Energy Futures: Autumn 2013

Energy Futures is published twice yearly by the MIT Energy Initiative. It reports on research results and energy-related activities across the Institute.

Energy Futures magazine Autumn 2013
Main cover image: Stuart Darsch.
Design: Tim Blackburn

Updates on the MIT Energy Initiative

Robert C. ArmstrongA letter from the director
An update on activities of MIT Energy Initiative. MITEI’s research, education, campus energy, and outreach programs are spearheaded by Professor Robert C. Armstrong, director.

Research Reports

Urban sustainability: Designing resource-efficient, appealing cities
Christoph F. Reinhart of architecture has been developing tools that architects and urban planners can use to design neighborhoods—including buildings, parks, courtyards, and trees—that are energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and appealing and comfortable for residents.

Nanowires and graphene: Keys to low-cost, flexible solar cells
Silvija Gradečak of materials science and engineering and her colleagues have fabricated flexible, transparent solar cells that combine highly conductive microscopic fibers with a robust electrode made of a one-atom-thick form of everyday carbon.

Incentives for green technology adoption: Getting government subsidies right
Georgia Perakis of the MIT Sloan School of Management has developed a model that will help government decision makers set optimal subsidies to encourage the adoption of a green technology, taking into account the probable responses of suppliers and buyers of the new technology.

Fine-tuning porous materials for energy-efficient air conditioning
Mircea Dincă of chemistry has developed inexpensive, highly porous materials that are ideal for storing large quantities of water vapor picked up by air conditioners, carbon dioxide captured from power plants, and hydrogen fuel stowed onboard cars.

Designing high-speed motors for energy storage and more
Mohammad Imani-Nejad PhD ’13 of the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity (left) and David L. Trumper of mechanical engineering are building compact, durable motors that can operate at high speeds, making devices such as compressors and machine tools more efficient and serving as inexpensive, reliable energy storage systems.

Research News

MIT and UC Berkeley launch energy efficiency research project
Energy efficiency promises to cut emissions, reduce dependence on foreign fuel, and mitigate climate change. That’s why governments around the world are spending tens of billions of dollars to support energy efficiency regulations, technologies, and policies. But are these programs realizing their potential? Researchers from MITEI and Berkeley’s Haas School of Business are collaborating to find out.

Angela Belcher wins $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize
MIT Professor Angela Belcher, one of the world’s leading nanotechnology experts, has been named the recipient of this year’s $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, which honors an outstanding inventor dedicated to improving the world through technological invention. Belcher is the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT and has been a member of the MIT Energy Initiative’s Energy Council since MITEI’s founding in 2006.

Focus on Faculty

New faculty strengthen, broaden MIT’s energy expertise
MITEI sat down with four new energy faculty to find out what brought them to MIT and what they plan on researching now that they're here. Read about Yogesh Surendranath, Noelle Selin, Alex Kolpak, and Christopher Warshaw.

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Energy Fellows, 2013–2014
The Society of Energy Fellows at MIT welcomed 38 new members in fall 2013. The Energy Fellows network now totals nearly 300 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and spans 20 MIT departments and divisions and all five MIT schools. This year’s fellowships are made possible through the generous support of 15 MITEI member companies.

Eni and MIT Energy Initiative announce launch of Energy Society
Eni and the MIT Energy Initiative announced the launch of the Eni–MIT Energy Society during the “Italianissimo!” event held at the Boston Public Library on June 7, 2013. In Eni’s vision, this society will become the MIT chapter of a new Eni Energy Society, which will bring together Eni’s sponsored students from all over the world.

MIT undergraduates plunge into summer energy research
During summer 2013, MITEI members and donors supported the work of 43 undergraduate students on energy-related Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) projects spanning a wide range of topics.

Arriving MIT undergrads immerse themselves in energy
Twenty-four entering MIT undergraduate students participated in MITEI’s Freshman Pre-Orientation Program—Discover Energy: Learn, Think, Apply (DELTA) in August 2013. From discussing sustainability initiatives with Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis to constructing and racing their own mini solar cars, the students experienced a wide array of energy-focused activities.

Education and Campus Energy Activities

DUSP students develop energy efficiency plan for Cambridge
Graduate students taking a spring 2013 practicum in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) urged utilities and government leaders to consider a range of innovative approaches to the thorny problem of how to spur energy efficiency upgrades in multifamily housing.

Campus Energy Activities

New position aims to strengthen MIT’s sustainability
Julie Newman, MIT’s first director of sustainability, is one of the nation’s most experienced leaders on sustainability in higher education. Newman came to MIT from a similar position at Yale. MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz initiated the creation of the new post—and simultaneously created an Office of Sustainability to serve as a catalyst for advancing sustainability across campus.

MIT signs compact for sustainable future with City of Cambridge and Harvard
In what is considered to be the first agreement of its kind, MIT, Harvard, and the City of Cambridge entered into a Community Compact for a Sustainable Future. The agreement lays out a framework for the signatories—and other organizations—to work in a more coordinated and robust fashion to tackle local sustainability challenges.


Event highlights need for women in clean energy
Closing the gender gap and increasing women’s participation and leadership in the energy sphere is the goal of the US Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) program—a partnership between the Department of Energy and MITEI. The program held its second annual symposium in September.

Report maps future of alternative fuel vehicles
Cars that run on alternative fuels like biofuels and liquefied natural gas can cost less, cut emissions, and reduce dependence on foreign fuels, according to a report by MITEI released on July 10, 2013. The report examines the future of natural gas, biofuels, and gasoline as fuels for light-duty vehicles over the next two to three decades.

Students win with plan to integrate electric cars into grid
Four MIT graduate students won first place in a competition sponsored by the US Association of Energy Economics aimed at tackling today’s energy challenges and preparing solutions for policy makers and industry. The students competed against teams from other universities to develop a business model for a hypothetical utility company facing uncertain electricity growth from a rise in electric vehicle charging.

New MIT student group focuses on energy and the developing world
Nearly 1.3 billion people live without electricity in the developing world—contributing to other critical social challenges, such as a lack of food and water and adequate healthcare. Seeing the need for a more collaborative approach to confronting the developing world’s energy challenge, students at MIT have started a new group called Energy for Human Development, or e4Dev.