Aalto University Magazine 26 – English edition

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A ALTO UNIVERSIT Y MAGA ZINE 26

26

APRIL 2020

Fail better p. 12

A greenhouse that generates electricity and excess heat p. 26

Little wonders of wood

For her beloved Baltic Sea

Bacteria factories and soft robots


contents Theme: trial and error 10 Designer creates what he thinks is a simple logo, but comes up with a tangled mess. 11 Dean thought he’d happily settle for the small town he grew up in. 12 Fail better – Four experts share how this can happen. 28 A wooden greenhouse? In addition to producing food, this invention conserves energy, water, soil and nutrients.


The anechoic chamber in the Aalto acoustics lab is probably the quietest place in Finland.

Mikko Raskinen

Photographic artist Sanna Kannisto’s works illustrate this issue’s covers and main article. She creates her bird pictures in a field studio in cooperation with ornithologists. Photo: Emberiza leucocephalos (pine bunting), 2019.

5 Openings – Ilkka Niemelä and the values of Aalto. 6 Now – Small news items, big issues. We celebrate Aalto’s tenth birthday and the success of an alumnus-designed instrument. 10 Aalto 10 – Rasmus Snabb and the history of our letter A. 11 Oops! – Timo Korkeamäki popped out for 16 years. 12 Theme – Fail better. 18 In-house – Anechoic chamber home to unrivalled silence. 20 Who – Tiina Tuurnala is comfortable on the command bridge. 24 On science – News in brief. 26 On the go – Anything but an ordinary greenhouse. 33 Wow! – Mobile app encourages users to brag about their train journeys. 34 Partnership – New technology would revolutionise the possibilities open to radio observation station, says Joni Tammi. 36 On science – Building wisely with wood curbs climate change. 40 On science – Jan Deska tailors enzymes and Jaana Vapaavuori materials. 42 Collaboration – Design Bites project got groups together to chew over food ideas. 44 Entrepreneurship – Starting Up online course supports would-be entrepreneurs. 45 On science – New scanner for brain imaging. 46 Theses – Marium Durrani and clothing repair workshops; Toni Pasanen and black silicon; Meeri Mäkäräinen and the facial expressions of animated characters. 48 Everyday choices – Caterina Soldano researches organic electronics. 50 Awarded AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 3


Jolanda Jokinen

On the job

‘I WORKED on my first publication as a six-year-

old, and it’s name, The Skating Gazette, reveals all you need to know about it. But I ran out of steam by page 9. My next source of inspiration was – surprise, surprise – horses, and eightyear-old me, floating on the lake in a rubber dinghy, penned a story about a stable girl and a horse theft. That piece of work was used to light the sauna stove the very next summer.’ Liisa Seppo, AD

‘I LOVED to draw when I was little. And

horses. I was maybe seven when I tried to copy Eugène Fromentin’s Galloping horse. A picture of the work was included in Onni Oja’s book Learning to draw. I tried and tried again. First I got mad, and then there were tears. My horse just wouldn’t gallop. Now I’m 54. Perhaps I should try once more?’ Paula Haikarainen, Managing Editor

PUBLISHER Aalto University, Communications EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Communications Director Jaakko Salavuo EDITORS Paula Haikarainen, Riikka Haikarainen, Riikka Hopiavaara AD/PHOTO EDITOR Liisa Seppo, Otavamedia OMA Oy ILLUSTRATIONS IN THIS ISSUE Jolanda Jokinen COVER Sanna Kannisto: Carduelis, carduelis TRANSLATION Ned Kelly Coogan

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LJÖ M Ä RKT 4041 0955 Painotuote

Mikko Ra skinen

STÖMER ÄRI KK MP

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Valeria Azovskaya, Sammy Drew, Mark Fletcher, Anni Hanén, Minna Hölttä, Jaakko Kahilaniemi, Sanna Kannisto, Evelin Kask, Kalle Kataila, Krista Kinnunen, Veera Krouglov, Lasse Lecklin, Eeva Lehtinen, Paavo Lehtonen, Matias Liimatainen, Juha Nenonen, Leeni Peltonen, Tarja Peltoniemi, Tiiu Pohjolainen, Aleksi Poutanen, Marjukka Puolakka, Mikko Raskinen, Panu Räty, Noora Stapleton, Eeva Suorlahti, Mikko Säteri, Tiina Toivola, Annamari Tolonen, Tuomas Uusheimo, Nita Vera, Maija Vikman, Montse Zamorano ADDRESS PO Box 18 000, FI-00076 Aalto TELEPHONE +358 9 470 01 ONLINE aalto.fi, aalto.fi/magazine EMAIL magazine@aalto.fi CHANGE OF ADDRESS alumni@aalto.fi PRINTING COMISSIONED BY Unigrafia Oy PREPRESS Aste Helsinki Oy PRINTING Grano Oy, 2020 PAPER Maxioffset 190 g/m2 (covers) & 100 g/m2 (pages) PRINT RUN 3 500 (English edition), 31 500 (Finnish edition) SOURCE OF ADDRESSES Aalto University CRM Partnership and alumni data management PRIVACY NOTICES aalto.fi/services/privacy-notices ISSN 2489-6772 print ISSN 2489-6780 online

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CONTRIBUTORS IN THIS ISSUE Matti Ahlgren, George Atanassov, Tiina Aulanko-Jokirinne,


Openings

Our values will see us through these exceptional times Responsibility, courage and collaboration serve as our guidelines. OVER THE LAST MONTH, developments around

the world have taken turns we did not foresee at the start of the year when the Aalto community got together to celebrate our University’s tenth birthday with pride, joy and a spirit of hopefulness. Now, worry and uncertainty are bubbling to the surface. We remain a community, however. Communal activities have just shifted from face-to-face meetings to contact over the net and phone. Everyday work and the University’s basic functions, teaching and research, have been organised in ways necessitated by the state of emergency. We continue to educate and research. Various distance work and distance learning systems and online materials are being utilised comprehensively. Even though we are living through exceptional times, we decided to not stop the presses. This issue’s articles remain topical and factual. We approach our main theme – trial and error – from the perspective of learning. The University’s new strategy, which enters into force next year, was published in conjunction with Aalto’s birthday in January. It sets the building of a sustainable future as our mission. This is now more important than ever. The keys to success will be found through our values: responsibility, courage and collaboration. We are already realising all of them, and they will help us get through this difficult situation as well. Let’s take care of each other and also ourselves. 23 March 2020

Ilkka Niemelä President

strategy.aalto.fi

AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 5


Now

Aalto University celebrating its ten-year journey In 2010, University of Art and Design Helsinki, Helsinki School of Economics and Helsinki University of Technology merged to form Aalto University. The new university was assigned a special national mission: to strengthen Finland’s ability to innovate with the aid of first-rate research, artistic activity and teaching. Text: Riikka Hopiavaara Photos: Kalle Kataila, Mikko Raskinen

The birthday party took place in Dipoli on 8 January 2020. Guests were treated to coffee and cake, a non-stop disco, an Aalto-themed quiz, exhibitions, innovations, live big band music, a space-themed science show and, of course, speeches.

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Retuperän WBK, the tech student orchestra established in 1933, has entertained audiences at numerous Helsinki University of Technology and Aalto celebrations.

In ten years, more than 17 000 students have graduated from Aalto with Master’s degrees and 2 200 with doctorates. At present, over 12 400 full-time students are enrolled and about 4 100 people employed full-time at Aalto. International research and teaching staff account for around 40% of all employees, up from 18% just a decade ago.

The key fields of Aalto rank near the top in international comparisons: for example, the art and design field came seventh in the most recent QS World University Ranking, as it did in the previous year.

XXX xxx.

The Presidents of Aalto’s precursor universities: Eero Kasanen (former Helsinki School of Economics), Yrjö Sotamaa (f. University of Art and Design Helsinki) and Matti Pursula (f. Helsinki University of Technology). ‘It gives us pride that together we had the courage to start making a radical and utopian plan, which many doubted, a reality. When people have faith in one another, even the unbelievable becomes possible.’ AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 7


Sammy Drew

IN 2008, Aalto alumnus Halldór

Úlfarsson designed a new kind of musical instrument, the halldorofon, as his Master of Art thesis work. The electroacoustic, cello-like instrument is heard throughout the film The Joker, which won an Oscar for the best original score in February 2020. The music was composed and performed by Úlfarsson’s longtime friend and cooperation partner Hildur Guðnadóttir – the first-ever Icelandic winner of an Academy Award.

THE AALTO UNIVERSITY Archives has digitised more than 175 000 teaching-related slides,

Aalto University Archives

Mikko Raskinen

thousands of print photographs and drawings made by students. The material is available through the national Finna database at aalto.finna.fi. Pictured here is Risto Jämsä’s descriptive geometry course assignment titled Hyrrä (Spinner) from 1948.

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Now

When global leaders gathered for the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, in January 2020, they could feel the scent of the sea and walk into a pavilion made out of seaweed. The designer of the Hidaka Ohmu pavilion, Professor of Practice in Contemporary Design Julia Lohmann, was one of 40 cultural influencers invited to the summit.

the best Nordic short film at the Göteborg Film Festival in February 2020. The documentary was co-directed by Aalto University student Jenni Kivistö together with Jussi Rastas. The film looks at the peace treaty between the FARC guerilla movement and the Columbian government that ended the country’s civil war. Can the people halt the decades-long cycle of violence?

Filmimaa

COLOMBIA IN MY ARMS was named

AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 9


Aalto 10 years

The story behind our letter A Designer Rasmus Snabb thought he had created just a simple logo, yet it managed to cause a complicated tangle. Text: Paula Haikarainen Photo: Mikko Raskinen HE CAME UP with it at a playground.

His two-year-old daughter Frida was tirelessly climbing up the stairs of a slide only to slide right down again, and Rasmus Snabb was thinking he needed an idea that was as simple as possible. After they got back home, Snabb drew his contest entry, wrote down its reasoning and mailed them for consideration by the jury of Aalto University’s logo design competition. The deadline for submissions was fast approaching, but his entry got there on time. Rasmus Snabb’s Invitation was named the winner in May 2009.

