Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 25

Search results for: Vincenzo Maltese

25 Adapting Built Heritage to Address Climate Change: A Perspective from the Maltese Islands

Authors: Nadia Theuma


Climate change is a reality that has started to leave an impact on the physical environment as well as on the built environment, in particular built heritage. This paper explores the argument that climate change is also a trigger which can lead to identifying a number of creative solutions that can transform built heritage into sustainable buildings. Using the Maltese Islands, and in particular the city of Valletta which is also a World Heritage Site, this paper illustrates some of the innovative solutions that are being developed to make heritage buildings more sustainable and in doing so, mitigating the negative impacts of climate change. The paper looks in detail at the most notable initiatives being developed, their implementation and application, which at times is not easy considering the restrictions within protected built heritage areas and the positive impacts that they will have on visitor experience and overall sustainability of the Maltese tourism product. The paper will conclude by outlining how these solutions can be adapted to buildings with similar climatic conditions.

Keywords: built heritage, creative solutions, climate change, Maltese Islands

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24 A Collaborative Platform for Multilingual Ontology Development

Authors: Ahmed Tawfik, Fausto Giunchiglia, Vincenzo Maltese


Ontologies provide a common understanding of a specific domain of interest that can be communicated between people and used as background knowledge for automated reasoning in a wide range of applications. In this paper we address the design of multilingual ontologies following well-defined knowledge engineering methodologies with the support of novel collaborative development approaches. In particular, we present a collaborative platform which allows ontologies to be developed incrementally in multiple languages. This is made possible via an appropriate mapping between language independent concepts and one lexicalization per language (or a lexical gap in case such lexicalization does not exist). The collaborative platform has been designed to support the development of the Universal Knowledge Core, a multilingual ontology currently in English, Italian, Chinese, Mongolian, Hindi, and Bangladeshi. Its design follows a workflow-based development methodology that models resources as a set of collaborative objects and assigns customizable workflows to build and maintain each collaborative object in a community driven manner, with extensive support of modern web 2.0 social and collaborative features.

Keywords: knowledge diversity, knowledge representation, ontology, development

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23 Learning Mandarin Chinese as a Foreign Language in a Bilingual Context: Adult Learners’ Perceptions of the Use of L1 Maltese and L2 English in Mandarin Chinese Lessons in Malta

Authors: Christiana Gauci-Sciberras


The first language (L1) could be used in foreign language teaching and learning as a pedagogical tool to scaffold new knowledge in the target language (TL) upon linguistic knowledge that the learner already has. In a bilingual context, code-switching between the two languages usually occurs in classrooms. One of the reasons for code-switching is because both languages are used for scaffolding new knowledge. This research paper aims to find out why both the L1 (Maltese) and the L2 (English) are used in the classroom of Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) in the bilingual context of Malta. This research paper also aims to find out the learners’ perceptions of the use of a bilingual medium of instruction. Two research methods were used to collect qualitative data; semi-structured interviews with adult learners of Mandarin Chinese and lesson observations. These two research methods were used so that the data collected in the interviews would be triangulated with data collected in lesson observations. The L1 (Maltese) is the language of instruction mostly used. The teacher and the learners switch to the L2 (English) or to any other foreign language according to the need at a particular instance during the lesson.

Keywords: Chinese, bilingual, pedagogical purpose of L1 and L2, CFL acquisition

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22 Design Development of Floating Performance Structure for Coastal Areas in the Maltese Islands

Authors: Rebecca E. Dalli Gonzi, Joseph Falzon


Background: Islands in the Mediterranean region offer opportunities for various industries to take advantage of the facilitation and use of versatile floating structures in coastal areas. In the context of dense land use, marine structures can contribute to ensure both terrestrial and marine resource sustainability. Objective: The aim of this paper is to present and critically discuss an array of issues that characterize the design process of a floating structure for coastal areas and to present the challenges and opportunities of providing such multifunctional and versatile structures around the Maltese coastline. Research Design: A three-tier research design commenced with a systematic literature review. Semi-structured interviews with stakeholders including a naval architect, a marine engineer and civil designers were conducted. A second stage preceded a focus group with stakeholders in design and construction of marine lightweight structures. The three tier research design ensured triangulation of issues. All phases of the study were governed by research ethics. Findings: Findings were grouped into three main themes: excellence, impact and implementation. These included design considerations, applications and potential impacts on local industry. Literature for the design and construction of marine structures in the Maltese Islands presented multiple gaps in the application of marine structures for local industries. Weather conditions, depth of sea bed and wave actions presented limitations on the design capabilities of the structure. Conclusion: Water structures offer great potential and conclusions demonstrate the applicability of such designs for Maltese waters. There is still no such provision within Maltese coastal areas for multi-purpose use. The introduction of such facilities presents a range of benefits for visiting tourists and locals thereby offering wide range of services to tourism and marine industry. Costs for construction and adverse weather conditions were amongst the main limitations that shaped design capacities of the water structures.

Keywords: coastal areas, lightweight, marine structure, multi purpose, versatile, floating device

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21 The Role of Optimization and Machine Learning in e-Commerce Logistics in 2030

Authors: Vincenzo Capalbo, Gianpaolo Ghiani, Emanuele Manni


Global e-commerce sales have reached unprecedented levels in the past few years. As this trend is only predicted to go up as we continue into the ’20s, new challenges will be faced by companies when planning and controlling e-commerce logistics. In this paper, we survey the related literature on Optimization and Machine Learning as well as on combined methodologies. We also identify the distinctive features of next-generation planning algorithms - namely scalability, model-and-run features and learning capabilities - that will be fundamental to cope with the scale and complexity of logistics in the next decade.

