July 2016

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Image: Christine Daniloff/MIT


Science & Tech

New Movie Screen Allows for Glasses-Free 3-D at a Larger Scale
3-D movies immerse us in new worlds and allow us to see places and things in ways that we otherwise couldn’t. But behind every 3-D experience is something that is uniformly despised: those goofy glasses.

Fortunately, there may be hope. In a new paper, a team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science have demonstrated a display that lets audiences watch 3-D films in a movie theater without extra eyewear. Dubbed “Cinema 3D,” the prototype uses a special array of lenses and mirrors to enable viewers to watch a 3-D movie from any seat in a theater. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/glasses-free-3d-larger-scale-0725

New Technique Provides Detailed Views of Metals’ Crystal Structure
Researchers at MIT and elsewhere have developed a new combination of methods that can provide detailed information about the microstructure of polycrystalline metals.
Such materials — composed of a random matrix of multiple small crystals rather than one single large crystal — are widely used for such applications as nuclear reactors, civil infrastructure, and aircraft. However, understanding the details of their crystal structure and the boundaries between the crystal areas has been difficult. This work is “an inspiring step forward in rapid, data-rich characterization of the structure of crystalline materials.”  Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/metals-crystal-structure-0706


Reducing Wait Times at the Doctor’s Office
Ever waited entirely too long at your doctor’s office for an appointment to start? The long wait may soon be over: An MIT spinout’s schedule-optimizing software that gets more patients seen more quickly could soon be used by tens of thousands of health care providers across the country, after a recent acquisition by a major health care services company.
Arsenal Health has developed a schedule-optimization service for health care providers that analyzes scheduling and other data. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/reducing-wait-times-doctor-office-0721

Energy & Environment

New Lithium-Oxygen Battery Greatly Improves Energy Efficiency, Longevity
Lithium-air batteries are considered highly promising technologies for electric cars and portable electronic devices because of their potential for delivering a high energy output in proportion to their weight. But such batteries have some pretty serious drawbacks: They waste much of the injected energy as heat and degrade relatively quickly. They also require expensive extra components to pump oxygen gas in and out, in an open-cell configuration that is very different from conventional sealed batteries.

But a new variation of the battery chemistry which could be used in a new conventional, fully sealed battery called a nanolithia cathode battery, promises similar theoretical performance as lithium-air batteries, while overcoming all of these drawbacks. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/new-lithium-oxygen-battery-greatly-improves-energy-efficiency-longevity-0725

Anne White: A Passion for Plasma
Turbulence is an everyday phenomenon that we see in the curls of smoke rising from a fire or in the cream we stir into our morning coffee. But despite centuries of research, the details of how turbulent flows behave are still something of a mystery to scientists. Turbulence is also one of the most critical challenges remaining in the quest to make fusion, potentially a clean and almost limitless source of electricity, practical for generating power.

Anne White, the Cecil and Ida Green Associate Professor in Nuclear Engineering in MIT’s Plasma Fusion and Science Center, has been fascinated by the complexities of turbulence, and its critical role in sapping power from fusion reactors, since she was an undergraduate. Since coming to MIT, she has made important progress toward unraveling aspects of that mystery. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/faculty-profile-anne-white-0629

Study Opens New Realms of Light-Matter Interaction
A new MIT study could open up new areas of technology based on types of light emission that had been thought to be “forbidden,” or at least so unlikely as to be practically unattainable. The new approach, the researchers say, could cause certain kinds of interactions between light and matter, which would normally take billions of years to happen, to take place instead within billionths of a second, under certain special conditions.

Beyond its scientific implications, “this study has possible applications across multiple disciplines, since in principle it has potential to enable the full use of the periodic table for optical applications.” This could potentially lead to applications in spectroscopy and sensing devices, ultrathin solar cells, new kinds of materials to absorb solar energy, organic LEDs with higher efficiencies, and photon sources for possible quantum computing devices.
Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/forbidden-light-emissions-sensors-0714