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Royal visit to the university

Published: 10 October 2019

Green metals, digital winter road maintenance, a VR mine experience, a demonstration of autonomous drones and of the Swedish Mars instrument HABIT. King Carl XVI Gustaf gained insight into research in a variety of fields when he visited Luleå University of Technology.

The Swedish King was earlier this week on a "sustainability trip" in Norrbotten. One of the longer stops was at Luleå University of Technology, where he received inspiring presentations and demonstrations by researchers Christina Wanhainen, Tobias Bauer, Johan Casselgren, George Nikolakopoulos, Javier Martín-Torres and María Paz Zorzano Mier.

The King got to step 1400 meters underground in the university's virtual mine, which is used by both researchers and students.

Tobias Bauer, associate professor of Ore geology, explained that thanks to VR technology, it is possible to follow the entire production process in a mine.
– I understand the principle, said the King as he tried to move in the virtual shafts and aisles.

Broad research linked to sustainability

The virtual mining environment is developed in collaboration between the University's researchers in Mining and rock engineering and Visual arts.
– It's a great honor to showcase our broad research linked to sustainability. The VR studio and the virtual mine are also fine examples of our innovative education and how new technology strengthens the learning elements in our education programmes, says Vice-chancellor Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn.

The University's research group in robotics is a world leading in developing autonomous drones that can fly outdoors and in dark and unstructured rock caverns or mines. The King was given a presentation of the technology by professor George Nikolakopoulos and learned about the resarchers collaboration with Nasa. The King got to shake hands with a humanoid and see autonomous mini drones in action.

First Swedish instrument operating on Mars

During his visit, the King also got to meet the professors of Atmospheric science Javier Martín-Torres and María Paz Zorzano Mier. They talked about ESA's next expedition to the surface of Mars, ExoMars 2020, and the multi-instrument HABIT. It's developed at Luleå University of Technology and will be mounted on a platform on the surface of Mars 
– HABIT will be the first Swedish instrument operating on the surface of Mars, says María Paz Zorzano Mier.

HABIT is an innovative instrument with multiple functions. It will, among other things, be able to investigate and quantify the landing area's three most critical environmental parameters for life as we know it: ultraviolet radiation,  thermal ranges, and access to water. It will also provide information about the Martian atmosphere.

– This technology can also be used on earth, for water farms in deserts, says Javier Martín-Torres.