ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

July 2018

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Science & Tech

“Blind” Cheetah 3 robot can climb stairs littered with obstacles
MIT’s Cheetah 3 robot can now leap and gallop across rough terrain, climb a staircase littered with debris, and quickly recover its balance when suddenly yanked or shoved, all while essentially blind. Improved design may be used for exploring disaster zones and other dangerous or inaccessible environments. Read more here.

Cell-sized robots can sense their environment
Researchers at MIT have created what may be the smallest robots yet that can sense their environment, store data, and even carry out computational tasks. These devices, which are about the size of a human egg cell, consist of tiny electronic circuits made of two-dimensional materials, piggybacking on minuscule particles called colloids. Read more here.

Energy & Environment

Mass timber: Thinking big about sustainable construction
The construction and operation of all kinds of buildings requires vast amounts of energy and natural resources. Researchers around the world have long sought ways to build more efficiently, and less dependent on emissions-intensive materials.

An MIT class project  has  developed a highly energy-efficient design prototype for a large community building using one of the world’s oldest construction materials, demonstrating that even huge buildings can be built primarily with wood. Read more here.

Convergence/Health

Automating molecule design to speed up drug development
Designing new molecules for pharmaceuticals is primarily a manual, time-consuming process that’s prone to error. But MIT researchers have now taken a step toward fully automating the design process, using a machine-learning model that could help chemists make molecules with higher potencies, much more quickly.  Read more here.

Study shows where brain transforms seeing into doing
While the link between seeing and getting moving in response is simple and essential to everyday existence, neuroscientists haven’t been able to get beyond debating where the link is and how it’s made. But a team from MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory provides evidence in a new study that one crucial brain region called the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) plays an important role in converting vision into action. Read more here.

Nanoparticles give immune cells a boost
Programming the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells has had promising results for treating blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia, but has proven more challenging for solid tumors such as breast or lung cancers. Now, MIT researchers have now devised a novel way to boost the immune response against solid tumors. By developing nanoparticle “backpacks” holding immune-stimulating drugs and attaching them directly to T cells, engineers showed they could enhance those T cells’ activity without harmful side effects. In more than half of the treated animals, tumors disappeared completely. Read more here.