Quotation mark

‘I was living and working in Denmark at the time, and only heard about the competition one week before the deadline. There was no time to fine-tune a solution, I needed to focus on coming up with a strong idea,’ Snabb says now, 11 years after the competition. Aalto University Foundation arranged an open design competition for the new university’s logo. In all, 117 submissions were received. ‘I didn’t really think that I might win, I only wanted to communicate to President Tuula Teeri what kind of university I would like to be building.’ Snabb became familiar with the turmoil and resistance surrounding the founding of Aalto when he studied graphic design at the University of Art and Design Helsinki. ‘In my comments, I said that the students in particular don’t want historical or heraldic coats of arms, lions or innovation squiggles, preferring openness and freedom instead. We wanted a new kind of university, somewhere that allows you to influence things yourself. A place that permits curiosity and getting called into question.’

Exclamation mark

Snabb’s logo spelled out Aalto University, but included an exclamation mark, question mark and quotation mark among the letters. ‘This caused a brouhaha both in Finland and internationally: a university plans to adopt such a logo, they must 10 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26

be crazy! To top it all off, some German graphic artist found a similar visualisation online. It had been made for a smallcircle typography seminar and wasn’t visibly present anywhere else. I wouldn’t have even known where to pinch it from.’ Because of the alleged plagiarism, a decision was made to edit the proposal – thankfully, says Snabb. He thinks the original submission would have been awkward in practical application. He drafted a new, simplified version, where the letter A stands beside the name of the University followed by one of three optional punctuation marks. This logo remains in use, though it has been subtly altered over the years by, for example, discontinuing the use of coloured logo versions.

Question mark

During the early years of Aalto, freelance designer Rasmus Snabb was also responsible for the University’s visual appearance more broadly. He thinks that, ideally, the appearance forms its own visual language, a tool users can utilise in a manner characteristic to themselves. It needn’t be a sacred, unchanging thing.

aa”lto u!nive rsit?y ‘Immediately after the competition-winning logo was published, the Aalto community started making its own versions of it. Even though they were doing it jokingly, I felt that people wanted to make the logo their own,’ Rasmus Snabb says. Nowadays, he’s Head of Design and a partner at Miltton Group. Snabb was pictured in the lobby of the main building of Aalto, Dipoli, which houses a neon sign version of the University’s logo.

‘The logo could even be so free-form that users are permitted to choose any symbol to stand beside the letter A, a skull, for example. But I doubt the University’s branding will let loose to that extent,’ says Snabb. He believes Aalto’s distinct and powerful logo is now a source of pride for the University. •


Oops!

Lo and behold, my sojourn abroad lasted 16 years! School of Business Dean Timo Korkeamäki once thought he’d never move away from his home turf. Text: Paula Haikarainen Photo: Jaakko Kahilaniemi Illustration: Jolanda Jokinen ‘I’M AN OSTROBOTHNIAN by birth, from the town of

Vähäkyrö. This little municipality next to Vaasa was a good place to grow up. I thought I’d never move away when I was still in high school, the people there were so down to earth and the environment nice and stable. I was serious about athletics and achieved some national-level success in the shot put. After the army, I spent a year doing odd jobs and another in commercial school. But then I started to feel like going to university. I was interested in business and also liked foreign languages. I applied to several universities on the other side of the water, in Sweden, and managed to secure a place at Umeå University studying economics. My world started to broaden. An athletics scholarship took me to Brigham Young University in Utah for a one-year exchange. The Mormon church’s school had hosted several Finnish athletes earlier, and I was encouraged to go after hearing recommendations from people I knew. Surprisingly, I found myself a Finnish girlfriend while there, and have now been married to her for 27 years. We returned to Umeå together to complete my economics studies. It was 1991–92, Finland was in the midst of a very deep recession and the job situation looked unpromising. We decided to flee these hard times to America, this time to finalise my girlfriend’s studies. As I needed a student visa to stay there, I joined an MBA programme at Gonzaga University in Washington state. And a career in academia started to seem more tempting – I looked at the lifestyle my American professors were leading and liked what I saw! When I was a student in Umeå, I don’t think I was even aware that you could earn a doctorate in business science, but I nevertheless became one and started working at universities in the USA. In the end, my six-month trip wound up lasting sixteen years. Some people know from a very young age that they’re going to be a doctor, but I was in my thirties and still thinking about what I’m going to become. Now, I teach others to avoid unnecessary haste when choosing a career. Just make positive choices in your life and be prepared when the right door opens before you. For my part, this involved growing into an adult and realising that there’s sentient life even beyond my wee hometown.’• AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 11


Theme

Try, fail, try again, fail better

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This article is illustrated with three previously unpublished photos by Sanna Kannisto. She describes what made her consider these pieces a failure. ‘These great tits are statuesque, but their posture is too random.’

Text: Mark Fletcher Illustration: Sanna Kannisto

Failure is an unavoidable part of life, but does failure have to be all bad? How about failing upwards and forwards?

B

uddhists see ‘failing better’ as an acknowledgement of imperfection, accepting that failure is part of the learning process. Failing better means trying, and trying again, as learning from reflection makes the difference. Four experts told us what failure has taught them.

AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 13


Theme

‘This robin perched on an extra resting branch at the back of the studio but refused to come onto the actual target branch to have its picture taken.’

Chance as a useful ally Sanna Kannisto says that working with live animals can be unpredictable, but she has learned to trust her instincts and let chance interfere. She realises there’s no point in worrying too much when in challenging situations, better to just enjoy the experience. ‘PHOTOGRAPHY, FOR ME, is a tool that

can bring my thinking into visual form, so it’s about seeing, perceiving and finding a way to craft an image according to an idea. I derive my passion and inspiration from various things that I try to combine with photography, such as field science, biology or natural history. I collaborate with ornithologists and volunteer bird ringers. When planning to photograph birds, I prepare my equipment, the location, and the studio setting as much as I can before the shoot. I have a collection of branches for birds to perch on, for example. I usually wake up one hour before sunrise, so I am ready to shoot when the bird researchers spread their mist nets to make a gentle catch. When a bird is in the studio, I am patient and make a point of just observing at first. I do, however, prefer being in nature, and the moment when I come into contact with a bird is extraordinary. 14 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26

This is the best part of my work. A typical shoot can last about eight hours, during which I’ll make up to 200–250 frames of six to seven birds. If I make one image that I am satisfied with that day, it’s a good result. In 2018, I made an expedition to a Costa Rican rain forest. The working conditions were very hard, and the location had to be changed just about every other day. My assistant and I had to take down my studio, carry the equipment to the next spot and then rebuild, all in very challenging conditions. Added to this, the researchers weren’t catching that many birds. Although the trip was a lot of fun and a wild adventure, I considered it a failure from a professional point of view. Upon my return home, I thought I’d made only three good photos during the three weeks that I was there but have since selected nine pictures from

that journey for my upcoming book. I also realised that I needed to forgive myself for not being realistic and more successful. It’s essential to experiment and to try different, new things. Making any art is a continuing process; even a minor incident or idea can eventually become meaningful. I may not find a way to use some photos, but those moments are still precious.’ Photographic artist and Aalto University alumna Sanna Kannisto’s works examine the interfaces of art and science. A crosssection of her 20-year career is on display at the Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, on 10.6–30.8.2020. Her latest book, Observing Eye, will be released in conjunction with this exhibition. It is published by Hatje Cantz of Germany.


Fail faster, succeed sooner Postdoctoral researcher Satu Rekonen highlights the importance of a supportive atmosphere when creating something novel. ‘It is easier to step outside one’s comfort zone when you do not have the pressure to succeed at once.’ ‘A FAIL FASTER, succeed sooner philos-

ophy is pretty central in my research, which explores how diverse teams approach ill-defined problems to create innovative and unique solutions. To find these solutions, a team needs to take action despite the discomfort of uncertainty and the high risk of failure. Dealing with and handling failure is one thing for individuals, but a different matter altogether in a group setting. Fear of failure or appearing incompetent to others may impede team member participation. This necessitates the creation of a team culture that is safe for trying things out and asking even stupid questions. My research indicates that practitioners with little or no experience in creative problem-solving have a tendency to rush to conclusions; locking in a direc-

tion of pursuit seems to provide high levels of relief and satisfaction, which leaves little, if any, room for innovation. With my colleagues we observed four teams of Finnish finance professionals engaging in experimentation for the first time. After two half-day workshops teaching ideation, experimentation and a human-centred approach, these teams participated in several coaching sessions, which allowed them to observe some of the potential pitfalls firsthand. We found that, in their eyes, experimentation equalled the quick implementation of ideas; as if the measure of success was how quickly an idea was implemented, not how much the team learned and improved their initial idea. A few participants wanted to stop because they couldn’t let go of the initial idea – some even felt that they’d failed if

they couldn’t remove all the uncertainties related to their idea in just the one experiment. When I work with groups, I really drum into them that the first experiment is a crucial stepping-stone. We can assume that the first idea isn’t going to be the one to be implemented. Success comes from how the team is able to learn from experimenting with the idea, and failing early can be good because it uses less time and resources, leaving more room for manoeuvre when moving on.’ Satu Rekonen is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management.

‘The whinchat has great form in flight, but the studio stand is, undesirably, in the frame.’ AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 15


Theme

Gaming became failing ‘All I can say is that there was a lot of wild experimentation going on!’ Salu Ylirisku threw caution to the wind when he first created the Networked Partnering and Product Innovation (NEPPI) course and decided to play around with its structure. ‘THE PURPOSE of the NEPPI course is for

students to plan and implement projects where they can discover and articulate novel product opportunities in the context of the IoT, Internet of Things. They work in multidisciplinary teams and develop their product by, e.g., discussing the feasibility and viability of their idea and then getting feedback from fellow students. I wanted to add something extra to the standard course implementation by studying how a gamified approach could foster the students’ innovation skills. The real-time planning and course content-altering aspect were entirely intentional – NEPPI was built around the idea that we would adjust our flight as we go. Before my Aalto University posting, I worked in Denmark and managed an online tank game clan in my free time. I decided to establish a motivating feedback system, so I implemented a regu-

larly updated scoreboard enabling clan members to gauge how well they were faring. I was happy to see that clan members changed and improved their playing style because of this. I was confident that a similar motivation system for the first NEPPI course could work thanks to this experience. I created an automated tracking program so that the students could submit things like work memos and findings for assessment by other team members. Users would also log their hours and get approval from fellow students. I deliberately programmed the game logic while the course was underway so I could see how the students responded and make necessary changes. But the participants hated being openly listed in ranked order, which led to students mocking the approval system and cheating by adding and subtracting their hours. All in all, it was a miser-

able experience for them, and the course received that year’s lowest reviews at the School of Electrical Engineering. The course was finished and its design concepts completed, but a lot of ambiguity remained even during its final week. The idea was and remains good, but the implementation was admittedly terrible in the first round and, upon reflection, I admit that my efforts on the gamifying aspect were harming the actual lectures. Nevertheless, I feel that university is a place for learning and research, and the best teaching experiments should combine both aspects.’ Salu Ylirisku is a senior lecturer and teaches design at the Department of Electronics and Nanoengineering.

