ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

April 2010

Innovation

MIT Looks at Fostering Innovation
MIT 's commitment to advancing scholarship that serves the country means the Institute must focus squarely on the economic challenges plaguing the nation. Students and faculty members say innovation will be a way forward-but crucial questions have to be addressed. What would a new innovation agenda look like for policymakers? What would MIT's role be? These issues and others were explored in a series of exclusive roundtable discussions convened by MIT President Susan Hockfield in March.

You can sample the first roundtable discussion, held March 1st. Major themes are indexed in the video timebar. Video trailer >>

Space

MIT Space Policy Experts Outline Vision For Human Spaceflight
In advance of President Obama's April 15th conference about the future of NASA, two leading space policy experts from MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Edward Crawley and David Mindell, have prepared a white paper to guide Congress as it prepares to respond to the Obama administration's bold new vision. The goal of the white paper, "Charting the Next Steps in a U.S. Human Spaceflight Program," is to help explain the human spaceflight aspects of the NASA budget request, outline a vision it might embody and suggest some remaining open questions that should be addressed in the near future. Read more >>

Energy

A Step Toward Lighter Batteries
Lightweight batteries that can deliver lots of energy are crucial for a variety of applications for example, improving the range of electric cars. For that reason, even modest increases in a battery's energy-density rating- a measure of amount of energy that can be delivered for a given weight-are important advances. Now a team of researchers at MIT has made significant progress on a technology that could lead to batteries with up to three times the energy density of any battery that currently exists. Read more >>

This work is funded by the Department of Energy, with additional support from the Martin Family Society of Fellows for Sustainability and the National Science Foundation.

A MIT Analysis Suggest Wind Turbines Could Cause Temperatures to Rise and Fall
Wind power has emerged as a viable renewable energy source in recent years-one that proponents say could lessen the threat of global warming. Although the American Wind Energy Association estimates that only about 2 percent of U.S. electricity is currently generated from wind turbines, the U.S. Department of Energy has said that wind power could account for a fifth of the nation's electricity supply by 2030. At very large scale, however, this technology could affect temperatures. Read more >>

This work is funded was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Corporate, Governmental and Foundation sponsors of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

Water

New Approach to Water Desalination
Portable water is often in high demand and sort supply following a natural disaster like the Haiti earthquake or Hurricane Katrina. In both of those instances, the disaster zones were near the sea, but converting salty seawater to potable fresh water usually requires a large amount of dependable electrical power and large-scale desalination plants-neither of which were available in the disaster areas.

A new approach to desalination being developed by researchers at MIT and in Korea could lead to small, portable units that could be powered by solar cells or batteries and could deliver enough fresh water to supply the needs of a family or small village. As an added bonus, the system would also remove many contaminants, viruses and bacteria at the same time. Read more >>

This work was primarily funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, as well a SMART Innovation Centre grant.

Health

Revolutionizing Medicine, One Chip at a Time
In the past several decades, microchips have transformed consumer electronics, enabling new products from digital watches and pocket-sized calculators to laptop computers and digital music players.

The next wave of this electronics revolution will involve biomedical devices, say electrical engineers in MIT's Microsystems Technology Laboratory (MTL) who are working on tiny, low-power chips that could diagnose heart problems, monitor patients with Parkinson's disease or predict seizures in epileptic patients. Such wearable or implantable devices could transform the way medicine is practiced and help cut the cost of expensive diagnostic test. Read more >>