Keywords: e-commerce, hardware acceleration, logistics, machine learning, mixed integer programming, optimization

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20 Study Habits and Level of Difficulty Encountered by Maltese Students Studying Biology Advanced Level Topics

Authors: Marthese Azzopardi, Liberato Camilleri


This research was performed to investigate the study habits and level of difficulty perceived by post-secondary students in Biology at Advanced-level topics after completing their first year of study. At the end of a two-year ‘sixth form’ course, Maltese students sit for the Matriculation and Secondary Education Certificate (MATSEC) Advanced-level biology exam as a requirement to pursue science-related studies at the University of Malta. The sample was composed of 23 students (16 taking Chemistry and seven taking some ‘Other’ subject at the Advanced Level). The cohort comprised seven males and 16 females. A questionnaire constructed by the authors, was answered anonymously during the last lecture at the end of the first year of study, in May 2016. The Chi square test revealed that gender plays no effect on the various study habits (c2 (6) = 5.873, p = 0.438). ‘Reading both notes and textbooks’ was the most common method adopted by males (71.4%), whereas ‘Writing notes on each topic’ was that mostly used by females (81.3%). The Mann-Whitney U test showed no significant difference in the study habits of students and the mean assessment mark obtained at the end of the first year course (p = 0.231). Statistical difference was found with the One-ANOVA test when comparing the mean assessment mark obtained at the end of the first year course when students are clustered by their Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) grade (p < 0.001). Those obtaining a SEC grade of 2 and 3 got the highest mean assessment of 68.33% and 66.9%, respectively [SEC grading is 1-7, where 1 is the highest]. The Friedman test was used to compare the mean difficulty rating scores provided for the difficulty of each topic. The mean difficulty rating score ranges from 1 to 4, where the larger the mean rating score, the higher the difficulty. When considering the whole group of students, nine topics out of 21 were perceived as significantly more difficult than the other topics. Protein synthesis, DNA Replication and Biomolecules were the most difficult, in that order. The Mann-Whitney U test revealed that the perceived level of difficulty in comprehending Biomolecules is significantly lower for students taking Chemistry compared to those not choosing the subject (p = 0.018). Protein Synthesis was claimed as the most difficult by Chemistry students and Biomolecules by those not studying Chemistry. DNA Replication was the second most difficult topic perceived by both groups. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to examine the effect of gender on the perceived level of difficulty in comprehending various topics. It was found that females have significantly more difficulty in comprehending Biomolecules than males (p=0.039). Protein synthesis was perceived as the most difficult topic by males (mean difficulty rating score = 3.14), while Biomolecules, DNA Replication and Protein synthesis were of equal difficulty for females (mean difficulty rating score = 3.00). Males and females perceived DNA Replication as equally difficult (mean difficulty rating score = 3.00). Discovering the students’ study habits and perceived level of difficulty of specific topics is vital for the lecturer to offer guidance that leads to higher academic achievement.

Keywords: biology, perceived difficulty, post-secondary, study habits

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19 Direct Visualization of Shear Induced Structures in Wormlike Micellar Solutions by Microfluidics and Advanced Microscopy

Authors: Carla Caiazza, Valentina Preziosi, Giovanna Tomaiuolo, Denis O'Sullivan, Vincenzo Guida, Stefano Guido


In the last decades, wormlike micellar solutions have been extensively used to tune the rheological behavior of home care and personal care products. This and other successful applications underlie the growing attention that both basic and applied research are devoting to these systems, and to their unique rheological and flow properties. One of the key research topics is the occurrence of flow instabilities at high shear rates (such as shear banding), with the possibility of appearance of flow induced structures. In this scenario, microfluidics is a powerful tool to get a deeper insight into the flow behavior of a wormlike micellar solution, as the high confinement of a microfluidic device facilitates the onset of the flow instabilities; furthermore, thanks to its small dimensions, it can be coupled with optical microscopy, allowing a direct visualization of flow structuring phenomena. Here, the flow of a widely used wormlike micellar solution through a glass capillary has been studied, by coupling the microfluidic device with μPIV techniques. The direct visualization of flow-induced structures and the flow visualization analysis highlight a relationship between solution structuring and the onset of discontinuities in the velocity profile.

Keywords: flow instabilities, flow-induced structures, μPIV, wormlike micelles

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18 A Gastro-Intestinal Model for a Rational Design of in vitro Systems to Study Drugs Bioavailability

Authors: Pompa Marcello, Mauro Capocelli, Vincenzo Piemonte


This work focuses on a mathematical model able to describe the gastro-intestinal physiology and providing a rational tool for the design of an artificial gastro-intestinal system. This latter is mainly devoted to analyse the absorption and bioavailability of drugs and nutrients through in vitro tests in order to overcome (or, at least, to partially replace) in vivo trials. The provided model realizes a conjunction ring (with extended prediction capability) between in vivo tests and mechanical-laboratory models emulating the human body. On this basis, no empirical equations controlling the gastric emptying are implemented in this model as frequent in the cited literature and all the sub-unit and the related system of equations are physiologically based. More in detail, the model structure consists of six compartments (stomach, duodenum, jejunum, ileum, colon and blood) interconnected through pipes and valves. Paracetamol, Ketoprofen, Irbesartan and Ketoconazole are considered and analysed in this work as reference drugs. The mathematical model has been validated against in vivo literature data. Results obtained show a very good model reliability and highlight the possibility to realize tailored simulations for different couples patient-drug, including food adsorption dynamics.

Keywords: gastro-intestinal model, drugs bioavailability, paracetamol, ketoprofen

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17 Effect of Birks Constant and Defocusing Parameter on Triple-to-Double Coincidence Ratio Parameter in Monte Carlo Simulation-GEANT4

Authors: Farmesk Abubaker, Francesco Tortorici, Marco Capogni, Concetta Sutera, Vincenzo Bellini


This project concerns with the detection efficiency of the portable triple-to-double coincidence ratio (TDCR) at the National Institute of Metrology of Ionizing Radiation (INMRI-ENEA) which allows direct activity measurement and radionuclide standardization for pure-beta emitter or pure electron capture radionuclides. The dependency of the simulated detection efficiency of the TDCR, by using Monte Carlo simulation Geant4 code, on the Birks factor (kB) and defocusing parameter has been examined especially for low energy beta-emitter radionuclides such as 3H and 14C, for which this dependency is relevant. The results achieved in this analysis can be used for selecting the best kB factor and the defocusing parameter for computing theoretical TDCR parameter value. The theoretical results were compared with the available ones, measured by the ENEA TDCR portable detector, for some pure-beta emitter radionuclides. This analysis allowed to improve the knowledge of the characteristics of the ENEA TDCR detector that can be used as a traveling instrument for in-situ measurements with particular benefits in many applications in the field of nuclear medicine and in the nuclear energy industry.

