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Research and Outreach on Sustainability

Research units across all three faculties and the three interdisciplinary centres have developed projects and conduct research that address selected sustainability challenges that are based on theory and methods of one scientific discipline, or that are cross-disciplinary (drawing on several disciplines) or trans-disciplinary (drawing on several disciplines and embedded in practice). 

The research projects featuring in this table have been proposed by the head of research units or principal investigators on the basis that addressing a particular sustainability challenge is one of the main stated objectives in the projects summary.

Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (FHSE)

FHSE outreach project ‘MARS’ run by Conchita D’Ambrosio with Tiziana Tamborrini

M.A.R.S. is the Multidisciplinary Area of Research on Sustainability connecting differing expertise in the Faculty.
MARS envisages sustainability as a fair process of development of individuals’ and social communities’ well-being and adopts the key idea that a sustainable society builds on the dignity of life of its human beings, within and between generations, by preserving ecosystem equilibria, taking care of common goods with the provision of fair access to resources and rights, mediated by a culture of respect, caring and solidarity. MARS aims to connect expertise in the faculty in addition to raising knowledge and awareness of sustainability in the academic world as well as outreach activities:

  • October Days for SD (academic, civil society, international organisation);
  • Inequality lecture series (at EIB, lunch-time, public and put online);
  • MARS workshops;
  • Mars-Caritas Lunch debate seminars (faculty researchers participate and always someone from society).

Department of Geography and Spatial Planning (DGEO)

Includes geographers, architects, political scientists, sociologists, economists and lawyers

The main research areas include:

  • Urban patterns and dynamics (quantitative data, urban policies, etc.);
  • Migration issues: incl. social dimension, inclusion/exclusion, “spatial justice”;
  • Greening of the economy, incl. circular economy;
  • Post-growth or de-growth as alternative economies, social entrepreneurship, community-supported agriculture and sharing economies.

Department of Humanities (DHUM)

Institute for History

Research project “Sustainable Food Practices / Nachhaltige Ernährungspraktiken / Pratiques alimentaires durables”

  • Research of the transition processes towards a more sustainable food culture and its potential optimisation.
  • Focus on the involved actors from the four interdependent spheres of governance, production, diffusion and consumption.
  • Analysis of social practices that have a favorable or unfavorable influence on Luxembourg’s food transition, with a particular sensitivity for social inequalities and everyday subjectivations.
  • Aim: Strengthen sustainable perceptions and practices in the foodscape by a socio-cultural analysis of the respective reasons, challenges and negotiations of the involved actors.

For details please visit the website:

Research on Inclusion and Sustainability Science

Research on Inclusive Education focuses on impairment and disadvantage and how teaching can be organised to harness strength from diversity (for more information: TDiverS - Teaching Diverse Learners in School Subjects).

Research Group on Sustainability Science

For details please visit the website:

  • SCHOOL FUTURES: embedding future-oriented systems thinking in the school curriculum.
    • Development of learning concepts, methods and teaching materials for future-oriented systems thinking;
    • School development workshops;
    • Insights from three schools will inform on conditions for successful embedding of future-oriented systems thinking in the national curriculum.
  • NEXUS FUTURES: develop and implement collaborative systems and scenario approaches for anticipating and acting on future challenges at the water-soil-energy nexus.
  • WATGOV: Co-design of a citizen science tool for improved water governance with stakeholders.

Faculty of Science, Technology and Medicine (FSTM)

Department of Engineering (DoE) - Urban Water Management Group: Focus on municipal wastewater treatment

Research topics:

  • Micro- and nanoparticles in wastewater. Among other things, work is being done on constructed wetlands as a way of removing particles.
  • Energy consumption and production in urban cycle: smart grids, energy production, biogas production and use at wastewater treatment plants. Plants currently energy-consumers, idea is to make them produce own energy.
  • Use raw materials from wastewater in products. Efforts to recover cellulose, lipids and PHA (bio plastic) to produce carbon, biodiesel and bioplastics. The idea is make product of pollution to use it to eliminate pollution from wastewater (e.g. with coal). In accordance with ideas of circular economy.