Error enables learning Like humans, machines learn from the errors they make, says Assistant Professor Alex Jung. ‘MACHINES DON’T have to endure what

humans experience as fear of failure, a potentially crippling hurdle to overcome. Emotion can lead down unexpected paths, however, and the humble human still forms the first part of the equation, as humans need to feed into the system what is referred to as labelled examples, against which predictions are compared, enabling trial and error to facilitate learning. Like humans, machines learn from the errors they make, so machine learning (ML) methods are computationally efficient implementations of the trial and error paradigm. The discovery of new physical laws is driven by deviations between the predictions of an old theory and observations in nature. Similarly, ML methods refine their predictions based on error feedback. The more error feedback, the better and faster methods can evolve. 16 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26

At this stage, machine learning systems still need to be fed information, after which they can then proceed to performing their task. The systems are shown labelled examples, such as pictures of dogs, trees or cats. So, training an ML system to detect pictures of certain things, such as cats, involves feeding it enough examples to enable it to generalise on its own, and from there to correctly classify new inputs not included in its original training set. The ML process still involves errorbased learning, but this happens with unfathomable speed. Inaccurate end results remain a distinct possibility, requiring the engineer/scientist to further tweak the system. When building an ML model, it’s essential to know that even real-world data is imperfect; different types of data require different approaches and

tools, and there will always be trade-offs when determining the right model. Just because a system is fed a picture of a cat doesn’t necessarily mean that the end result will be a cat. It might determine that the image is of a dog, for example, simply because the ears don’t fit within the standard model. This requires constant tweaking and altering of the algorithms and models.’ Alex Jung is an Assistant Professor, machine learning and data analysis, at the Department of Computer Science.


This piece: Winds blow south (Willow warbler), 2019, pigment print, 180 x 130 cm. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 17



In-house

Finland’s quietest space required for sound research THE ANECHOIC CHAMBER at the Aalto Acoustics Lab is probably the most silent place in Finland: it has a background noise of –2 decibels, which is lower than the human hearing threshold. As its name indicates, the room can be used to investigate sound without reflections, i.e., echo. This is made possible by sponge-like wedges that cover the room’s surfaces from floor to ceiling. Users move around the room using a net suspended halfway between floor and ceiling. The updated facilities of the Acoustics Lab opened for use in December 2019 following a two-year renovation. In addition to anechoic chambers, the research facilities include a listening test room and three sound-insulated booths. Among other things, researchers use the laboratory to study sound propagation, human hearing, speaker technology, musical instruments and spatial sound or multichannel audio. The renovation equipped the anechoic chambers with new floor nets and wall materials that have improved acoustic properties. The vibration dampening was also modernised, which necessitated lifting concrete chambers weighing more than 500 tonnes. The anechoic chambers are separated structurally from the rest of the building to prevent traffic sounds, for example, from penetrating through the building’s structures. Acoustics research and education at Aalto University emphasise digital sound processing, such as audio effects and modelling as well as spatial sound. In addition to acoustics researchers, the laboratory facilities are used by information technology and speech processing scientists and corporations.•

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Text: Annamari Tolonen Photo: Mikko Raskinen

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Who

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For her beloved Baltic Sea As a little girl, Tiina Tuurnala would take her family’s motorboat around nearby islets to catch ship wakes. Now, she is at the helm of the Finnish Shipowners’ Association and is steering the maritime industry towards a low-emission future. Text: Leeni Peltonen Photos: Aleksi Poutanen

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ome 90% of Finnish imports and exports rely on shipping. Should ships for one reason or another fail to leave port, the common saying Finland is an island would quickly become a reality. ‘Our national economy depends on seafaring. Sea traffic cannot be replaced in cargo transport, and it is also the soundest choice ecologically, says CEO Tiina Tuurnala. It’s easy to see her career to date as a straightforward and logical procession. Tuurnala, a student of location information technology and cartography at what was then the Helsinki University of Technology, first landed a summer job at the Finnish Maritime Administration. Less than a decade later, and still only 31, she was in charge of their marine survey division. From there, she was recruited to the Finnish Transport Agency, where she first worked as a Development Director before being promoted to Deputy Director General in charge of the traffic and information function. At the time, she was responsible for road, rail and maritime traffic functions at the Agency. About three years ago, she was called to the helm of the Finnish Shipowners’ Association.

Although the technology field was not Tuurnala’s only option, deciding to study map and location information technology was precisely the right choice. Back when she started her studies in the early 1990s, few would have guessed that location information would be used in so many applications. Nowadays, location information is associated with nearly every click we make on our computers. It is of interest to home appliance sellers and political decision-makers alike. ‘Being involved in precisely this phase of development, when electronic charts were introduced to maritime traffic, has been amazing. Digital location technology also changed the production processes of nautical charts and their means of production. Finland played a big role in the drafting of the international standard. I’ve always been comfortable on the bridge of a ship, and back then I spent lots of time there listening to feedback from seafarers on the development of chart technology,’ Tuurnala says.

Vital transports

Tiina Tuurnala represents an industry that employs about 12 000 people in Finland. The Association she heads has 26 member companies that operate more than 100 vessels engaged in international

transports. Their eight-strong office on Helsinki’s Aleksanterinkatu lobbies officials and legislators to ensure that the needs of shipowners are taken into account in the drafting of national and international regulations. The Association also engages in comprehensive cooperation with maritime sector actors both domestically, within the EU and around the globe. For its part, the national maritime cluster encompasses all of the sectors associated with maritime industry and it is truly vital to the economy, including things like shipbuilding, ports and transports. Strong cooperation is a prerequisite to the cluster’s efficient functioning. The Finnish maritime cluster employs more than 50 000 people and generates a turnover of some €13 billion. ‘The Finnish Shipowners’ Association is tasked with promoting the industry’s competitiveness, responsibility and comprehensive development. Digitalisation and automation have altered and will continue to alter also this sector radically,’ says Tuurnala.

Greener seafaring

As with all traffic, a crucial issue for seafaring is finding ways to improve its environment-friendliness. Minimising AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 21


Who

Sails will be making a comeback to seafaring vessels as utilisation of wind energy increases.

emissions is the key venture for the near future. ‘A lot has already been achieved, but there’s still plenty to do as well. Our goal is emission-free sea transports,’ Tuurnala says. The International Maritime Organisation, a UN agency, has set the ambitious target to cut the carbon dioxide emissions of sea transports by 40% by 2030 and by 70% by 2050. The year of comparison is 2008 and the unit of measurement is one gram per transported tonne and kilometre. ‘Marine shipping operators report vessel-specific carbon dioxide emissions to the European Commission. Sea transport is the most environment-friendly alternative especially when hauling large cargo volumes – and often the only one, too. There’s frequently no option but to use marine transports,’ Tiina Tuurnala points out. In the Northern European region, the sulphur emissions of sea transports have reduced to almost zero since 2015. That’s when the Sulphur Directive, which restricted sulphur emissions on the Baltic and the North Sea to 0.1%, came into force. A global 0.5% emission limit came into force at the start of the year. The means for making seafaring more environment-friendly require new technology, enhanced energy-efficiency and hybrid solutions, which combine the use of different sources of energy. In future, more and more ships will be powered by, for example, liquefied natural gas, electricity or biofuel made from waste products. Sails will also be making a comeback to seafaring vessels as utilisation of wind energy increases. Finnish cargo ship Bore Estraden has for years been exploiting wind with the aid of a rotor 22 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26

sail. The Viking Grace also harnesses the wind. ‘So, many of these methods are already in use on ships owned by Finnish operators. Finnish ports and shipowners are at the forefront of development.’

Vulnerable Baltic

‘The sea has always been very dear to me,’ Tiina Tuurnala says. ‘I spent my childhood summers at a holiday cottage in the Kotka archipelago that my family still owns. I’d sit on the jetty angling deep into the night and stare out to sea. And I’d often take the boat out to go catch waves.’ The future of the Baltic Sea is very important to her. As an enclosed water area, it is vulnerable. It is also a shallow water body and challenging to navigate, as there is a lot of traffic. The most important task of traffic control is to prevent accidents. ‘Although there have been only a few serious accidents, close calls have been more frequent. Good cooperation between Finnish officials and their counterparts in neighbouring countries has prevented many major accidents from happening.’ An oil spill, for example, would be disastrous for the Baltic. Tireless efforts to ensure the safety of seafaring are ongoing on all shores of the Baltic Sea. In this, marine charting also plays an important role; chart information must be correct in order for navigation to be safe. ‘My respect for shipping professionals is unwavering. They keep calm through every storm and in any situation, and this never fails to impress me. This is why I’m always happy to visit the bridge whenever possible.’ •

Tiina Tuurnala • CEO of the Finnish Shipowners’ Association. Lives in Espoo. • Graduated with a Master of Science (Technology) in 1998, majoring in location information technology and cartography. • Named Aalto University School of Engineering Alumna of the Year 2019. IS ALSO • Member of the Board at the Finnish Lifeboat Institution: ‘The work done by volunteer sea rescuers is extremely valuable. Should someone get into trouble when travelling over water, they get called to help.’ • Chairperson of the Maritime Transport Pool: ‘I’m engaged in maintaining Finland’s national emergency supply capabilities. Finland is entirely reliant on foreign trade, and maritime transports must flow also during a crisis.’ • Very patriotic: ‘I’ve been awarded the Finnish Defence Forces’ Medal for Military Merits and the Finnish Frontier Guard’s Cross of Merit. I value these recognitions greatly, as I do the organisations behind them.’ • A horse-riding enthusiast: ‘I’ve been a rider since I was little and I’m delighted to ride with my 11-year-old daughter as company these days.’



On science Edited by Riikka Hopiavaara

New, natural wax coating waterproofs clothing AALTO UNIVERSITY researchers have

Jolanda Jokinen

Valeria Azovskaya

developed an ecological and water-repellent wax particle coating suitable for cellulose fibres that also retains the textile’s breathability and natural feel. The coating uses carnauba wax, which is derived from the leaves of a palm tree that grows in Brazil. In addition to textiles, the coating is suitable for application on other cellulose-based materials as well.