Keywords: Birks constant, defocusing parameter, GEANT4 code, TDCR parameter

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16 Smart Energy Consumers: An Empirical Investigation on the Intention to Adopt Innovative Consumption Behaviour

Authors: Cecilia Perri, Vincenzo Corvello


The aim of the present study is to investigate consumers' determinants of intention toward the adoption of Smart Grid solutions and technologies. Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) model is applied and tested to explain the formation of such adoption intention. An exogenous variable, taking into account the resistance to change of individuals, was added to the basic model. The elicitation study allowed obtaining salient modal beliefs, which were used, with the support of literature, to design the questionnaire. After the screening phase, data collected from the main survey were analysed for evaluating measurement model's reliability and validity. Consistent with the theory, the results of structural equation analysis revealed that attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioural control positively, which affected the adoption intention. Specifically, the variable with the highest estimate loading factor was found to be the perceived behavioural control, and, the most important belief related to each construct was determined (e.g., energy saving was observed to be the most significant belief linked with attitude). Further investigation indicated that the added exogenous variable has a negative influence on intention; this finding confirmed partially the hypothesis, since this influence was indirect: such relationship was mediated by attitude. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Keywords: adoption of innovation, consumers behaviour, energy management, smart grid, theory of planned behaviour

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15 Drug-Drug Plasma Protein Binding Interactions of Ivacaftor

Authors: Elena K. Schneider, Johnny X. Huang, Vincenzo Carbone, Mark Baker, Mohammad A. K. Azad, Matthew A. Cooper, Jian Li, Tony Velkov


Ivacaftor is a novel CF trans-membrane conductance regulator (CFTR) potentiator that improves the pulmonary function for cystic fibrosis patients bearing a G551D CFTR-protein mutation. Because ivacaftor is highly bound (>97%) to plasma proteins, there is the strong possibility that co-administered CF drugs that compete for the same plasma protein binding sites and impact the free drug concentration. This in turn could lead to drastic changes in the in vivo efficacy of ivacaftor and therapeutic outcomes. This study compares the binding affinity of ivacaftor and co-administered CF drugs for human serum albumin (HSA) and α1-acid glycoprotein (AGP) using surface plasmon resonance and fluorimetric binding assays that measure the displacement of site selective probes. Due to their high plasma protein binding affinities, drug-drug interactions between ivacaftor are to be expected with ducosate, montelukast, ibuprofen, dicloxacillin, omeprazole and loratadine. The significance of these drug-drug interactions is interpreted in terms of the pharmacodynamic/pharmacokinetic parameters and molecular docking simulations. The translational outcomes of the data are presented as recommendations for a staggered treatment regimen for future clinical trials which aims to maximize the effective free drug concentration and clinical efficacy of ivacaftor.

Keywords: human α-1-acid glycoprotein, binding affinity, human serum albumin, ivacaftor, cystic fibrosis

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14 Development and Control of Deep Seated Gravitational Slope Deformation: The Case of Colzate-Vertova Landslide, Bergamo, Northern Italy

Authors: Paola Comella, Vincenzo Francani, Paola Gattinoni


This paper presents the Colzate-Vertova landslide, a Deep Seated Gravitational Slope Deformation (DSGSD) located in the Seriana Valley, Northern Italy. The paper aims at describing the development as well as evaluating the factors that influence the evolution of the landslide. After defining the conceptual model of the landslide, numerical simulations were developed using a finite element numerical model, first with a two-dimensional domain, and later with a three-dimensional one. The results of the 2-D model showed a displacement field typical of a sackung, as a consequence of the erosion along the Seriana Valley. The analysis also showed that the groundwater flow could locally affect the slope stability, bringing about a reduction in the safety factor, but without reaching failure conditions. The sensitivity analysis carried out on the strength parameters pointed out that slope failures could be reached only for relevant reduction of the geotechnical characteristics. Such a result does not fit the real conditions observed on site, where a number of small failures often develop all along the hillslope. The 3-D model gave a more comprehensive analysis of the evolution of the DSGSD, also considering the border effects. The results showed that the convex profile of the slope favors the development of displacements along the lateral valley, with a relevant reduction in the safety factor, justifying the existing landslides.

Keywords: deep seated gravitational slope deformation, Italy, landslide, numerical modeling

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13 Hysteresis Modeling in Iron-Dominated Magnets Based on a Deep Neural Network Approach

Authors: Maria Amodeo, Pasquale Arpaia, Marco Buzio, Vincenzo Di Capua, Francesco Donnarumma


Different deep neural network architectures have been compared and tested to predict magnetic hysteresis in the context of pulsed electromagnets for experimental physics applications. Modelling quasi-static or dynamic major and especially minor hysteresis loops is one of the most challenging topics for computational magnetism. Recent attempts at mathematical prediction in this context using Preisach models could not attain better than percent-level accuracy. Hence, this work explores neural network approaches and shows that the architecture that best fits the measured magnetic field behaviour, including the effects of hysteresis and eddy currents, is the nonlinear autoregressive exogenous neural network (NARX) model. This architecture aims to achieve a relative RMSE of the order of a few 100 ppm for complex magnetic field cycling, including arbitrary sequences of pseudo-random high field and low field cycles. The NARX-based architecture is compared with the state-of-the-art, showing better performance than the classical operator-based and differential models, and is tested on a reference quadrupole magnetic lens used for CERN particle beams, chosen as a case study. The training and test datasets are a representative example of real-world magnet operation; this makes the good result obtained very promising for future applications in this context.

