ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

January 2010

Energy

MIT's Big Wheel in Copenhagen
It looks like an ordinary bicycle wheel with an oversized center. But packed inside that unassuming hub is a veritable Swiss army knife's worth of electronic gadgets and novel functions.

The new wheel, developed by researchers at MIT, can store energy every time the rider puts on the brakes, and then give that power back to provide a boost when going uphill or to add a burst of speed in traffic. But there are also a variety of extra functions hidden within the hub of this new wheel, which is designed to be easily interchangeable with any standard bicycle's rear wheel. Read more >>

Figuring Out Where To Put The Carbon
To meet our immediate energy needs without exacerbating climate change, most experts agree, we'll need to find a way to store the carbon dioxide given off by the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. But no full-scale storage systems exist, and the plans to create them have many unknowns.

New projects at MIT could help fill that information gap. At the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting last month in San Francisco, two teams explained how they are addressing some of the uncertainties over carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Many scientists view CCS as a promising way to dramatically reduce the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. Read more >>

Health

Silencing The Brain With Light
Giving epilepsy patients an electric jolt to shut off out-of-control neuron firing during seizures is being explored as a way to treat the chronic brain disorder. New research from MIT now raises the possibility of silencing those seizures with light instead of electricity.

A team led by neuroengineer Edward Boyden has found a class of proteins that, when inserted into neurons, allow them to be turned off with rays of yellow-green light. The silencing is near instantaneous and easily reversible. Read more >>

Astronomy

A Massive Star Is Born
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 >>

Engineering

Two Chips In One
For decades, researchers have been trying to combine semiconductor materials that have different and potentially complementary characteristics into a single microchip. Now, an MIT team has finally succeeded in this effort, an advance that could point to a way of overcoming fundamental barriers of size and speed facing today's silicon chips. Read more >>

This research was funded by the DARPA Young Faculty Award, the MARCO Interconnect Focus Center and the MIT Deshpande Center.