ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

April 2019

Image: EHT Collaboration

Space

International team of astronomers produces first direct images of a black hole

Over 200 astronomers, including scientists from MIT’s Haystack Observatory, has captured the first direct images of a black hole.  The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration — was designed to capture the images. In coordinated press conferences across the globe, EHT researchers revealed that they had succeeded, unveiling the first direct visual evidence of the supermassive black hole in the center of Messier 87 and its shadow. Read more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-haystack-first-image-black-hole-0410

Energy/Environment

The future of agriculture is computerized

What goes into making plants taste good? For scientists in MIT’s Media Lab, it takes a combination of botany, machine-learning algorithms, and some good old-fashioned chemistry. Using all of the above, researchers in MIT’s Media Lab’s Open Agriculture Initiative report that they have created basil plants that are likely more delicious than any you have ever tasted. No genetic modification is involved: The researchers used computer algorithms to determine the optimal growing conditions to maximize the concentration of flavorful molecules known as volatile compounds. The researchers are now working on enhancing the human disease-fighting properties of herbs, and also hope to help growers adapt to changing climates by studying how crops grow under different conditions. Read more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/algorithm-growing-agriculture-0403

MIT Engineers develop concept for hybrid heavy-duty trucks

Heavy-duty trucks, such as the 18-wheelers that transport many of the world’s goods from farm or factory to market, are virtually all powered by diesel engines. They account for a significant portion of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, but little has been done so far to curb their climate-change-inducing exhaust. Now, researchers at MIT have devised a new way of powering these trucks using a plug-in hybrid engine system that could drastically curb pollution, increase efficiency, and reduce or even eliminate their net greenhouse gas emissions. Read more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/electric-hybrid-heavy-duty-trucks-0409

Greener, more efficient natural gas filtration

Natural gas and biogas have become increasingly popular sources of energy throughout the world, thanks to their cleaner and more efficient combustion process compared to coal and oil. However, the presence of contaminants such as carbon dioxide within the gas means it must first be purified before it can be burnt as fuel. Traditional processes to purify natural gas typically involve the use of toxic solvents and are extremely energy-intensive. As a result, researchers have been investigating the use of membranes as a way to remove impurities from natural gas in a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly way, but finding a polymer material that can separate gases quickly and effectively has so far proven a challenge. Researchers at MIT have now identified a new type of polymer membrane that can dramatically improve the efficiency of natural gas purification while reducing its environmental impact. Read more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/greener-efficient-natural-gas-filtration-0409

Science/Tech

A novel data-compression technique for faster computer programs

A new technique developed by MIT researchers rethinks hardware data compression to free up more memory used by computers and mobile devices, allowing them to run faster and perform more tasks simultaneously. Read more here http://news.mit.edu/2019/hardware-data-compression-0416