Keywords: deep neural network, magnetic modelling, measurement and empirical software engineering, NARX

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12 A Flexible Real-Time Eco-Drive Strategy for Electric Minibus

Authors: Felice De Luca, Vincenzo Galdi, Piera Stella, Vito Calderaro, Adriano Campagna, Antonio Piccolo


Sustainable mobility has become one of the major issues of recent years. The challenge in reducing polluting emissions as much as possible has led to the production and diffusion of vehicles with internal combustion engines that are less polluting and to the adoption of green energy vectors, such as vehicles powered by natural gas or LPG and, more recently, with hybrid and electric ones. While on the one hand, the spread of electric vehicles for private use is becoming a reality, albeit rather slowly, not the same is happening for vehicles used for public transport, especially those that operate in the congested areas of the cities. Even if the first electric buses are increasingly being offered on the market, it remains central to the problem of autonomy for battery fed vehicles with high daily routes and little time available for recharging. In fact, at present, solid-state batteries are still too large in size, heavy, and unable to guarantee the required autonomy. Therefore, in order to maximize the energy management on the vehicle, the optimization of driving profiles offer a faster and cheaper contribution to improve vehicle autonomy. In this paper, following the authors’ precedent works on electric vehicles in public transport and energy management strategies in the electric mobility area, an eco-driving strategy for electric bus is presented and validated. Particularly, the characteristics of the prototype bus are described, and a general-purpose eco-drive methodology is briefly presented. The model is firstly simulated in MATLAB™ and then implemented on a mobile device installed on-board of a prototype bus developed by the authors in a previous research project. The solution implemented furnishes the bus-driver suggestions on the guide style to adopt. The result of the test in a real case will be shown to highlight the effectiveness of the solution proposed in terms of energy saving.

Keywords: eco-drive, electric bus, energy management, prototype

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11 The Hydrotrope-Mediated, Low-Temperature, Aqueous Dissolution of Maize Starch

Authors: Jeroen Vinkx, Jan A. Delcour, Bart Goderis


Complete aqueous dissolution of starch is notoriously difficult. A high-temperature autoclaving process is necessary, followed by cooling the solution below its boiling point. The cooled solution is inherently unstable over time. Gelation and retrogradation processes, along with aggregation-induced by undissolved starch remnants, result in starch precipitation. We recently observed the spontaneous gelatinization of native maize starch (MS) in aqueous sodium salicylate (NaSal) solutions at room temperature. A hydrotropic mode of solubilization is hypothesized. Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and polarized optical microscopy (POM) of starch dispersions in NaSal solution were used to demonstrate the room temperature gelatinization of MS at different concentrations of MS and NaSal. The DSC gelatinization peak shifts to lower temperatures, and the gelatinization enthalpy decreases with increasing NaSal concentration. POM images confirm the same trend through the disappearance of the ‘Maltese cross’ interference pattern of starch granules. The minimal NaSal concentration to induce complete room temperature dissolution of MS was found to be around 15-20 wt%. The MS content of the dispersion has little influence on the amount of NaSal needed to dissolve it. The effect of the NaSal solution on the MS molecular weight was checked with HPSEC. It is speculated that, because of its amphiphilic character, NaSal enhances the solubility of MS in water by association with the more hydrophobic MS moieties, much like urea, which has also been used to enhance starch dissolution in alkaline aqueous media. As such small molecules do not tend to form micelles in water, they are called hydrotropes rather than surfactants. A minimal hydrotrope concentration (MHC) is necessary for the hydrotropes to structure themselves in water, resulting in a higher solubility of MS. This is the case for the system MS/NaSal/H₂O. Further investigations into the putative hydrotropic dissolution mechanism are necessary.

Keywords: hydrotrope, dissolution, maize starch, sodium salicylate, gelatinization

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10 Enhancing Green Infrastructure as a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy in Addis Ababa: Unlocking Institutional, Socio-Cultural and Cognitive Barriers for Application

Authors: Eyasu Markos Woldesemayat, Paolo Vincenzo Genovese


In recent years with an increase in the concentration of Green House Gases (GHG), Climate Change (CC) externalities are mounting, regardless of governments, are scrambling to implement mitigation and adaptation measures. With multiple social, economic and environmental benefits, Green Infrastructure (GI) has evolved as a highly valuable policy tool to promote sustainable development and smart growth by meeting multiple objectives towards quality of life. However, despite the wide range of benefits, it's uptake in African cities such as Addis Ababa is very low due to several constraining factors. This study, through content analysis and key informant interviews, examined barriers for the uptake of GI among spatial planners in Addis Ababa. Added to this, the study has revealed that the spatial planners had insufficient knowledge about GI planning principles such as multi-functionality, integration, and connectivity, and multiscale. The practice of implementing these holistic principles in urban spatial planning is phenomenally nonexistent. The findings also revealed 20 barriers categorized under four themes, i.e., institutional, socio-cultural, resource, and cognitive barriers. Similarly, it was identified that institutional barriers (0.756), socio-cultural barriers (0.730), cognitive barriers (0.700) and resource barriers (0.642), respectively, are the foremost impending factors for the promotion of GI in Addis Ababa. It was realized that resource barriers were the least constraining factor for enshrining the GI uptake in the city. Strategies to hasten the adoption of GI in the city mainly focus on improving political will, harmonization sectorial plans, improve spatial planning and implementation practice, prioritization of GI in all planning activities, enforcement of environmental laws, introducing collaborative GI governance, creating strong and stable institutions and raising awareness on the need to conserve environment and CC externalities through education and outreach mechanisms.

