car 41 266 kilometers or 72 hours of traveling in an airplane. Sweden’s Green Party, also featured on the site, emitted about 424 kilos during the same period of time.
Jorge Zapico’s own best tip on how to reduce a site’s carbon footprint is to check how the electricity that runs the server for the site is produced.
– Choose a server in a country with a good mix of energy, like Sweden. If the server is run by environmentally certified energy it’s even better. It’s also important to construct websites that don’t have to load heavy content, he says.
- Environmental organisation Greenpeace protests outside the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company SKB. Photo: Greenpeace/Christian Åslund.
This last week the big subject of conversation in Sweden is (as I suppose in most parts of the world) the terrible events in Japan. That natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis can lead to man-involved disasters like nuclear meltdowns is something we all know, but normally prefer not to think too much about. When it finally happens, it reminds us about the risks we actually take.
In Sweden the developments in Japan have led to a fervent debate about nuclear energy in tv news shows, on the Internet and in newspapers. The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority has reinforced its preparedness and answers all kinds of questions about nuclear energy on their web page.
In the debate, some point out that what has happened in Japan couldn’t happen here since Sweden geological conditions are quite different. Others argue that the problem is rather the nuclear energy’s lack of resilience against unexpected events. Although we might not have any earthquakes here, other things can happen, an what actually caused the meltdown in the Japanese reactors wasn’t the earthquake itself, or even the tsunami, but a power failure.
Nuclear energy has been a debated issue in Sweden for a long time now. In 1980 we had a referendum about nuclear energy, that ended in a decision to phase it out. But last year this was changed. Now new reactors can be built in Sweden as long as the total amount don’t exceed 10 reactors.
Another issue of debate when it comes to nuclear power is the issue of terminal storage of the used nuclear fuel. Yesterday the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company SKB, which is in charge of taking care of the radioactive residues, handed in an application for making a final repository for spent fuel in Forsmark in the East of Sweden [map] where it should be stored for 100 000 years. At the same time SKB’s office was targeted by an action from Greenpeace, claiming that there are still a lot of uncertainties of for example how the copper containers will stand the test of time. A corrosion expert from the Royal Institute of Technology KTH has earlier stated that there are risks of these capsules collapsing within 1000 years.
Transports cause about a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in Sweden. Jonas Åkerman is researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology KTH. In his doctor’s dissertation he has analysed what needs to be done if Sweden shall reach its long term environmental goals.
The one type of traffichaving the most remarkable development now is aviation. In 2006 Swedish aviation emitted 8,7 million tons of CO2 equivalents. This is to be compared to the 12,5 million tons coming from all the private cars of Sweden during the same year.
Since 1980 the international traffic to and from Sweden has increased with 300 percent, and many of these trips go further away than before. According to Jonas Åkerman this has to change. Otherwise emissions from aviation will be even bigger than emissions from car traffic in less than 10 years, he explains to the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
One reason to why aviation has been able to grow so fast is that airplane fuel for international traffic is free from climate taxes and VAT. The emissions dont count in any countries’ statistics of greenhouse gas emissions.
In order to reach the climate goals a lot of actions are needed, some more painful than others, states Jonas Åkerman. For example travelling by air and car must be reduced and more goods has to be transported by railway.
So what will happen to Swedish holidays? As I have mentioned earlier going to Thailand and other remotes places is something of a Swedish darling. On the other hand habits can change faster than we think. For example it wasn’t that long ago that ”everyone” went Interrailing around Europe and flying was considered a luxury.
Personally I’ve already started planning this year’s big trip: Crossing Europe for a wedding in Athens this summer. And I can’t think of a better way of going there than by train. Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and all the other countries inbetween… I can’t wait.
Since this is the first year that international students from outside of the EU/EEA area are required to pay tuition fees for programs held at Swedish universities, the number of international applicants has decreased dramatically. As expected, data from VHS (Swedish Agency for Higher Education Services) shows that the number of applicants to master’s programs decreased by 73 % compared to applications for autumn 2010. 25,094 applications were submitted for master’s programs of autumn semester 2011, compared to 91,788 for autumn 2010 (all statistics from VHS).
Lund University was the most popular Swedish university — with the highest number of applicants both in total and as the first-hand choice university — followed by KTH, Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University. A detailed list of the number of applicants per university can be found here.
Although a decreased number of applicants do not necessarily translate to a decrease in admitted students, some Swedish universities will most likely have fewer non-EU students arriving to their campuses in 2011 compared to previous years. The same pattern, to a comparable or even larger extent, could be seen in Denmark and the Netherlands, who recently made a similar switch to tuition fees. However, competition for most programs is still high.
Because of the many positive effects an international climate has on the education and research conducted at the university level, this is of course an unwanted situation. On the positive side is that many Swedish universities have started recruiting qualified international students more actively and taken it upon themselves to work harder with ensuring quality and services for their students. Both on their own and in collaboration with the Study in Sweden team at the Swedish Institute. Hopefully the number of available scholarships will also continue to increase. It all comes down to a strong belief that Swedish higher education has a lot to offer the world, and that the world has a lot to offer to Swedish higher education.
It is truly a challenge for the Swedish universities, which I hope they will take on with passion.
*Update: If you want to find out more about the reasons for introducing tuition fees, please follow this link.