ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

October 2009

Biology

National Academy report calls for "New Biology" for the 21st Century
A National Academy panel co-chaired by MIT Institute Professor Philip Sharp called for the United States to launch a new biology initiative to accelerate breakthroughs that could solve some of society's most pressing problems. The National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy asked the committee that wrote the report to look at how best build upon recent scientific developments such as the Human Genome Project. The resulting report is called "A New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution." Read more >>

The full report is available at the National Academies website.

Health Science

A Turning Point in the Struggle Against Cancer?
For the past 40 years, cancer research at MIT has focused on identifying the molecular mechanism that causes the disease.

While that is still a hot research field, the focus is now expanding. MIT researchers are trying to "not only understand how cancer develops and how it undergoes metastatic spread, but to use our knowledge in new ways to diagnose and that the disease," says Institute Professor Phillip Sharp, a member of the MIT's David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Read more >>

Energy

Concentrating Emissions
Researchers at MIT have shown the benefits of a new approach toward eliminating carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions at coal-burning power plants.

Their system, called pressurized oxy-fuel combustion, provides a way of separating all of the carbon-dioxide emissions produced by the burning of coal, in the form of a concentrated, pressurized liquid stream. This allows for carbon dioxide sequestration: the liquid CO2 stream can be injected into geological formations deep enough to prevent their escape into the atmosphere. Read more >>

Small Springs Could Provide Big Power
New research by MIT scientists suggests that carbon nanotubes--tube-shaped molecules of pure carbon--could be formed into tiny springs capable of strong as much energy, pound for pound, as state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries, and potentially more durably and reliably.

Imagine, for example, an emergency backup power supply or alarm system that can be left in place for many years without losing its "charge," portable mechanical tools like leaf blowers that work without the noise and fumes of small gasoline engines, or devices to be sent down oil wells or into other harsh environments where the performance of ordinary batteries would be degraded by temperature extremes. Read more >>
This work has been funded by the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation Ignition grant and by an MIT Energy Initiative seed grant.

Environment

How to Limit Risk of Climate Catastrophe
A new analysis of climate risk, published by researchers at MIT and elsewhere, show that even moderate carbon-reduction policies now can substantially lower the risk of future climate change. It also shows that quick, global emissions reductions would be required in order to provide a good chance of avoiding a temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level- a widely discussed target. But without prompt action, they found, extreme changes could soon become much more difficult, if not impossible, to control. Read more >>

This work was supported in part by the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy grants, the NSF, and by the industrial and foundations sponsors of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.