Keywords: Addis Ababa, climate change, green infrastructure, spatial planning, spatial planners

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9 The Effect of the Pronunciation of Emphatic Sounds on Perceived Masculinity/Femininity

Authors: M. Sayyour, M. Abdulkareem, O. Osman, S. Salmeh


Emphatic sounds in Arabic are /tˤ/, /sˤ/, /dˤ/, and /ðˤ/. They involve a secondary articulation in the pharynx area as opposed to their counterparts: /t/,/s/,/d/and /ð/. Although they are present in most Arabic dialects, some dialects have lost this class as a historical development, such as Maltese Arabic. It has been found that there is a difference in the pronunciation of these emphatic sounds between the two genders, arguing that males tend to produce more evident emphasis than females. This study builds on these studies by trying to investigate whether listeners perceive fully emphatic sounds as more masculine and less emphatic sounds as more feminine. Furthermore, the study aims to find out which is more important in this perception process: the emphatic consonant itself or the vowel following it. To test this, natural and manipulated tokens of two male and two female speakers were used. The natural tokens include words that have emphatic consonant and emphatic vowel and tokens that have plain consonant and plain vowel. The manipulated tokens include words that have emphatic consonant but central vowel and plain consonant followed by the same central vowel. These manipulated tokens allow us to see whether the consonant will still affect the perception even if the vowel is controlled. Another group of words that contained no emphatic sounds was used as a control group. The total number of tokens (natural, manipulated, and control) are 160 tokens. After that, 60 university students (30 males and 30 females) listened to these tokens and responded by choosing a specific character that they think is likely to produce each token. The characters’ descriptions are carefully written with two degrees of femininity and two degrees of masculinity. The preliminary results for the femininity level showed that the highest degree of femininity was for tokens that contain a plain consonant and a plain vowel. The lowest level of femininity was given for tokens that have fully emphatic consonant and vowel. For the manipulated tokens that contained plain consonant and central vowel, the femininity degree was high which indicates that the consonant is more important than the vowel, while for the manipulated tokens that contain emphatic consonant and a central vowel, the femininity level was higher than that for the tokens that have emphatic consonant and emphatic vowel, which indicates that the vowel is more important for the perception of emphatic consonants. These results are interpreted in light of feminist linguistic theories, linguistic expectations, performed gender and linguistic change theories.

Keywords: Emphatic sounds, gender studies, perception, sociophonetics

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8 Adsorptive Media Selection for Bilirubin Removal: An Adsorption Equilibrium Study

Authors: Vincenzo Piemonte


The liver is a complex, large-scale biochemical reactor which plays a unique role in the human physiology. When liver ceases to perform its physiological activity, a functional replacement is required. Actually, liver transplantation is the only clinically effective method of treating severe liver disease. Anyway, the aforementioned therapeutic approach is hampered by the disparity between organ availability and the number of patients on the waiting list. In order to overcome this critical issue, research activities focused on liver support device systems (LSDs) designed to bridging patients to transplantation or to keep them alive until the recovery of native liver function. In recirculating albumin dialysis devices, such as MARS (Molecular Adsorbed Recirculating System), adsorption is one of the fundamental steps in albumin-dialysate regeneration. Among the albumin-bound toxins that must be removed from blood during liver-failure therapy, bilirubin and tryptophan can be considered as representative of two different toxin classes. The first one, not water soluble at physiological blood pH and strongly bounded to albumin, the second one, loosely albumin bound and partially water soluble at pH 7.4. Fixed bed units are normally used for this task, and the design of such units requires information both on toxin adsorption equilibrium and kinetics. The most common adsorptive media used in LSDs are activated carbon, non-ionic polymeric resins and anionic resins. In this paper, bilirubin adsorption isotherms on different adsorptive media, such as polymeric resin, albumin-coated resin, anionic resin, activated carbon and alginate beads with entrapped albumin are presented. By comparing all the results, it can be stated that the adsorption capacity for bilirubin of the five different media increases in the following order: Alginate beads < Polymeric resin < Albumin-coated resin < Activated carbon < Anionic resin. The main focus of this paper is to provide useful guidelines for the optimization of liver support devices which implement adsorption columns to remove albumin-bound toxins from albumin dialysate solutions.

Keywords: adsorptive media, adsorption equilibrium, artificial liver devices, bilirubin, mathematical modelling

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7 In-Plume H₂O, CO₂, H₂S and SO₂ in the Fumarolic Field of La Fossa Cone (Vulcano Island, Aeolian Archipelago)

Authors: Cinzia Federico, Gaetano Giudice, Salvatore Inguaggiato, Marco Liuzzo, Maria Pedone, Fabio Vita, Christoph Kern, Leonardo La Pica, Giovannella Pecoraino, Lorenzo Calderone, Vincenzo Francofonte


The periods of increased fumarolic activity at La Fossa volcano have been characterized, since early 80's, by changes in the gas chemistry and in the output rate of fumaroles. Excepting the direct measurements of the steam output from fumaroles performed from 1983 to 1995, the mass output of the single gas species has been recently measured, with various methods, only sporadically or for short periods. Since 2008, a scanning DOAS system is operating in the Palizzi area for the remote measurement of the in-plume SO₂ flux. On these grounds, the need of a cross-comparison of different methods for the in situ measurement of the output rate of different gas species is envisaged. In 2015, two field campaigns have been carried out, aimed at: 1. The mapping of the concentration of CO₂, H₂S and SO₂ in the fumarolic plume at 1 m from the surface, by using specific open-path diode tunable lasers (GasFinder Boreal Europe Ltd.) and an Active DOAS for SO₂, respectively; these measurements, coupled to simultaneous ultrasonic wind speed and meteorological data, have been elaborated to obtain the dispersion map and the output rate of single species in the overall fumarolic field; 2. The mapping of the concentrations of CO₂, H₂S, SO₂, H₂O in the fumarolic plume at 0.5 m from the soil, by using an integrated system, including IR spectrometers and specific electrochemical sensors; this has provided the concentration ratios of the analysed gas species and their distribution in the fumarolic field; 3. The in-fumarole sampling of vapour and measurement of the steam output, to validate the remote measurements. The dispersion map of CO₂, obtained from the tunable laser measurements, shows a maximum CO₂ concentration at 1m from the soil of 1000 ppmv along the rim, and 1800 ppmv in the inner slopes. As observed, the largest contribution derives from a wide fumarole of the inner-slope, despite its present outlet temperature of 230°C, almost 200°C lower than those measured at the rim fumaroles. Actually, fumaroles in the inner slopes are among those emitting the largest amount of magmatic vapour and, during the 1989-1991 crisis, reached the temperature of 690°C. The estimated CO₂ and H₂S fluxes are 400 t/d and 4.4 t/d, respectively. The coeval SO₂ flux, measured by the scanning DOAS system, is 9±1 t/d. The steam output, recomputed from CO₂ flux measurements, is about 2000 t/d. The various direct and remote methods (as described at points 1-3) have produced coherent results, which encourage to the use of daily and automatic DOAS SO₂ data, coupled with periodic in-plume measurements of different acidic gases, to obtain the total mass rates.

