terraXcube – only 365 days to go

From blizzards on the summits of the Himalayas to the scorching heat of the North African desert, in a year’s time, there will be a site in Bolzano where the most extreme climatic conditions on earth can be simulated. The innovative project stands out for its ability to recreate environmental factors such as air pressure, air humidity and solar radiation individually or in combination. Since the terraXcube enables researchers to investigate how the human body reacts to various extreme climatic conditions, it not only marks a revolution in environmental simulation, but also the start of a new era in medicine. The climate simulator can also be used to perform environmental research and industry tests. It is accessible to both local and international businesses and is supported by the regional government.

A lorry or two snow groomers could fit inside the climate simulator’s Large Cube, which comprises high concrete walls and is 12 metres in length. It is large enough for conducting complex tests that require a lot of space. The Small Cube in the basement consists of four smaller, independent simulation chambers. A walk-in centre, workshop and control room are just some of the service areas envisaged. All the areas should be ready for use in September 2018.

“Investigating how the human body reacts to various altitudes and extreme climatic conditions is often a challenging undertaking,” explains Hermann Brugger, an emergency doctor at Eurac Research. Last year, he was conducting research with his colleagues in the Cervinia mountains when they were almost hit by an avalanche. However, looming forces of nature are not the only factors that can impair study results and put people in danger. “Medical studies require precise, standardised and reproducible conditions, as these are the only circumstances under which results are meaningful. These considerations gave rise to the idea of the climate simulator in 2011,” continues Brugger, who – together with Stephan Ortner, the director of Eurac Research – set the wheels in motion for the terraXcube. “It was clear to us from the outset that we did not only want to use the climatic chambers for research purposes. The terraXcube is a complex and expensive facility and should therefore also be open to businesses looking to conduct high-quality industry tests,” states Ortner. The two initiators hit upon the idea at just the right time, as it was then that South Tyrol was planning the construction of the NOI Techpark.

“The terraXcube gives our companies a competitive edge and is helping to encourage other international companies to invest in South Tyrol. This is why we have decided to support this venture,” explains Governor of South Tyrol Arno Kompatscher. Ulrich Stofner, Director of Business Location Südtirol (BLS), seconds this opinion: “This pioneering infrastructure will turn South Tyrol and the NOI Techpark into an extremely attractive business location.”

The simulation chambers will not only prove invaluable during medical studies and industry tests. Eurac Research’s environmental scientists will also transport grass samples and plants from their open-air laboratory in the Matschertal valley to the Small Cube. “Here, we will research how climate changes and extreme climatic conditions affect plants and biodiversity,” reports Roland Psenner, President of Eurac Research.

terraxcube.eurac.edu

terraXcube – only 365 days to go