ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

November 2010

Energy

All Charged Up
A team of MIT students has been working on testing a rapid-recharging system that could help to change public perceptions about electric vehicles and their practicality. They have already done extensive testing of the system with an individual battery cell and with a motorcycle they converted to all-electric operation, and in coming months they hope to be able to demonstrate the system on a full-sized sedan they converted.

The goal is to demonstrate that recharging can be accomplished routinely in under 30 minutes without severely reducing the operating lifetime of the batteries or causing other problems. Read more >>

Ford donated an automobile that was used as part of the student team's research.

Health

New Nanoparticles Could Improve Cancer Treatment
Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed a nanoparticle that can deliver precise doses of two or more drugs to prostate cancer cells. Combination drug therapy is more effective than single drugs for many types of cancers, studies show, but it is usually difficult to get the right amount of each drug to the tumor.

Nanoparticles, therefore, could improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy while minimizing the side effects normally seen with these drugs, according to the researchers. They could also be adapted to target cancers other than prostate cancer, or even to delivery drugs for other diseases that require combination therapy. Read more >>

This work was funded by the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and the David Koch Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Your Vital Signs, On Camera
You can check a person’s vital signs — pulse, respiration and blood pressure — manually or by attaching sensors to the body. But a student in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program is working on a system that could measure these health indicators just by putting a person in front of a low-cost camera such as a laptop computer’s built-in webcam.

So far, graduate student Ming-Zher Poh has demonstrated that the system can indeed extract accurate pulse measurements from ordinary low-resolution webcam imagery. Now he’s working on extending the capabilities so it can measure respiration and blood-oxygen levels. He hopes eventually to be able to monitor blood pressure as well. Read more >>

Climbing Higher
Hugh Herr was frustrated with the limitations of the prosthetic legs he received at age 17, so he designed his own. Now, he is the director of the Biomechatronics Group at MIT's Media Lab, and holds 30 patents for prosthetic leg inventions. Two of his inventions were named by TIME magazine as best inventions of the year. Read more >>

Space

New Evidence That Matter and Antimatter May Behave Differently
Neutrinos, elementary particles generated by nuclear reactions in the sun, suffer from an identity crisis as they cross the universe, morphing between three different “flavors.” Their antimatter counterparts (which are identical in mass but opposite in charge and spin) do the same thing.

A team of physicists including some from MIT has found surprising differences between the flavor-switching behavior of neutrinos and antineutrinos. If confirmed, the finding could help explain why matter, and not antimatter, dominates our universe. Read more >>