Keywords: DOAS, fumaroles, plume, tunable laser

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6 Microbial Fuel Cells: Performance and Applications

Authors: Andrea Pietrelli, Vincenzo Ferrara, Bruno Allard, Francois Buret, Irene Bavasso, Nicola Lovecchio, Francesca Costantini, Firas Khaled


This paper aims to show some applications of microbial fuel cells (MFCs), an energy harvesting technique, as clean power source to supply low power device for application like wireless sensor network (WSN) for environmental monitoring. Furthermore, MFC can be used directly as biosensor to analyse parameters like pH and temperature or arranged in form of cluster devices in order to use as small power plant. An MFC is a bioreactor that converts energy stored in chemical bonds of organic matter into electrical energy, through a series of reactions catalysed by microorganisms. We have developed a lab-scale terrestrial microbial fuel cell (TMFC), based on soil that acts as source of bacteria and flow of nutrient and a lab-scale waste water microbial fuel cell (WWMFC), where waste water acts as flow of nutrient and bacteria. We performed large series of tests to exploit the capability as biosensor. The pH value has strong influence on the open circuit voltage (OCV) delivered from TMFCs. We analyzed three condition: test A and B were filled with same soil but changing pH from 6 to 6.63, test C was prepared using a different soil with a pH value of 6.3. Experimental results clearly show how with higher pH value a higher OCV was produced; indeed reactors are influenced by different values of pH which increases the voltage in case of a higher pH value until the best pH value of 7 is achieved. The influence of pH on OCV of lab-scales WWMFC was analyzed at pH value of 6.5, 7, 7.2, 7.5 and 8. WWMFCs are influenced from temperature more than TMFCs. We tested the power performance of WWMFCs considering four imposed values of ambient temperature. Results show how power performance increase proportionally with higher temperature values, doubling the output power from 20° to 40°. The best value of power produced from our lab-scale TMFC was equal to 310 μW using peaty soil, at 1KΩ, corresponding to a current of 0.5 mA. A TMFC can supply proper energy to low power devices of a WSN by means of the design of three stages scheme of an energy management system, which adapts voltage level of TMFC to those required by a WSN node, as 3.3V. Using a commercial DC/DC boost converter, that needs an input voltage of 700 mV, the current source of 0.5 mA, charges a capacitor of 6.8 mF until it will have accumulated an amount of charge equal to 700 mV in a time of 10 s. The output stage includes an output switch that close the circuit after a time of 10s + 1.5ms because the converter can boost the voltage from 0.7V to 3.3V in 1.5 ms. Furthermore, we tested in form of clusters connected in series up to 20 WWMFCs, we have obtained a high voltage value as output, around 10V, but low current value. MFC can be considered a suitable clean energy source to be used to supply low power devices as a WSN node or to be used directly as biosensor.

Keywords: energy harvesting, low power electronics, microbial fuel cell, terrestrial microbial fuel cell, waste-water microbial fuel cell, wireless sensor network

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5 Reuse of Historic Buildings for Tourism: Policy Gaps

Authors: Joseph Falzon, Margaret Nelson


Background: Regeneration and re-use of abandoned historic buildings present a continuous challenge for policy makers and stakeholders in the tourism and leisure industry. Obsolete historic buildings provide great potential for tourism and leisure accommodation, presenting unique heritage experiences to travellers and host communities. Contemporary demands in the hospitality industry continuously require higher standards, some of which are in conflict with heritage conservation principles. Objective: The aim of this research paper is to critically discuss regeneration policies with stakeholders of the tourism and leisure industry and to examine current practices in policy development and the resultant impact of policies on the Maltese tourism and leisure industry. Research Design: Six semi-structured interviews with stakeholders involved in the tourism and leisure industry participated in the research. A number of measures were taken to reduce bias and thus improve trustworthiness. Clear statements of the purpose of the research study were provided at the start of each interview to reduce expectancy bias. The interviews were semi-structured to minimise interviewer bias. Interviewees were allowed to expand and elaborate as necessary, with only necessary probing questions, to allow free expression of opinion and practices. Interview guide was submitted to participants at least two weeks before the interview to allow participants to prepare for the interview and prevent recall bias during the interview as much as possible. Interview questions and probes contained both positive and negative aspects to prevent interviewer bias. Policy documents were available during the interview to prevent recall bias. Interview recordings were transcribed ‘intelligent’ verbatim. Analysis was carried out using thematic analysis with the coding frame developed independently by two researchers. All phases of the study were governed by research ethics. Findings: Findings were grouped in main themes: financing of regeneration, governance, legislation and policies. Other key issues included value of historic buildings and approaches for regeneration. Whist regeneration of historic buildings was noted, participants discussed a number of barriers that hindered regeneration. Stakeholders identified gaps in policies and gaps at policy implementation stages. European Union funding policies facilitated regeneration initiatives but funding criteria based on economic deliverables presented the intangible heritage gap. Stakeholders identified niche markets for heritage tourism accommodation. Lack of research-based policies was also identified. Conclusion: Potential of regeneration is hindered by inadequate legal framework that supports contemporary needs of the tourism industry. Policies should be developed by active stakeholder participation. Adequate funding schemes have to support the tangible and intangible components of the built heritage.