Solar cells could be printed directly onto windows and balcony rails cells is expensive because they contain very pure silicon. The handling of pure silicon requires special clean-room facilities, which increases the cost of solar panel production. Aalto University researchers are developing printable solar cells that are made using a new combination of materials, carbon and perovskite. These solar cells can be integrated with various devices and structures, such as windows, glass walls or balcony rails.

24 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26

Matti Ahlgren

THE MANUFACTURE of traditional solar


Feeding humanity without destroying the planet demands a full-scale reversal IN ORDER TO FEED 10 billion people in a way that doesn’t exceed the Earth’s carrying capacity, researchers are proposing solutions like adoption of radically different farming practices, reducing food waste and changing diets. At present, agriculture consumes too much water, soil and fertilisers in many regions. We need to use water and nutrients more efficiently. Consumers play an important role in change. Experts reckon that up to 30% of the food we produce ends up wasted at present. In addition to reducing food waste, we should partially replace animal proteins with legumes and other plantbased protein sources. Aalto University water and environmental engineering researchers took part in a study, whose findings were published this January in the journal Nature Sustainability.

New method kills harmful bacteria on teeth tribute to the occurrence of many serious diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and lung cancer, and can increase the risk of premature delivery among expectant mothers. Koite Health, which was founded by Aalto University and Helsinki University Hospital researchers, is launching a method to kill the Streptococcus mutans bacteria, which plays a key role in dental caries, and bacteria that cause gingivitis. It is intended for home use. The safe method these Finnish researchers developed is based on dual-light treatment and does not disturb useful oral bacterial flora or cause resistance.

Koite Health

UNDETECTED CHRONIC oral infections can con-

AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 25


On the go

Anything but an ordinary greenhouse A wood-structured windowless greenhouse consumes only half as much energy as a traditional glass greenhouse. In addition to producing food, Pasi Herranen’s invention could generate electricity and excess heat in the future. Text: Riikka Hopiavaara Photos: Mikko Raskinen, Kalle Kataila

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It all started with Pasi Herranen’s (top) invention. Orvokki Ihalainen and Panu Miettinen bring commercial expertise to the team.

AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25 \ 27


On the go

T

he engineering workshop is cramped. A seven-metre sheet of birch plywood fills the entire floor of the facility, which is located on Puumiehenkuja, Otaniemi. A pair of carpenters squats beside the sheet holding screw guns, which they use to attach thinner wooden sheets dotted with oval holes into the large plywood sheet. The air smells of a mixture of wood and glue. Project manager Pasi Herranen stands by the door, observing the carpenters’ work. The plywood sheet will become a roofing element of a greenhouse he has named Plant Factory. His greenhouse will be anything but traditional. Plants are typically grown in humidity-resistant glass sheds, but this greenhouse will be made almost entirely out of wood. Plants will be grown on several layered decks without daylight. Compared to a traditional glass greenhouse, Herranen’s design conserves energy, water, soil and nutrients. The new invention consumes 50% less energy when used for year-round cultivation in conditions resembling Finland. The invention is suited for use both in Finland’s freezing conditions and under the scorching Sahara sun. All water is recycled in full. Only the water content of harvested plants leaves the greenhouse, Pasi Herranen says. Sustainable plant production is crying out for innovations like this windowless wood-structured greenhouse. Herranen’s invention could find demand in construction more broadly.

fee and throwing darts, in addition to which they played online poker. ‘A student pal was doing well in the game, so I decided to give it a go as well,’ Herranen says. Online poker was a popular hobby at the beginning of the new millennium, and some players even managed to make a living at it. Herranen also started playing professionally and his studies were sidelined for some ten years. He played online and travelled to casinos around the world, winning and losing money. His calm disposition provided a good starting point for the game, and expertise in maths and statistics helped him win. ‘I was able to maintain my calm when losing, I didn’t let it disturb my focus on the game.’ Success in poker enhanced his faith in his own decision-making abilities. Herranen says the confidence derived from poker is precisely why he was able to trust his calculations and believe in his invention.

Wood bested metal

Herranen had three alternative subjects for his Master’s thesis. Two of them related to metal, which he was familiar with because of his mechanical engineering studies. But the properties of plywood represented something new and intriguing. For his thesis, Herranen performed tensile tests in the materials strength testing hall at Otaniemi during which he’d stretch plywood until it snapped. In addition, he computer modelled the stress endurance of different shaped plywood pieces. The unique properties of wood won him over.

Self-confidence boosted by poker success Two wall modules stand finished in the workshop. The rough black rubber mass on the edges is there to keep the walls airtight. The massive modules aren’t easy to move, and four metal rings have been mounted on both sides of the wall for attaching crane chains. Important technology has been concealed underneath plywood sheets, where sensors will monitor the dampness of the wood. Technology has fascinated Pasi Herranen since a young age. His matriculation examination grades had already earned him a place at Tampere University of Technology, but a childhood friend convinced him to apply to Helsinki University of Technology while he was performing his national military service. Herranen chose to major in strength of materials with production technology as a minor subject. Both are fields that he finds useful in his present job as a project manager. As a student, he lived in a seven-person shared apartment, where the flatmates passed time by drinking cof28 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26

The wall module is about 36 centimetres thick. The rough black rubber mass of the edges helps keep the walls airtight.


‘Wood is a strong and durable material that doesn’t conduct much heat. It is renewable, affordable and workable. It is also readily available.’ After graduating, Herranen kept thinking about a wooden wall module built utilising vacuum drying, a method that removes water through evaporation in a vacuum. Wood has been vacuum dried for more than a century, but Herranen’s idea of applying the technique to the drying of an entire wall module was new. The technique is also what the project’s official name, Vacuum Insulation System (VIS), was derived from. Vacuum drying directs intense pressure on plywood panels, which is why Herranen designed a specific wooden interior structure to go between the panels and help maintain the integrity of the wall module in spite of the high pressure. But a theoretical model alone would not suffice, proof of the idea’s viability was needed as well.

Two weeks became twelve months

During the first years, Pasi Herranen worked without pay and all alone, with only strong faith in his own calculations to lean on. At times, the bills would stack so high that he was forced back to the poker table to grind out some cash. Building the prototype by hand also strained his patience. He had imagined that the prototype would be completed in a couple of weeks, but this estimate was far off the mark. The Otaniemi materials strength testing hall witnessed many frustrating moments of trial and error.

‘The hardest part was developing the right coating to keep the module air-tight.’ Finally, Herranen could showcase a prototype that, according to VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, insulated heat sufficiently. Instead of two weeks, the making of the prototype had consumed a year. His original plan was for the wall modules to be used in the construction of houses and office buildings, but after reading a Natural Resources Institute Finland LUKE report on growing cucumbers, he realised his wooden modules were a perfect fit for greenhouse applications. ‘The commercialisation possibilities were better for greenhouses.’

Growing in stacked layers

Traditional glass-structured greenhouses lose lots of energy. They need to be heated a lot particularly in winter, as their poor insulation allows heat to escape. Growing cucumbers, for example, requires greenhouses to be kept at a temperature of +27 degrees Celsius. And the problems continue in summertime, when glass greenhouses get too hot. Opening roof hatches helps, but this also lets out carbon dioxide, which plants need to grow. This is why cucumber harvests are two times bigger in winter than they are in summer. Pasi Herranen compared glass greenhouse harvest numbers to the computer simulations of his own invention. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 29


On the go

‘My numbers looked good straight away,’ he recalls. Replacing natural light with efficient LED lamps further improved the numbers. ‘The problem with sunlight is that there’s either too much or too little of it,’ Herranen continues. LED lamps would enable growers to regulate the amount and wavelength of light, which would make the plants grow quicker than usual. The windowless structure of the greenhouse is beneficial in other ways too. For example, light pollution, which disturbs nature and humans, is not an issue. Instead, light is exploited with maximal efficiency inside the greenhouse. The silvery aluminium that coats the modules reflects the LED light onto the growing plants. On top of all this, the LEDs save energy. When plants are grown in stacked layers, there is no need for a heat source other than the LED lamps. ‘In a well-insulated Plant Factory, the energy of the LEDs is transformed into thermal energy via the plants. This is enough to keep the space warm even during the harshest winter freeze. There’s even enough excess heat to be distributed to others through the district heating grid.’

New type of greenhouse for Otaniemi

The carpenters at the workshop have almost finished the interior frame of the first roof module and stacks of birch plywood panels for the roof modules to be assem-

bled next lean against the wall awaiting their turn. Herranen directs the Aalto University Magazine photographer. The wooden interior lattice must not be visible in any of the pictures, as the patent application is still being processed. The other members of the project team stand between two metal-sheen wall modules to pose with Herranen. Economics graduates Panu Miettinen and Orvokki Ihalainen bring necessary commercialisation expertise to the project. The trio say that, in future, their modules could be found suitable for the building of homes and offices as well. The invention is estimated to have a potential market worth billions. The modules built at the workshop will be taken to the LUKE research centre in Piikkiö, where a 65square-metre greenhouse will be erected and its flat roof fitted with solar panels. The first heads of lettuce will be growing in Herranen’s greenhouse by next summer. The planned next step is to build a Plant Factory greenhouse in Otaniemi. In addition to growing lettuce, the intention is to trial heat production. Excess heat will be transferred from the greenhouse into a new heating grid being built in Otaniemi. Ideally, the growing of lettuce would bind more greenhouse gases than cultivation generates, Herranen says. ‘This would enable the carbon-negative cultivation of vegetables in future.’ •

These wall modules weigh 1 600 kilos. They are so large that they only barely fit through the workshop doors. 30 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26


11.

8.

2.

3.

5.

10.

9.

4.

Jolanda Jokinen

1.

6.

12.

7.

13.

The windowless greenhouse is referred to as a Plant Factory or a vertical farm. The field is so new that the terminology has not yet settled.

In future, greenhouses built from Vacuum Insulation System (VIS) modules will produce food, energy and heat. 1. Plants grow in stacked layers, enabling land-use efficiencies up to a hundred times greater than in outdoor farming. Vertical farming conserves arable land and makes it unnecessary to fell forests to make room for food production. 2. LED lamps generate an ideal spectrum of light for photosynthesis. This enhances the nutrient intake of plants and improves their taste.

3. Airtight shell prevents evaporation, cutting water consumption by 99% compared to traditional farming. 4. The greenhouse itself functions as a long-term carbon store. 5. The water that evaporates from plants is recovered and reused. 6. Vacuum pump can be attached to VIS modules at any time. 7. Vacuum drying makes the VIS elements dry and healthy, thanks to which the walls’ life cycle is very long. Humidity removal from finished wall modules necessary once a year according to estimates.

