ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

March 2010

Energy

Big Power From Tiny Wires
A team of scientists at MIT have discovered a previously unknown phenomenon that can cause powerful waves of energy to shoot through minuscule wires known as carbon nanotubes. The discovery could lead to a new way of producing electricity, the researchers say.

The phenomenon, described as thermopower waves, "opens up a new area of energy research, which is rare," says Professor Michael Strano, MIT's Charles and Hilda Roddey Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering. Read more >>

This work was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the National Science Foundation.

Insulators Made Into Conductors
Most polymers-materials made of long, chain-like molecules- are very good insulators for both heat and electricity. But an MIT team has found a way to transform the most widely used polymer, polyethylene, into a material that conducts heat just as well as most metals, yet remains an electrical insulator. Read more >>

This work was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Health

Novel MRI Sensor Provides Molecular View of the Brain
MIT neuroscientists have designed a new MRI sensor that responds to the neurotrasmitter dopamine, an achievement that may significantly improve the specificity and resolution of future brain imaging procedures.

Although functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMFI) has enhanced our understanding of brain function since it was first introduced about 20 years ago, the technology actually measures blood flow, which is a slow and indirect readout of neural activity. When a brain region becomes active, blood vessels in that region dilate, causing increased blood flow to the site. Iron found in the blood's hemoglobin mediates a magnetic change that is detected by MRI. Read more >>

This work was funded by Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship, Dana Foundation Brain & Immuno-Imaging Gran, Raymond & Beverley Sackler Fellowship, NIH, Caltech Jacobs Institute for Molecular Medicine, McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

MIT Researchers Develop Heat-Powered Electronics
It can be inconvenient to replace batteries in electronic devices that need to work for long periods of time, either in biomedical monitoring systems worn by a patient or in monitors for machinery or situations. But new technology being developed by MIT researchers could make such replacements unnecessary.

New energy-scavenging systems being developed by MIT Professor Anantha Chandrakasan and alumnus Yogesh Ramadass PhD'09 could provide power for such sensors just from differences in temperature between the body (or other warm object) and the surrounding air, eliminating or reducing the need for a battery. Read more >>

This work was funded by a seed grant from the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI).

Electronics

A Simpler Way to Make Micromachines
Microelectromechanical devices gave us the Wii and the digital projector. MIT researchers have found a way to manufacture them by stamping them on plastic, opening up the possibility of coating large areas with tiny sensors. Microelectromechanical devices-tiny machines with moving parts- are everywhere these days: they monitor air pressure in car tires, register the gestures of video game players, and reflect light onto screens in movie theaters. Now, MIT researchers have discovered a way to manufacture them by stamping them onto a plastic film. Read more >>

This work was funded by DARPA Microsystems technology Office; MIT Deshpande Center Technological Innovation; Hewlett-Packard Corporation; MIT Center for Excitonics.