October 2016


Science & Tech

Toward practical quantum computers

MIT and MIT Lincoln Laboratory report an important step toward practical quantum computers, with a paper describing a prototype chip that can trap ions in an electric field and, with built-in optics, direct laser light toward each of them. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/toward-practical-quantum-computers-0808

Energy & Environment

Alcator C-Mod tokamak nuclear fusion reactor sets world record on final day of operation

Nuclear fusion has the potential to produce nearly unlimited supplies of clean, safe, carbon-free energy. Fusion is the same process that powers the sun, and it can be realized in reactors that simulate the conditions of ultrahot miniature “stars” of plasma — superheated gas — that are contained within a magnetic field. On Friday, Sept. 30, at 9:25 p.m. EDT, scientists and engineers at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center made a leap forward in the pursuit of clean energy. The team set a new world record for plasma pressure in the Institute’s Alcator C-Mod tokamak nuclear fusion reactor. Plasma pressure is the key ingredient to producing energy from nuclear fusion, and MIT’s new result achieves over 2 atmospheres of pressure for the first time. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/alcator-c-mod-tokamak-nuclear-fusion-world-record-1014

New kind of supercapacitor made without carbon

Energy storage devices called supercapacitors have become a hot area of research, in part because they can be charged rapidly and deliver intense bursts of power. However, all supercapacitors currently use components made of carbon, which require high temperatures and harsh chemicals to produce. Now researchers at MIT and elsewhere have for the first time developed a supercapacitor that uses no conductive carbon at all, and that could potentially produce more power than existing versions of this technology. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/supercapacitor-made-without-carbon-1010

Energy and emissions-saving method developed for producing some metals

The MIT researchers were trying to develop a new battery, but it didn’t work out that way. Instead, thanks to an unexpected finding in their lab tests, what they discovered was a whole new way of producing the metal antimony — and potentially a new way of smelting other metals, as well. The discovery could lead to metal-production systems that are much less expensive and that virtually eliminate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with most traditional metal smelting. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/new-method-producing-some-metals-0824


Fighting cancer with the power of immunity

Harnessing the body’s own immune system to destroy tumors is a tantalizing prospect that has yet to realize its full potential. However, a new advance from MIT may bring this strategy, known as cancer immunotherapy, closer to becoming reality. In the study, the researchers used a combination of four different therapies to activate both of the immune system’s two branches, producing a coordinated attack that led to the complete disappearance of large, aggressive tumors in mice.  Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/fighting-cancer-power-immunity-1024


Collaborating with community colleges to innovate educational technology

Nearly one in every two undergraduates in the U.S. attends community college. Serving a large and diverse pool of students, these colleges are critical in bridging the job-skills gap, in empowering students to transition to four-year institutions, and in enabling opportunities for non-traditional pathways. But community colleges face an important hurdle: How can they scale so as to offer high-quality, affordable education to growing student numbers? Researchers from MIT are collaborating with community colleges to develop innovative educational technology to tackle this issue.  Learn more at: http://news.mit.edu/2016/collaborating-with-community-colleges-to-innovate-educational-technology-fly-by-wire-0929