8. Greenhouse roof covered with solar panels. 9. LED lights can be switched off during electricity price peaks, reducing average power cost per area under cultivation. 10. Extensive set of sensors that send real-time data to the cloud on heat, humidity, carbon dioxide content and wind speed. 11. Efficiency optimised with the aid of AI. 12. Excess heat can be fed into a district heating grid. 13. Produces about 2 megawatts per 1 000 square metres. Turn page

AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 31


On the go

Comments on the invention ‘I first heard about Pasi’s idea when we were sat around a campfire at a summer cottage in Punkaharju seven years ago. The invention sounded good even then. We later went over the numbers together and realised that a windowless greenhouse had strong commercial potential. People are more and more interested in food’s carbon footprint. The rapid development of LED technology has also been a boon for us.’ Panu Miettinen, M.Sc. (Econ.), VIS Project

‘The most memorable part of the project was hearing we’d be getting TUTLI funding. This was a significant moment. Being granted funding meant that our idea was considered viable, and we’d be able to take big leaps forward in developing the invention.’ Orvokki Ihalainen, M.Sc. (Econ.), VIS Project

‘This is it! That’s what I thought when I first heard about the idea at a Finnish Glasshouse Growers’ Association event. The greenhouses we import from Holland are not energy-efficient in Finland’s climate, they are too poorly insulated. And any old warehouse is not suitable for vertical farming, even though this is often suggested. Sustainable plant production calls for solutions of exactly this kind. Especially when LED lamps can handle both the lighting and the heating.’ Titta Kotilainen, Senior Scientist, Horticulture technologies, Natural Resources Institute Finland

‘At first, I thought it peculiar for this innovation to not exploit free natural light. Improving energy-efficiency is a good thing, as heating a glass greenhouse consumes a lot of power, especially in winter. I very keen for growing to start and results to come in.’ Risto Taskinen, greenhouse entrepreneur, Kuopio

‘Greenhouses are just one example of what these modules can be used to build. Mould problems seem to afflict buildings no matter what material they are made from. The popularity of wood construction continues to increase and these modules will remain completely dry.’ Lauri Rautkari, Assistant Professor, Wood Materials Science and Technology, Aalto University

‘When we start planning the commercialisation of an invention, two things in particular are considered. First of all, the invention needs to be a significant improvement over existing solutions. Secondly, the team itself must have a willingness to go commercial. It has been a joy to observe this project, in which both conditions are met so well.’ Janne Raula, Innovation Advisor, Aalto University

‘The project has proceeded unfalteringly. From initial idea to construction of the prototype, and from measuring the prototype to building an actual greenhouse. The team’s competencies complement each other. They have succeeded in presenting a vision of this invention’s many potential applications.’ Jouni Freund, Senior University Lecturer, Mechanical Engineering, Aalto University

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Aalto does well in TUTLI funding applications The commercialisation of the greenhouse invention was made possible by Business Finland’s New Business from Research Ideas (TUTLI) funding. The Vacuum Insulation System project was granted this funding at the beginning of 2019. TUTLI funding amounting to €41 million was extended to 81 Aaltoassociated projects in 2012–19. More than half (52%) of applicants have received funding. The funding scheme was renamed Research to Business at the beginning of 2020. Among others, the following Aalto-rooted companies have received TUTLI funding over the years: Iceye, Surgify, Yieldsystems, Fractuscan, XFold Imaging, Elfys, Koite Health, Ladimo, Addcomposites, Agilefant, Unified Charges.


Wow!

Train Brag wants to make rail travel boastworthy Student concept highlights the glamour of rail travel. Text: Krista Kinnunen Photos: Train Brag CONCERN FOR the environment, sus-

tainable development and ethics are powerful trends also in the travel industry. But how can we encourage people to switch flying to travel by train or coach? This year’s Matka 2020 travel fair looked for solutions to this issue. Aalto University visual communication design students Akseli Manner, Iina Silventoinen and Anni Tolvanen presented their Train Brag mobile application, which aims to make rail travel more glamorous, at the fair. Together, they form a collective of art activists that operates on Instagram and advocates for the benefits of rail travel. The Train Brag concept takes advantage of augmented reality filters, which enable users to edit their portraits. The app combines humour and the methods of mobile games with the tools of Instagram. ‘The idea is for the facial filter templates to provide users with playful tools to glamorise their travel pictures while also spreading the word about the sustainability of above-ground travel. The filters make it possible to add, for example, an image of the European rail network or a train track halo to your selfie,’ Akseli Manner says.

augmented reality technology enables,’ Manner says. The app’s primary target group is people who are already travelling by train and wish to gain more visibility on social media. As they share their filtered images, knowledge spreads ever wider, and more and more people get to try out the app for themselves. This breeds a positive feedback loop that promotes rail travel. ‘The extent and manner of Train Brag’s use will also help us predict trends in future communications. The application can be updated and developed further based on this feedback,’ Manner says. The app received an honorary mention at the travel fair’s Matkatieto competition aimed at students. Its creators are continuing talks with the VR Group about possible cooperation concerning the promotion of rail travel. •

Aiming for a positive cycle

The idea for the concept emerged during the Experience: Change campaign design course, which examined communications influencing from the perspective of civic activism. Participants were asked to come up with solutions for promoting above-ground travel. ‘We wanted to utilise the current face filter phenomenon and examine what kinds of new communications methods AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 33


Partnership

Three fascinating things about space Astronomer Joni Tammi wants to uncover the secrets of the universe. This can be done with the aid of new technology, the acquisition of which is now the focus of fundraising. Text: Riikka Hopiavaara Photos: Mikko Raskinen

Thinking about what researchers could learn about the cosmos with the entirely new type of instrument fascinates Metsähovi Director Joni Tammi. ‘Nobody has yet had the opportunity to observe the development of stellar objects using several different radio frequencies simultaneously, so the possibility of entirely novel and even surprising results is excellent.’ 34 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26


M

etsähovi Radio Observatory Director Joni Tammi started his career in astronomy while in first grade by delivering a presentation about stars to his classmates. Since then, all of his study choices steered him in a specific direction – to become a space researcher. During his student days, Tammi learned about the use of computer simulations in space research on a course held by Professor Esko Valtaoja. Seeing galaxies collide even in the simplified simulations of the late 1990s left Tammi spellbound. He decided to specialise in theoretical astrophysics and the modelling of space phenomena.

Boundless space and the insignificance of personal problems For Tammi, space is a part of our environment that we don’t know enough about. What about space fascinates him? ‘I remember reading an encyclopaedia at my grandparents when I was a child. It showed how planetary orbits followed conic sections cut from different directions. It amazed me that such massive objects would conform with so simple mathematical forms. The beauty of maths and physics continues to intrigue me still as an adult.’ Another thing Tammi finds alluring is the vastness of space and, by contrast, the smallness of humans. ‘It’s comforting to know you are so small. No matter how bad a mess your life is in, it helps to simply raise your eyes upwards and consider that, from a height of two hundred kilometres, your personal problems are no longer visible.’ A third stellar moment awaits in the future. Joni Tammi wants to find out how the forces generated by black holes turn from gravity and rotation into light and radio waves. ‘We’ve seen an image of a black hole and know that particles move at near light speed and radiate powerfully in the jets generated by black holes. But we do not know what kind of processes exactly are behind this. To gain this knowledge, we require simultaneous observations of several different frequencies over the long term. This can’t be done with existing equipment.’

A revolutionary way to see the universe Joni Tammi uses a comparison with music to illustrate how new technology would revolutionise the way we see the universe.

The renovation of the Metsähovi Radio Observatory began last autumn. In addition to building work, the guidance system of the 14-metre radio telescope will be updated. The radio telescope will also be covered with a new 20-metre radome. Located in Kirkkonummi, Aalto University’s Metsähovi facility is the only radio-astronomical station and constantly used astronomical observatory in Finland.

‘Radio frequencies sort of correspond with the strings of an instrument. You can play one string loudly or quietly, fast or slow, but you can’t make music that’s much good with it. But add a few strings and you get a bass that can be used to play an enormous amount of different tunes.’ In a few years, researchers can hopefully utilise a comparable instrument for studying the cosmos. New technology makes it possible to listen to radio waves at three frequencies simultaneously, making observations much more precise and faster than they now are. Our understanding of research objects and space will increase. The number of objects being researched will also rise from the hundreds to the thousands. The new receiver will also make us much better prepared for possible dangers, Tammi says. ‘Solar flares and dangerous solar storms could be forecast weeks before they hit the Earth. Solar storms can damage satellites, electrical grids and radiofrequency data communications as well as cause massive power outages.’ In addition, a more detailed understanding of quasars will help increase the precision of satellite positioning.

Quasars are extremely distant objects that radiate much more powerfully than normal galaxies. ‘Once we gain information on what’s going on with quasar eruptions, researchers will be able to more precisely determine the position of the Earth relative to quasars. This will have an impact on the precision of satellite positioning as well, perhaps making it possible to enable centimetre-level accuracy.’ •

Metsähovi is Finland’s only astronomical observation station. In addition to research, its equipment enables the teaching of radio astronomy and the training of researchers in this field. In order for us to remain part of the international elite, we must acquire new technology. Please help us see better and further – make a donation towards the procurement of a radio receiver for Metsähovi: aalto.fi/donate-metsahovi

AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 35


On science

Creating zero-energy houses, non-toxic glitter and fossil-free glue with wood Building wisely with wood is an efficient way to combat climate change. It’s possible to build almost anything with wood if we develop our expertise and adjust our attitudes, an expert says. Text: Minna Hölttä Photos: Wood Program / Aalto University

More than a copy

Since February, passengers waiting for their baggage have been able to examine feats of wood construction from furniture to a transitional shelter for emergency zones, and from pavilions to Little Finlandia, a reusable temporary building acting as a partial replacement to Finlandia Hall during its renovation. It is a fine, finished construction material that grows in our forests with little farmer input and has many as-of-yet unexplored and under-utilised properties, says Pekka Heikkinen, Professor of Wood Architecture and one of the creators of this exhibition. Finnish home-builders love timber: some 90% of single-family homes are built from wood. Wood accounts for about a fifth of public buildings like schools and daycare centres, but for only five percent of multi-storey buildings. There’s room for growth. Finland’s forests produce enough carbon-binding wood to cover the nation’s entire annual housing production needs in a single summer day. 36 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26

But why should we increase wood construction? The most important reason is the environment, especially the need to fight climate change. The manufacture of building products causes about a tenth of global carbon dioxide emissions, with more than 90% of these emissions associated with the production of steel and cement. Cement is the key ingredient of concrete – and concrete is the world’s most used construction material. The suburban building boom of the 1960s made it the norm in Finland, too. A manufacturer of con-

crete modules and builders to erect them can be found in every city. The carbon footprint of constructing a concrete multi-storey building is 75% higher than that of a wooden structure. Now, the Finnish government, which has made a commitment to meet demanding climate objectives, wants to double the volume of wood construction over the next four years. ‘I hope that wooden buildings aren’t made by copying concrete houses; instead, we should exploit wood’s good, unique properties and also take account of its limitations,’ Heikkinen says.