Keywords: governance, historic buildings, policy, tourism

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4 The Interactive Wearable Toy "+Me", for the Therapy of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Preliminary Results

Authors: Beste Ozcan, Valerio Sperati, Laura Romano, Tania Moretta, Simone Scaffaro, Noemi Faedda, Federica Giovannone, Carla Sogos, Vincenzo Guidetti, Gianluca Baldassarre


+me is an experimental interactive toy with the appearance of a soft, pillow-like, panda. Shape and consistency are designed to arise emotional attachment in young children: a child can wear it around his/her neck and treat it as a companion (i.e. a transitional object). When caressed on paws or head, the panda emits appealing, interesting outputs like colored lights or amusing sounds, thanks to embedded electronics. Such sensory patterns can be modified through a wirelessly connected tablet: by this, an adult caregiver can adapt +me responses to a child's reactions or requests, for example, changing the light hue or the type of sound. The toy control is therefore shared, as it depends on both the child (who handles the panda) and the adult (who manages the tablet and mediates the sensory input-output contingencies). These features make +me a potential tool for therapy with children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ND), characterized by impairments in the social area, like Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Language Disorders (LD): as a proposal, the toy could be used together with a therapist, in rehabilitative play activities aimed at encouraging simple social interactions and reinforcing basic relational and communication skills. +me was tested in two pilot experiments, the first one involving 15 Typically Developed (TD) children aged in 8-34 months, the second one involving 7 children with ASD, and 7 with LD, aged in 30-48 months. In both studies a researcher/caregiver, during a one-to-one, ten-minute activity plays with the panda and encourages the child to do the same. The purpose of both studies was to ascertain the general acceptability of the device as an interesting toy that is an object able to capture the child's attention and to maintain a high motivation to interact with it and with the adult. Behavioral indexes for estimating the interplay between the child, +me and caregiver were rated from the video recording of the experimental sessions. Preliminary results show how -on average- participants from 3 groups exhibit a good engagement: they touch, caress, explore the panda and show enjoyment when they manage to trigger luminous and sound responses. During the experiments, children tend to imitate the caregiver's actions on +me, often looking (and smiling) at him/her. Interesting behavioral differences between TD, ASD, and LD groups are scored: for example, ASD participants produce a fewer number of smiles both to panda and to a caregiver with respect to TD group, while LD scores stand between ASD and TD subjects. These preliminary observations suggest that the interactive toy +me is able to raise and maintain the interest of toddlers and therefore it can be reasonably used as a supporting tool during therapy, to stimulate pivotal social skills as imitation, turn-taking, eye contact, and social smiles. Interestingly, the young age of participants, along with the behavioral differences between groups, seem to suggest a further potential use of the device: a tool for early differential diagnosis (the average age of a child

Keywords: autism spectrum disorders, interactive toy, social interaction, therapy, transitional wearable companion

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3 Biomass Waste-To-Energy Technical Feasibility Analysis: A Case Study for Processing of Wood Waste in Malta

Authors: G. A. Asciak, C. Camilleri, A. Rizzo


The waste management in Malta is a national challenge. Coupled with Malta’s recent economic boom, which has seen massive growth in several sectors, especially the construction industry, drastic actions need to be taken. Wood waste, currently being dumped in landfills, is one type of waste which has increased astronomically. This research study aims to carry out a thorough examination on the possibility of using this waste as a biomass resource and adopting a waste-to-energy technology in order to generate electrical energy. This study is composed of three distinct yet interdependent phases, namely, data collection from the local SMEs, thermal analysis using the bomb calorimeter, and generation of energy from wood waste using a micro biomass plant. Data collection from SMEs specializing in wood works was carried out to obtain information regarding the available types of wood waste, the annual weight of imported wood, and to analyse the manner in which wood shavings are used after wood is manufactured. From this analysis, it resulted that five most common types of wood available in Malta which would suitable for generating energy are Oak (hardwood), Beech (hardwood), Red Beech (softwood), African Walnut (softwood) and Iroko (hardwood). Subsequently, based on the information collected, a thermal analysis using a 6200 Isoperibol calorimeter on the five most common types of wood was performed. This analysis was done so as to give a clear indication with regards to the burning potential, which will be valuable when testing the wood in the biomass plant. The experiments carried out in this phase provided a clear indication that the African Walnut generated the highest gross calorific value. This means that this type of wood released the highest amount of heat during the combustion in the calorimeter. This is due to the high presence of extractives and lignin, which accounts for a slightly higher gross calorific value. This is followed by Red Beech and Oak. Moreover, based on the findings of the first phase, both the African Walnut and Red Beech are highly imported in the Maltese Islands for use in various purposes. Oak, which has the third highest gross calorific value is the most imported and common wood used. From the five types of wood, three were chosen for use in the power plant on the basis of their popularity and their heating values. The PP20 biomass plant was used to burn the three types of shavings in order to compare results related to the estimated feedstock consumed by the plant, the high temperatures generated, the time taken by the plant to produce gasification temperatures, and the projected electrical power attributed to each wood type. From the experiments, it emerged that whilst all three types reached the required gasification temperature and thus, are feasible for electrical energy generation. African Walnut was deemed to be the most suitable fast-burning fuel. This is followed by Red-beech and Oak, which required a longer period of time to reach the required gasification temperatures. The results obtained provide a clear indication that wood waste can not only be treated instead of being dumped in dumped in landfill but coupled.

