ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

February 2010

Energy

Power From Down Under
Grants recently awarded to MIT researchers by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) could help to pave the way for a method of generating electricity that produces no greenhouse gas emissions, and that could become a major contributor to meeting the world's energy needs.

Most energy analysts agree that geothermal energy-tapping the heat of bedrock deep underground to generate electricity-has enormous potential because it is available all the time, almost anywhere on Earth, and there is enough of it available, in theory, to supply all of the world's energy need for many centuries, But there are still some answered questions about it that require further research. DoE last year awarded $336 million in grants to help resolve the remaining uncertainties, and three of those grants, totaling more than $2 million, went to MIT researchers. Read more >>

Levitating Magnet Brings Space Physics to Fusion
A new experiment that reproduces the magnetic fields of the Earth and other planets has yielded its first significant results. The findings confirm that its unique approach has some potential to be developed as a new way of creating a power-producing plant based on nuclear fusion- the process that generates the sun's prodigious output of energy. Read more >>

Health

New 'Nanoburrs' Could Help Fight Heart Disease
Building on their previous work delivering cancer drugs with nanoparticles, MIT and Harvard researchers have turned their attention to cardiovascular disease, designing new particles that can cling to damaged artery walls and slowly release medicine.

The particles, dubbed "nanoburrs," are coated with tiny protein fragments that allow them to stick to damaged arterial walls. Once stuck, they can release drugs such paclitaxel, which inhibits cell division and helps prevent growth of scar tissue that can clog arteries. Read more >>

Nutrient Mix Shows Promise in Fighting Alzheimer's
In the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, patients typically suffer a major loss of the brain connections necessary for memory and information processing. Now, a combination of nutrients that was developed at MIT has shown the potential to improve memory in Alzheimer's patients by stimulating growth of new brain connections.

In a clinical trial of 225 Alzheimer's patients, researchers found that a cocktail of three naturally occurring nutrients believed to promote growth of those connections, known as synapses, plus other ingredients (B vitamins, phosopholipids and antioxidants), improved verbal memory in patients with mild Alzheimer's. Read more >>

Education

Enhancing STEM Education
A team of astronomers led by Lynn D. Matthews at the MIT Haystack Observatory has discovered a disk of gas swirling close to a young massive star, which they say offers the first evidence that massive stars form similarly to smaller stars. Because massive stars are believed to be responsible for creating most of the chemical elements in the universe that are critical for the formation of Earth-like planets and life, understanding how they form may help unravel mysteries about the origins of life. Read more >>