Valeria Azovskaya

T

he built environment gobbles up half of the world’s raw materials and generates one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions. For comparison: air traffic accounts for 2.4% of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of flight shame, perhaps we should be feeling building shame – or at least looking for more sustainable construction solutions. A good place to start can be found in the arrivals hall of Helsinki airport, the venue of an Aalto University exhibition called Wood Wonders.

Wood-based structural shimmering wood colour has no colour pigments.


One Luukku House binds the same amount of CO2 that would be generated if a person were to drive the length of Finland from north to south in a passenger car 170 times. Montse Zamorano AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 37


Tuomas Uusheimo

The Helsinki World Design Capital (WDC) 2012 pavilion enabled many types of events through its physical shape and architecture.

Tuomas Uusheimo

Kokoon is a flexible temporary housing concept. Its modules can be easily transported and stacked into various configurations.

38 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26


On science

Eeva Suorlahti

The Wood Wonders exhibition was designed by a multidisciplinary group representing three Aalto schools. The exhibition is on display at Helsinki airport’s arrivals hall 2B until spring 2021. It is arranged in cooperation with the Finnish airport authority Finavia and with financial support from the Ministry of the Environment.

Casted Wood by Heidi Turunen.

Heat without heating

As a construction material, wood is light, but also durable and strong. The world’s tallest wood building is the 18-storey Mjostårnet Tower, which stands 85 metres tall in Brumunddal, Norway. Wooden skyscrapers reaching as high as 300 metres are being planned in Tokyo and London. Wood is made unique by its other properties. Housing accounts for up to a quarter of our carbon dioxide emissions. Wood binds moisture and its surface temperature is high, reducing the need for ventilation and heating. Among other things, studies have found that people experience wood-clad spaces as two degrees warmer than spaces, which are exactly as warm but clad with other materials. Heikkinen emphasises that the effective utilisation of such properties calls for improved expertise and an attitude adjustment. ‘So much more time and money is spent on the design of cars than buildings, where the practice is to optimise production by pinching from design. This makes no sense. Good design saves money and the environment by removing spatial waste and creating compact, functional facilities from materials that can be recycled as well.’ Among other things, the exhibition showcases the Luukku zero-energy house as well as the modular and mov-

sectors. Hemicellulose and lignin are mostly burnt to generate energy. Lignin can, however, also be used to replace fossil materials and harmful chemicals. For example, Aalto University researchers are developing it into a challenger for formaldehyde-phenolic resin glues, which are needed to make plywood, construction panels and laminated products. Lignin can also be utilised as a natural rustproofing agent as well as raw able Kokoon home. Luukku is an interpretation of a traditional Finnish wooden material for carbon fibres and bioplastics. Wood has been Finland’s green gold for house designed by nearly a hundredstrong group of researchers, students more than a century and the forest industry accounts for a fifth of national exports and teachers. Wood has been used all and directly employs over 42 000 people. over it, from the air-tight LVL frame to its cellulose insulation, and from the lat- By producing higher value-added products, it would be possible to double the tice structure of its outer envelope to the wooden cladding and wood-glass value of exports while consuming the same amount of wood. composite doors. The exhibition displayed at the airport In addition to their energy savings demonstrates the many potential applipotential, wooden structures have cations of cellulose. Splicing it into another massive advantage. Growing wood binds atmospheric carbon dioxide, teeny-tiny nanocellulose creates an even which can be stored in wood-based struc- lighter, stronger and more malleable material. Researchers mixed nanoceltures for decades, even centuries. The timber structures of the average Finnish lulose, sawdust and colouring agents to wooden single-family home store around make castable wood as well as used nanocellulose to laminate paper sheets into 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to more than a decade’s worth panels with better flexural strength than of carbon dioxide emissions by the aver- fibre, plaster or even MDF boards. But wooden panels that glitter and age motorist. glow in different hues are the most magAnd new, sustainable potential uses nificent example. are already on the horizon. Glossy paint colours are usually made with toxic pigments, plastic-based mateColoured like a butterfly’s wings rials or metal membranes. Colours made The biomass that forms wood, lignocelwith nanocellulose contain no colour piglulose, is nature’s very own composite ments at all, as colour is instead created material, consisting of water, cellulose, by light-reflecting nanostructures, as is hemicellulose and lignin. Cellulose provides structure, hemicellulose flexibility the case with some of nature’s brightest colours found in peacock feathers or and lignin serves as the glue that joins it butterfly wings. all together. The colour is 100% biodegradable, nonIndustry has for more than a century toxic and does not fade under sunlight. been cooking cellulose into pulp for the Little wonders of wood. • needs of the paper, fibre and packaging AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 39


On science

Bacteria factories and soft robots

Tailored molecules and materials could revolutionise the chemicals industry, move fabrics and make solar panels more ecological.

Text: Minna Hölttä Photo: Jaakko Kahilaniemi

A

ssociate Professor Jan Deska and Assistant Professor Jaana Vapaavuori share a source of inspiration: nature, and its ability to build almost anything out of the simplest ingredients. Jan Deska’s field is the manufacture of organic molecules. More than fifty million chemical compounds are known on Earth. Organic molecules, i.e. molecules formed by one or more carbon atoms and other elements linked to them, comprise some 95% of these compounds. As a scientific discipline, organic chemistry is two centuries old, and the industry based on it produces plastics, paints, pharmaceuticals and fuels – in other words, it revolves around oil. The factories of the future may, however, be entirely different.

Humans long ago learned to exploit various microorganisms in, for example, fermentation reactions that yield products like yoghurt, vinegar and alcohol. Deska and his colleagues believe that, equipped with the right enzymes, the possibilities are almost limitless. ‘Nature has the capacity to produce very complex compounds, like various toxins, as well. If we were to a replace a step in the process with a synthetic enzyme tailored by us, the end product could be something more useful, such as a medicine. A single enzyme is unlikely to accomplish this, which is why our goal is to create an entire toolkit for tailored biosynthesis.’ Bacteria do not require much to thrive, which is a strength. The majority of chemicals industry processes utilise raw materials that are either scarce or probPowered by sugar lematic from an environmental perspecBiosynthesis is a natural process that tive. In an ideal scenario, the only input creates new compounds from simple required for a bacterial factory would substrate materials. Enzymes serve as be simple sugar. the workhorse in this process by gluing ‘The issue is how can we, with limsmaller molecules into larger totalities. ited natural resources, manufacture the ‘Our aim is to utilise biosynthesis in chemicals we need, in a more sustainable the manufacture of chemicals,’ Jan Deska manner,’ Deska says. explains. Entirely new kinds of enzyme funcWrinkles and movement tions, ones that are not found in nature, Instead of enzymes, Jaana Vapaavuori are required for this. Deska is busy taitailors organic materials that react to loring such enzymes as part of a five-year light in particular. She points out that project funded by the European Research sustainable development is not always Council. He wants to use enzymes to help an unambiguous concept. him persuade nature’s own production ‘Are we talking about manufacture, use units, things like bacteria, to perform or the full life cycle? The benefits derived biosynthesis with chemical reactions from many renewable-energy devices that do not exist in nature. – at least many of the devices demon-

40 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26


strated in the academic literature – don’t offset the energy and emissions of their production, so their net effect may even be negative.’ New and improved materials could provide a solution. In 2019, Vapaavuori and Academy Research Fellow Kati Miettunen received funding for a project called Substainable, which aims to improve the sustainability and efficiency of solar cells with composite materials made from lignocellulosics, i.e. plant biomass. These are more ecological than existing options for conductive transparent substrates – and it is possible to tailor new properties into them. ‘We are working, for example, on adding a layer to solar cells that absorbs and downshifts UV light rays, which do not convert into electricity and can be harmful for many individual solar cell components thus shortening the device lifetime,’ Vapaavuori says. What most fascinates Vapaavuori, however, is understanding the fundamental phenomena of physics and chemistry, research topics with yet-unknown areas of application. For example, her team has made micelles, spherical structures that allow transport of smaller molecules in when exposed to blue UV light and out when under visible light – as if they were inhaling and exhaling under light control. Her team has also studied how to control the wrinkling and movement of materials by attaching light-responsive materials. ‘This is basic research that does not always have a ready application. But I

Prior to Aalto, Jan Deska worked as a professor at RWTH Aachen and Cologne universities in Germany. Jaana Vapaavuori conducted research at the University of Montreal – and dreamed of a career in dance when she was younger.

am very interested in collaborating with people who this inspires to come up with fresh ideas,’ she says.

