ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

May 2017

Breathable-workout-suit

Photo: Hannah Cohen

Health/Convergence

Researchers design moisture-responsive workout suit

A team of MIT researchers has designed a breathable workout suit with ventilating flaps that open and close in response to an athlete’s body heat and sweat. These flaps, which range from thumbnail- to finger-sized, are lined with live microbial cells that shrink and expand in response to changes in humidity. The cells act as tiny sensors and actuators, driving the flaps to open when an athlete works up a sweat, and pulling them closed when the body has cooled off. Learn more here.

Conch shells spill the secret to their toughness

The shells of marine organisms take a beating from impacts due to storms and tides, rocky shores, and sharp-toothed predators. But as recent research has demonstrated, one type of shell stands out above all the others in its toughness: the conch. Now, researchers at MIT have explored the secrets behind these shells’ extraordinary impact resilience. And they’ve shown that this superior strength could be reproduced in engineered materials, potentially to provide the best-ever protective headgear and body armor. Learn more here.

Science & Tech

MIT-Drone-Filming-Racecars

Photo: Christine Daniloff/MIT

Cinematography on the fly

A host of recent Hollywood blockbusters have included aerial tracking shots provided by drone helicopters outfitted with cameras. Those shots required separate operators for the drones and the cameras – and careful planning to avoid collisions. But a team of researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and ETH Zurich hope to make drone cinematography more accessible, simple, and reliable. They’ve proposed a system that allows a director to specify a shot’s framing — which figures or faces appear where, at what distance. Then, on the fly, it generates control signals for a camera-equipped autonomous drone, which preserve that framing as the actors move. As long as the drone’s information about its environment is accurate, the system also guarantees that it won’t collide with either stationary or moving obstacles. Learn more here.

Toward mass-producible quantum computers

Quantum computers are experimental devices that offer large speedups on some computational problems. One promising approach to building them involves harnessing nanometer scale atomic defects in diamond materials. But practical, diamond-based quantum computing devices will require the ability to position those defects at precise locations in complex diamond structures, where the defects can function as qubits, the basic units of information in quantum computing. A team of researchers from MIT, Harvard University, and Sandia National Laboratories reports a new technique for creating targeted defects, which is simpler and more precise than its predecessors. Learn more here.

Education

First-ever winners of MITx Prize for Teaching and Learning in MOOCs announced

MIT’s Office of Digital Learning honored the winners of its inaugural MITx Prize for Teaching and Learning in MOOCs (massive open online courses) at the MITx Significant Interest Group event on Friday, May 19. The award is part of the Institute’s effort to encourage the development of new MOOC methods and technologies. The MITx Prize for Teaching and Learning recognizes educators who have devoted themselves to better engaging learners around the world through digital classrooms. Learn more here.