Keywords: biomass, isoperibol calorimeter, waste-to-energy technology, wood

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2 Microsimulation of Potential Crashes as a Road Safety Indicator

Authors: Vittorio Astarita, Giuseppe Guido, Vincenzo Pasquale Giofre, Alessandro Vitale


Traffic microsimulation has been used extensively to evaluate consequences of different traffic planning and control policies in terms of travel time delays, queues, pollutant emissions, and every other common measured performance while at the same time traffic safety has not been considered in common traffic microsimulation packages as a measure of performance for different traffic scenarios. Vehicle conflict techniques that were introduced at intersections in the early traffic researches carried out at the General Motor laboratory in the USA and in the Swedish traffic conflict manual have been applied to vehicles trajectories simulated in microscopic traffic simulators. The concept is that microsimulation can be used as a base for calculating the number of conflicts that will define the safety level of a traffic scenario. This allows engineers to identify unsafe road traffic maneuvers and helps in finding the right countermeasures that can improve safety. Unfortunately, most commonly used indicators do not consider conflicts between single vehicles and roadside obstacles and barriers. A great number of vehicle crashes take place with roadside objects or obstacles. Only some recent proposed indicators have been trying to address this issue. This paper introduces a new procedure based on the simulation of potential crash events for the evaluation of safety levels in microsimulation traffic scenarios, which takes into account also potential crashes with roadside objects and barriers. The procedure can be used to define new conflict indicators. The proposed simulation procedure generates with the random perturbation of vehicle trajectories a set of potential crashes which can be evaluated accurately in terms of DeltaV, the energy of the impact, and/or expected number of injuries or casualties. The procedure can also be applied to real trajectories giving birth to new surrogate safety performance indicators, which can be considered as “simulation-based”. The methodology and a specific safety performance indicator are described and applied to a simulated test traffic scenario. Results indicate that the procedure is able to evaluate safety levels both at the intersection level and in the presence of roadside obstacles. The procedure produces results that are expressed in the same unity of measure for both vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to roadside object conflicts. The total energy for a square meter of all generated crash can be used and is shown on the map, for the test network, after the application of a threshold to evidence the most dangerous points. Without any detailed calibration of the microsimulation model and without any calibration of the parameters of the procedure (standard values have been used), it is possible to identify dangerous points. A preliminary sensitivity analysis has shown that results are not dependent on the different energy thresholds and different parameters of the procedure. This paper introduces a specific new procedure and the implementation in the form of a software package that is able to assess road safety, also considering potential conflicts with roadside objects. Some of the principles that are at the base of this specific model are discussed. The procedure can be applied on common microsimulation packages once vehicle trajectories and the positions of roadside barriers and obstacles are known. The procedure has many calibration parameters and research efforts will have to be devoted to make confrontations with real crash data in order to obtain the best parameters that have the potential of giving an accurate evaluation of the risk of any traffic scenario.

Keywords: road safety, traffic, traffic safety, traffic simulation

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1 Review of Health Disparities in Migrants Attending the Emergency Department with Acute Mental Health Presentations

Authors: Jacqueline Eleonora Ek, Michael Spiteri, Chris Giordimaina, Pierre Agius


Background: Malta is known for being a key player as a frontline country with regard to irregular immigration from Africa to Europe. Every year the island experiences an influx of migrants as boat movement across the Mediterranean continues to be a humanitarian challenge. Irregular immigration and applying for asylum is both a lengthy and mentally demanding process. Those doing so are often faced with multiple challenges, which can adversely affect their mental health. Between January and August 2020, Malta disembarked 2 162 people rescued at sea, 463 of them between July & August. Given the small size of the Maltese islands, this regulation places a disproportionately large burden on the country, creating a backlog in the processing of asylum applications resulting in increased time periods of detention. These delays reverberate throughout multiple management pathways resulting in prolonged periods of detention and challenging access to health services. Objectives: To better understand the spatial dimensions of this humanitarian crisis, this study aims to assess disparities in the acute medical management of migrants presenting to the emergency department (ED) with acute mental health presentations as compared to that of local and non-local residents. Method: In this retrospective study, 17795 consecutive ED attendances were reviewed to look for acute mental health presentations. These were further evaluated to assess discrepancies in transportation routes to hospital, nature of presenting complaint, effects of language barriers, use of CT brain, treatment given at ED, availability of psychiatric reviews, and final admission/discharge plans. Results: Of the ED attendances, 92.3% were local residents, and 7.7% were non-locals. Of the non-locals, 13.8% were migrants, and 86.2% were other-non-locals. Acute mental health presentations were seen in 1% of local residents; this increased to 20.6% in migrants. 56.4% of migrants attended with deliberate self-harm; this was lower in local residents, 28.9%. Contrastingly, in local residents, the most common presenting complaint was suicidal thought/ low mood 37.3%, the incidence was similar in migrants at 33.3%. The main differences included 12.8% of migrants presenting with refused oral intake while only 0.6% of local residents presented with the same complaints. 7.7% of migrants presented with a reduced level of consciousness, no local residents presented with this same issue. Physicians documented a language barrier in 74.4% of migrants. 25.6% were noted to be completely uncommunicative. Further investigations included the use of a CT scan in 12% of local residents and in 35.9% of migrants. The most common treatment administered to migrants was supportive fluids 15.4%, the most common in local residents was benzodiazepines 15.1%. Voluntary psychiatric admissions were seen in 33.3% of migrants and 24.7% of locals. Involuntary admissions were seen in 23% of migrants and 13.3% of locals. Conclusion: Results showed multiple disparities in health management. A meeting was held between entities responsible for migrant health in Malta, including the emergency department, primary health care, migrant detention services, and Malta Red Cross. Currently, national quality-improvement initiatives are underway to form new pathways to improve patient-centered care. These include an interpreter unit, centralized handover sheets, and a dedicated migrant health service.

Keywords: emergency department, communication, health, migration

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