Introducing sci-fi to the stage

At Aalto University, the building next door may well house a suitable collaboration partner. Vapaavuori recently commenced a softrobotics project with textile experts from the Department of Design: ‘At first, we aim to attach light-controlled artificial muscles to a woven fabric, making it possible to engineer various functions into the textile. It could, for example, protect your body or home from exposure to sunlight by forming patterns that enhance reflectivity.’ Vapaavuori, who once contemplated a career as a dancer, confides that she gets most excited by considering what such technology could achieve on the stage. ‘The more sci-fi side is close to my heart. For example, a dancer’s costume could include moving protrusions, or it could shift colour or shape in tandem with the dancer’s movements – I can hardly wait!’ Multidisciplinary research is only possible with input from experts of many fields. In addition to chemistry, Jan Deska’s research group requires expertise in, for example, microbiology and genetics, while Jaana Vapaavuori works alongside chemists, physicists and optics experts, among others. If everything works out, what might they achieve before the end of this decade? Jan Deska hopes that his laboratory will house sugar-eating cellular factories, which produce hundreds or thousands of different molecules. Jaana Vapaavuori wants to inspire and encourage young researchers to break down the stereotypes about what researchers are expected to be like. ‘The world of science needs more diversity. As a professor, I’m only at the beginning of my career and, first and foremost, I want to find my own place and gain an even deeper understanding of things; get closer to the complexity, which nature has to offer, in a laboratory.’ •

AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25 \ 41


Collaboration

The best food ideas are chewed over in company, not alone Nimble experimentation by small companies with their customers and even competitors brings new treats to your plate. Text: Maija Vikman Illustration: Design Bites

KYRÖ DISTILLERY, which has earned

world renown with its award-winning gin, recently created new bitters through collaboration. The company started by supplying a select group of bartenders with a batch of herbals that they could use to mix cocktails to their liking. These mixologists then conducted experiments during an open development phase. Distillery representatives and participating bartenders video conferenced at regular intervals, exchanging ideas and recipes. For the final stage, the entire group gathered at the Isokyrö distillery to finalise the products during a three-day workshop. The end result was two products, a dark and a blonde rye bitters, the group was happy with. The distillery example is a story of inventive and open product development. This is also how pulled oats, exotic vegan ice creams and new flavours of tea are being created. The stories behind Finnish hit products play a key role in the Design Bites research project, in which Maria Mikkonen and her team examine how collaborative development, co-creation, creates value for businesses. The project is ongoing at Aalto University’s Design Factory, a research and learning environment specialising in product development that employs multidisciplinary teams to tackle issues. Mikkonen, who studied design management, has worked as a researcher in the Design Bites project since it began 42 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26

two years ago. The project monitors the growth of select small businesses in the food industry. ‘Different kinds of experiments, brainstorming and a strong understanding of the consumer influence design thinking. We explore how startup entrepreneurs utilise these methods.’

Sharing with your competition

The special themes of Design Bites are co-creation and various experiments, the role of design and networks. ‘We’re reviewing what co-creation is like in food product companies. How successes came about and, on the other hand, what proved challenging for cooperation. At the same time, we’re studying whether working together is beneficial.’ Co-creation differs from traditional product development because it involves stakeholders that are typically shut out in the product development stage. Participants may include the company’s clients, and even its competitors. Feedback is especially valuable in the development phase. In the best case, co-creation enables the emergence of substantial business activities using only light resources. Feedback on the product being developed is received quickly and the product can be nimbly developed further, removing the risk of spending lots of time on development only to discover that the product is not to the target group’s liking. ‘Many small companies engage in

co-creation almost without noticing it. They might message a pal to say hey, we’ve considered such and such a package, how do you like it?’ So far, Mikkonen and her colleagues have examined about forty Finnish food industry companies. Participants include both widely-known firms like pulled oats maker Gold & Green as well as one-person microenterprises.

Coconut ice cream from Kontula

Co-creation can highlight issues that the developers did not think to consider in the beginning, but which are important to the clientele. 3 Friends is an ice cream maker from the Kontula district of Helsinki. When the firm decided to develop its first vegan ice cream, they got in touch with experts from the Vegan Society of Finland. The manufacturing process uses coconut milk instead of dairy products. The Vegan Society informed the firm that the harvesting of coconuts can utilise unethical methods. Plantations in Southeast Asia in particular can use trained monkeys to harvest the coconuts. This method is controversial and it is likely that consumers would be interested in the origins of the raw materials used. Being aware of this enabled the company to take account of the issue in procurement and inform curious customers about the responsible harvesting of the coconuts used to make their ice cream.


tulossa piirros!

Today, 3 Friends offers many vegan flavours.

Unfiltered feedback

Maria Mikkonen says her researchers were surprised when they examined the operations of craft breweries. They discovered that an extremely helpful culture prevailed amongst the entrepreneurs. Tips and recipes are openly shared. Craft brewers didn’t view each other primarily as competitors, but more as sources of positive challenges. Many Finnish products are already made by a diverse group of people. Universities, business accelerators, store chains and local communities are involved in development. Mikkonen says many smaller companies have their own showrooms for tasting. ‘These are spaces where the company can try something new and where failure is allowed.’ A tea-making startup taking part in the study didn’t have its own tasting

premises, so the company’s restaurant partner added some trial flavours to its menu. Feedback received from the restaurant’s customers indicated what flavours were especially interesting to tea drinkers. Social media platforms are a good fit for co-creation. Companies have set up groups in which customers and the firm get to share their experiences. Home growers of edible mushrooms, for example, can easily give each other advice or request assistance on a Facebook group. At the same time, a firm that sells home grow kits gains practical feedback, stories of personal experiences and improvement suggestions. Cooperating with customers may also unearth cultural differences. For example, you can’t market Finnish forest berry products globally using the world wild, as it doesn’t really mean anything in English. Similarly, the concept hand-picked, which is positive in Finland, can sound quite unhygienic in some places.

The concept ‘hand-picked’ sounds positive to Finns but can appear unhygienic to others.

American treats

All of the studied companies have been Finnish up to now, but Design Bites has set its sights further. ‘We’re starting to study also the operating practices and product development of foreign firms and will be comparing them to domestic operators. We have just started conducting interviews at food sector startups in Silicon Valley and Australia.’ Recently, interviews have been conducted among others in California, Australia and Estonia. Design Bites conducts long-term studies, i.e., it monitors the manner in which the development of food product innovations changes over a timespan of several years. ‘We want to support Finnish companies with our research findings and help them develop their operating practices.’ The project is still admitting new small companies. Firms can participate in the study free of charge and all research findings are made generally available in various publications. •

designfactory.aalto.fi/designbites

AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 43


Entrepreneurship

Online course offers practical help for anyone interested in entrepreneurship Aalto students and the startup community got together to develop the Starting Up course, which is free of charge and open to everyone. Text: Noora Stapleton

ENTREPRENEURSHIP INTERESTS stu-

dents: a third of Finnish students would like to become an entrepreneur after graduating. At the same time, just 14% believe that university will make them well prepared for this path. The Starting Up online course will help anyone with an interest in entrepreneurship. It provides tools for and basic knowledge about growth entrepreneurship. The course is completely online and does not require participants to own any particular software. ‘The idea for an online entrepreneurship course came up in April 2019, and we published it the next November,’ says Aaro Isosaari, CEO of the business accelerator Kiuas. He himself got involved in the entrepreneurship community’s activities when he started studying industrial engineering and management in 2017 and got to know the active members of Aaltoes, Europe’s biggest student-driven entrepreneurship community, which is also behind the Slush startup event. The Kiuas accelerator pairs seasoned businesspeople with startup firms looking for advice. 44 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26

‘We’d been thinking about ways to introduce our knowledge to the wider public for quite some time. But it is usually only possible to admit some 15% of the applicants for our programmes, leaving hundreds of potential teams excluded each year,’ Isosaari says.

Learning from experienced business owners The goal was to produce an approachable course that provides basic knowledge about themes, which are central to the establishing of a company. Its contents are derived from the personal experiences of veteran businesspeople. What different types of companies are there? What’s a startup? How do you refine an idea into a business? How can you learn from your customers? How do you build a team? How do you apply for funding? The themes are very practical. In addition to entrepreneurship, the course also teaches skills for developing an organisation’s internal entrepreneurship. ‘Both as students and as the managers of the accelerator we felt that especially young people starting their first business

and people coming from outside the startup scene often lack the universal basic skills for establishing a company, validating their idea and developing a product,’ Aaro Isosaari says. Making necessary knowledge and skills more readily available helps entrepreneurs avoid the most common earlystage pitfalls and encourages more and more people to start a business. •

AALTO UNIVERSITY announced its Starting Up online course in conjunction with the Slush event in November 2019. Fifteen European entrepreneurs, investors and technology industry pioneers were interviewed for the course. The implementation of the Englishlanguage course is being handled by the business accelerator Kiuas, venture capital fund Maki.vc, Aalto University’s entrepreneurship training scheme Aalto Ventures Program and the tech company Reaktor.

Take the course: starting-up.org/en/


On science

New scanner can improve the detection of cancer tissue and brain disease diagnoses Researchers aim to have the technology ready for hospital use and commercialisation by the end of next year. Text: Tiina Aulanko-Jokirinne Photo: Kalle Kataila A GROUP OF NEUROSCIENCE and neuro-

generates. This produces a more reliable and accurate image of the brain activity. ‘More accurate measurements can be helpful in locating epileptic brain activity before surgery. The new device is also expected to help distinguish brain tumours from healthy tissue more accurately prior to cancer surgery. In addition, the device will increase our understanding of the connections between the different brain regions. This will help us understand abnormal brain activity in connection with, for example, depression or the progress of Alzheimer’s disease,’ explains Professor Risto Ilmoniemi, Head of Aalto University Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering. The improved accuracy can also be useful in the study of stroke, autism and brain injuries; and especially as part of basic brain research.

More accurate information

Away from the confines of a noisy tube

technology researchers have conducted extensive research and developed a new brain imaging technology. The new device combines magnetoencephalography (MEG) and an unconventional type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MEG uses sensors outside the head to measure the tiny magnetic fields produced in the brain, providing information about the functioning of the nervous system. MRI, meanwhile, is used for producing pictures of the brain’s structure. The combined device makes use of superconducting sensors called SQUIDs, developed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Superconductivity is a quantum-mechanical phenomenon where the electrical resistance of a material abruptly disappears below a critical temperature. The hybrid device enables the measuring of both the precise structure of the brain, and the magnetic fields that the brain

Conventional magnetic resonance imaging is performed in a long, confined

tube, and the machine makes very loud noises. The new technology enables a quiet and more open device structure: the patient lies on a bed equipped with a helmet-shaped slot for the head. ‘This makes operations smoother and the measurement situation more natural. In addition, the device is also suitable for people of all sizes,’ says Koos Zevenhoven, who leads the research group that develops the prototype’s instrumentation and methods. The prototype has taken a wide range of research and development work, and it requires sensitive components that also must be compatible with each other. The device contains liquid helium, in which the temperature is only four degrees above absolute zero (–273,15 ºC), and the distance from the helium to the patient’s head is merely a couple of centimetres. Nevertheless, the patient experiences normal room temperature. The biggest challenge is making the extremely sensitive magnetic field measurements while applying strong magnetic pulse sequences in magnetic resonance imaging. Everything needs to be designed to be as free of magnetic noise as possible so that the noise does not cover the measured signals. ‘As the technology differs from conventional MRI in all its parts, we have had to design various new devices and solutions,’ states Zevenhoven. The aim is to bring technology to a level that will be commercialised and deployed in hospitals by the end of 2021. The device has been developed in two EU projects led by Aalto University. The now-starting Business Finlandfunded project aims to ensure the applicability of the device for patient use. The total budget of the project is about EUR 1 million. • The new technology enables a quiet and more open device structure. In the photo (from left) Risto Ilmoniemi and Koos Zevenhoven. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 45


Theses

Threading the needle – together! Taking care of your clothes is an environmental act, says Marium Durrani. Communal clothing repair workshops are popular around the world and have now landed also in Finland to push against unsustainable fast fashion practices. Text: Marjukka Puolakka Photos: Nita Vera WHAT DO you do when a shirt tail rips or

a trouser zip jams? Do you get the clothes repaired? Quite a few of us answer no – sure this costs money and takes time, and I don’t know how to do it myself nor do I even have the supplies. And I can always buy a replacement. Researcher Marium Durrani thinks this isn’t how things should be, as clothes can be mended and maintained at communal workshops. ‘Repair workshops are a counter-reaction to disposable fast fashion practices and the world’s growing mountains of textile waste,’ Durrani says.