Department of Engineering (DoE) – Geodesy and Geospatial Engineering (GGE)

The team works on four projects:

  • The VAPOUR project is funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) to provide better estimates of atmospheric water vapour, the most potent greenhouse gas, using Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) observations.
  • The International GNSS Service (IGS) Tide Gauge Benchmark Monitoring (TIGA) project is an international, non-funded community project to which the GGE team contributes as a GNSS analysis center, GNSS solution combination centre and GNSS station operator.
  • Multi-scale, multi-sensor 3D mapping using satellite and drone imagery for river flood modelling and prediction.
  • The project “Building Information Modelling (BIM) for sustainable design, construction and deconstruction” (as part of ECON4SD) aims to investigate BIM, i.e. the digital twin of a building or infrastructure, in the building phases of design, construction and deconstruction.

Some illustrations of the research results are featured below:

Figure 1: Vertical land movement estimates (red:subsidence and blue:uplift) from IGS TIGA combined solution in ITRF2008. Estimates like these are used in sea level studies to correct for the influence of land level changes.

Figure 2: An example high-resolution digital terrain model of a stream in a rural setting derived from drone imagery and used to improve flood modelling.

Department of Engineering (DoE) - Laboratory of Solid Structures: Focus on concrete materials

ECON4SD as a collaborative project: Eco-Construction for Sustainable Development involving 5 professors from FSTM and one professor from FHSE. The aim is to:

  • develop components and design models for resource and energy efficient buildings based on the construction materials concrete, steel and timber.
  • allow destruction-free dis- and re-assembly responding to changing structural demands, revitalisation or removal.
  • focus on modularity, flexibility, adaptability and upgradability with detachable connections.
  • consider the whole service life of the structural elements.
  • show how buildings can be used as material and component banks.

Expertise of the Laboratory of Solid Structures:

  • Concrete formulation (geopolymers, miscanthus or other renewable materials, structural analysis)
  • Computational engineering related to concrete (Multi-Scale Model and Numerical Simulation)

Department of Physics and Material Sciences (DPHYMS) - Photovoltaics

The photovoltaics cluster is part of the Physics and Materials Science Research Unit. The cluster consists of three closely collaborating complementary research groups, which focus on thin film solar cells. These are considered the next generation of PV, because of their lower energy and material consumption compared to conventional solar cells. The groups investigate new materials and structures for thin film solar cells, as well as advanced characterisation techniques to predict the usefulness of new materials for solar cell absorbers. An emerging topic is tandem solar cells, based on thin films, which promise much higher light to electrical power conversion efficiencies at not much higher cost. They combine two solar cells into one and make much better use of the solar spectrum.

Laboratory for Photovoltaics, Susanne Siebentritt: we study the basic semiconductor physics of chalcopyrites and develop single and tandem solar cells based on them.
Laboratory for Energy Materials, Phillip Dale: we make and study micro solar cells for low power applications and semi-transparent windows, as well as investigate new materials.
Scanning Probe Microscopy Laboratory, Alex Reding: we study surfaces and interfaces of solar cell materials on the nanometer scale and develop coevaporated hybrid perovskites.

Department of Computer Science (DCS): Parallel Computing & Optimisation Group

Focal areas are decentralised computing, complex systems and nature inspired techniques.

  • Performance evaluation of high performance computing systems in terms of their energy use.
  • Data infrastructures and a digital strategy for the University.

Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance (FDEF)

Department of Economics and Management (DEM)

Research topics that relate to sustainability include:

  • Game theory optimisations;
  • Carbon-capture and storage;
  • Resource competition, e.g. in trade wars between China and the US;
  • Waste exports;
  • Ecological economics and the valuation of ecosystem services;
  • Related accounting practices.