From pop-up events to continuity Durrani’s doctoral thesis in the field of design examines clothing repair events in Finland, Scotland and New Zealand. The threshold of participation in these workshops is lower because sewing instruction and supplies are available at the workshop. ‘More and more young people want to learn skills that were mundane for their grandparents, but have been forgotten by their parents.’ Some of the participants in these free events want to learn how to sew on a button or patch their jeans, while others are already quite handy and come there to share their skills with others. In Helsinki, the repair workshops have been individual pop-up happenings, but these events are more regular in Scotland and New Zealand, where they can be organised at fixed locations. ‘In New Zealand, the local municipalities of Auckland and Wellington support and provide facilities for these events. Over there, these activities have developed into communal movement, whereas in Finland events are arranged by individual fashion designers.’ In Edinburgh, Scotland, social enterprise business ventures based on the recycling of clothes have also introduced these workshops.

Grassroots influencing

Mending your shirt instead of trashing it won’t change the world, but it is a step towards more sustainable consumption. ‘Change can be brought about even if it 46 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

happens one small step at a time. There’s also strength in doing things together and once people engage in these activities they begin to recognise how their everyday actions connect with wider ecological problems, such as textile waste.’ Interest in sustainable fashion has grown powerfully in recent years. More than 1 500 clothes repair workshops around the world have registered with the Repair Café organisation, and lots of unregistered activities take place alongside them. ‘It is extremely important to support existing events and groups in order to make clothes maintenance and repair a part of people’s everyday lives.’

would combine my two passions: the clothing industry and sustainable development.’ Durrani has witnessed first-hand how international her field of research is. Born in Pakistan, Durrani completed a Bachelor’s degree in social anthropology at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). She then earned a Master’s from the University of Oslo before coming to Aalto. Her doctoral research took her to the Auckland University of Technology and the University of Edinburgh, where she worked as a visiting researcher. She looks forward to travelling the world in future, too. ‘Finland is absolutely one of my homes, but let’s see where life takes me and what opportunities it presents. Finland The world is open will always be part of me, irrespective of Durrani continues her research as a postdoctoral researcher in the Fashion/ where I am.’ Textile Futures research group at the Marium Durrani 3.12.2019: Department of Design. Through the threaded needle: a multi-sited ‘I hope that one day I’ll have my own research group. I’d also like to set up a ethnography on the sociomateriality of non-profit organisation. It’s activities garment mending practices.


ALL DOCTORAL THESES ONLINE: aaltodoc.aalto.fi; shop.aalto.fi

Black silicon’s journey from lab to production line BLACK SILICON is of great interest to

the solar cell industry. The material’s deep nanostructure enhances the efficiency of cells and ensures their excellent electrical and optical properties. This has been demonstrated by laboratory experiments. Toni Pasanen’s doctoral thesis showed that the fragile nanostructure of black silicon can also survive processing on industrial production lines undamaged. Panels made from black silicon are also good at capturing low-angle winter sunlight, making them well suited for Finnish conditions, for example. The pitch-black panels retain their efficiency up to a 60-degree angle of incidence, whereas traditional blue panels

begin to lose efficiency at a tilt of just 30 degrees. Black silicon enables the utilisation of less pure, and thus cheaper, silicon material for manufacturing solar cells. Pasanen’s research also demonstrated that black solar cells are more stable than traditional cells. These findings are great news for manufacturers, who are constantly looking for new ways to improve the effectiveness of their solar cells. Adoption of the technology researched by Pasanen won’t require major investments in new factories, as existing industrial production lines are capable of manufacturing black silicon solar cells. Toni Pasanen 15.11.2019: Defect engineering in black silicon.

The facial expressions of animated characters range from joy to shock THE FACIAL EXPRESSIONS of virtual

characters aim to mimic the ways in which real people express emotions. The goal is to generate an illusion of a living, thinking and feeling character. The traditional basic expressions of ani-

mated characters are joy, sadness, anger, fear, surprise and revulsion. Meeri Mäkäräinen’s doctoral thesis in the field of computer science studied how blending the facial expressions of animated characters made it possible to

express a broader and more diverse set of emotions. Her study demonstrates that a method based on human facial muscles can generate composite blends of the basic expressions. Blended expressions can convey more complex emotional states, such as shock, shame or schadenfreude, pleasure in the misfortune of others. An animated character’s expression of emotions can be enhanced with the aid of exaggeration. Greater exaggeration is better suited to cartoon-like characters, while more subtly exaggerated expressions are a better fit for realistic characters. If a realistic animated character is in some way unnatural, for example its facial expressions are powerfully exaggerated, the character can easily look strange. This phenomenon is called uncanny valley, and it was previously associated primarily with negative emotions like fear and anger. Mäkäräinen points out a new, more diverse side to the phenomenon: strange-looking characters can also prompt feelings of amusement. Meeri Mäkäräinen 26.11.2019: Blending and exaggeration of animated facial expressions of emotions. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 26 \ 47


Everyday choices

What’s your favourite gadget, Caterina Soldano? Professor Soldano wants to develop less intrusive devices, but believes that the best way to manage electronics overuse is to turn off your smartphone’s notifications. Text: Annamari Tolonen Photo: Jaakko Kahilaniemi

You research organic electronics. What on Earth is that? Most devices are made with components, which are manufactured from silicon and similar inorganic materials. Instead of silicon, organic electronics exploits organic molecules. One of its key advantages is that it enables the manufacturing of flexible devices, such as smart bracelets and wearable sensors or foldable screens. Today, lots of phones already have screens based on organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), organic devices which are energy-efficient and can produce deep colours. My work here at Aalto involves solving some of the key challenges related to organic electronics through both fundamental research and application-oriented studies.

mind off the workday. Could I combine my work and hobby, and start developing wearable electronics? You never know!

What’s your favourite gadget? The smartphone might not be my favourite, but I’m nevertheless hooked and don’t know how I’d manage without one. I’ve tried to limit my daily use, but this has not been very successful so far. Nowadays, smartphones have become multi-function devices that help in countless daily routines and connect me with other people in numerous ways. Another important gizmo is my sewing machine. With it, I can tap into my creativity and make new things. I started by making children’s clothes for a friend because they are small and easy to do, but now, with a bit more confidence, I’ve also started making my own clothes! For me, sewing is a great way to relax and get my

Do smart devices take up too much of our time? Not these devices themselves, but the services and content they provide. Think back to when your phone could only be used for calls and texting – how often did you glance at it back then? Today, app developers are constantly thinking of ways to capture your attention and get you to open their app or click on an ad. I think the issue is how much we allow technology to consume our time. I have myself tried to limit the amount of notifications my devices send in order to keep them from disturbing my focus. This is, however, difficult. There are so many apps that pop out notifications throughout the day.

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Do you consider some devices unnecessary or useless? I don’t think I own any useless gadgets. The utility of a device depends on each individual’s needs. Someone might consider robot vacuum cleaners pointless, but to me, formerly an owner of two cats, not having to personally hoover loose hair every day was a great help indeed. The robot provided an amusing distraction for the cats as well. I wouldn’t buy a yoghurt maker, e-reader or the latest novelty gizmo pushed by online retailers for myself, but such items can fit someone else’s everyday needs perfectly well.

Can you, as a researcher, get involved in the development of less intrusive devices? My research partly deals with how we could design less intrusive devices for use in, for example, personal health care. Organic electronics enable us to develop, say, on-skin sensors that adjust to the body’s movements without feeling uncomfortable. These can monitor the wearer’s state of health, reminding users of their presence only when something out of the ordinary is detected. The Italian Association of Women Inventors and Innovators named you the Woman Innovator of the Year in 2016, in addition to which you have also received a Special Recognition Award from the European International Woman Inventors & Innovators Network. What can be done to encourage more women to enter the field of technology? We must emphasise that both boys and girls can achieve success in any and every field. Everyone should be given the same opportunities to learn about different topics, experience success and build up their self-confidence. This encourages young people to seek out the field that they are interested in and good at, irrespective of their gender. •



Awarded Edited by Riikka Hopiavaara

CERAMIC ARTIST Matias Liimatainen

has won Design Forum Finland’s Young Designer of the Year award. Liimatainen graduated from Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. The jury lauded the dynamic qualities of his works, in which the mood is set through small, authentic measures. His use of colours is bold and the objects work from any direction.

SENIOR LEGAL COUNSEL Maria

PROFESSOR Jukka Pekola has been

awarded the Simon Memorial Prize for his considerable achievements in quantum thermodynamics, metrology and cryogenics based on nanoscale electronic devices. Jukka Pekola is Professor, Quantum Physics, at Aalto University, where he is also in charge of the national Centre of Excellence in Quantum Technology. In addition, he is the scientific director of the OtaNano national research infrastructure that is of key importance to the quantum technology field. 50 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 25

PROFESSOR Visa Koivunen has

been named a EURASIP Fellow by the European Association for Signal Processing (EURASIP). This is the highest accolade granted by the organisation. The decision was based on his significant scientific achievements in the fields of multi-sensor systems and statistical signal processing. Koivunen is only the second Finn to be named a EURASIP Fellow. He works as a Professor at the Department of Signal Processing and Acoustics.

Matias Liimatainen

Rehbinder has received the Central Association of Finnish Photographic Organizations’ Finnfoto award. Rehbinder is Aalto University’s Senior Legal Counsel and Copyright Counsellor at the University of the Arts Helsinki. For thirty years, she has worked on issues related to intellectual property rights in photography at copyright organisations, authored copyright manuals for photographers and educated photography students on these issues.



THIS ISSUE IS ABOUT • trial and error • a wooden greenhouse • wise wood construction

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