Energy Futures: Autumn 2015

Read about energy-related research, education, campus activities, and outreach programs across the Institute.

MIT Energy Initiative

Energy Futures is published twice yearly by the MIT Energy Initiative.

Energy Futures
Main cover image: Joel Jean G
Design: Tim Blackburn

Updates on the MIT Energy Initiative

Robert C. ArmstrongA letter from the director
An update on activities of the MIT Energy Initiative. MITEI’s research, education, and outreach programs are spearheaded by Professor Robert C. Armstrong, director.
Women leaders in clean energy gather at MIT
In early November, MITEI and the US Department of Energy co-hosted the fourth annual Women in Clean Energy Symposium. Highlights included panels on clean energy challenges and opportunities and the presentation of awards to eight midcareer women for outstanding achievements in clean energy.

Research Reports

The Future of Solar Energy: A summary and recommendations for policymakers
In May 2015, MIT released The Future of Solar Energy, a comprehensive report addressing vital questions of how to realize the potential of solar energy to meet a major portion of global electricity demand and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Members of the MIT study team met with congressional and White House officials and distributed this executive summary of their findings.
Solar photovoltaic technologies: Silicon and beyond
(Left to right) Joel Jean of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS),Vladimir Bulović of EECS, Patrick Brown of physics, and their collaborators have performed a rigorous assessment of today’s many commercial and emerging solar photovoltaic technologies and conclude that none should be ruled out.
Discarded car batteries: Recovering material for novel solar cells
Angela Belcher of biological engineering and materials science and engineering (at left), Paula Hammond of chemical engineering, Po-Yen Chen PhD ’15, and others have shown that a novel, high-efficiency, low-cost solar cell can be made using lead recovered from an abundant, old-technology source: lead-acid car batteries.
Preparing for large-scale solar deployment: Measures to ensure a reliable future power system
Ignacio Pérez-Arriaga of the Sloan School of Management and IIT-Comillas University in Madrid, Spain, and a team of Comillas and MIT researchers are examining how the large-scale adoption of solar power may affect operations, costs, and other aspects of today’s electric power systems going forward.
MIT Utility of the Future study and consortium
The Utility of the Future study is investigating the technical, economic, and regulatory transformations unfolding in the electric power sector as it transitions from a centralized system to a more distributed one due to the integration of multiple distributed resources, including renewable generation.
A battery of molten metals: Low-cost, long-lasting storage for the grid
Donald Sadoway of materials science and engineering (right), David Bradwell MEng '06, PhD '11 (left), and their collaborators have developed a novel molten-metal battery that is low-cost, high-capacity, efficient, long-lasting, and easy to manufacture—characteristics that make it ideal for storing electricity on power grids today and in the future.

Research News

Going off grid: Tata researchers tackle rural electrification
At MIT’s Tata Center for Technology and Design, researchers are exploring ways to extend electricity access to rural communities in India using microgrids—independent electricity generation and distribution systems that are flexible in size and can run on available power sources, from wind to hydro to solar.
Cleaning water without the grid
Researchers in the Tata Center for Technology and Design and partner firm Jain Irrigation Systems have developed a solar-powered electrodialysis desalination system that could significantly increase the groundwater available for drinking in Indian villages.

Focus on Faculty

Georgia Perakis: On the road to better energy data
Professor Georgia Perakis uses techniques of operations research and optimization modeling to investigate topics ranging from traffic flows to subsidies for green energy technologies to risk assessment and planning for electric utilities.
Sallie "Penny" Chisholm appointed MIT Institute Professor
In spring 2015, Sallie “Penny” Chisholm joined an elite group of MIT professors recognized for their scholarly and educational accomplishments and their outstanding leadership and service.
Paula Hammond named head of chemical engineering
In July 2015, Paula Hammond ’84, PhD ’93, the David H. Koch (1962) Professor in Engineering, became head of the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering. She is the first woman and first person of color appointed to the post.
Ruben Juanes appointed director of MIT's Pierce Laboratory
Ruben Juanes, the ARCO Associate Professor in Energy Studies in civil and environmental engineering, now directs the Pierce Laboratory, which serves as a home for MIT’s research and education activities relating to the design, manufacture, and operation of infrastructure.


Undergraduate energy researchers bridge disciplines in summer projects
During summer 2015, MITEI sponsored 42 projects through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Twenty-two of the projects involved students working with faculty outside of their home majors, and seven projects connected students and faculty from different MIT schools.
Energy alumni: Where are they now?
We catch up with Di Yang PhD ’14, Katherine Steel PhD ’08, and Joseph Shapiro PhD ’13.
Energy Fellows, 2015-2016
The Society of Energy Fellows at MIT welcomed 32 new members in fall 2015. The Energy Fellows network now totals more than 350 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and spans 20 MIT departments and divisions and all five MIT schools.
New energy on campus: Arriving undergrads participate in pre-orientation activities at MITEI
Among this year’s activities: visiting the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, participating in an energy transportation tour in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and playing a round of World Energy, the energy science and policy simulation game.
Energy Studies Minor graduates, 2015
Nineteen Energy Studies Minor students representing seven MIT departments graduated in spring 2015.
Introducing MIT's new Undergraduate Energy Commons
Scheduled to open in autumn 2016, the new commons will be located directly under MIT’s iconic dome in Room 10-063 and will provide a mixed configuration of educational and activity space for MIT’s energy students.
MITEI names co-chairs of Energy Education Task Force
Bradford Hager, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Earth Sciences and director of the Earth Resources Laboratory (left), and Rajeev Ram, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, are now co-chairs of MITEI’s Energy Education Task Force and the Energy Minor Oversight Committee.

Campus Energy Activities

New forecasting tool to aid MIT's energy planning
In summer 2015, MIT took another step forward in the effort to reduce its carbon footprint with the unveiling of an energy-forecasting tool that enables planners to assess current energy usage on campus and identify opportunities for improvement.


Fueling solutions: "Fuel" pillar at MIT Solve sets energy goals for a sustainable future
At the inaugural MIT Solve conference, held on October 5-8, 2015, the world’s challenges were organized under four pillars: Cure, Learn, Make, and Fuel. The Fuel pillar’s objective: “to double energy and food production, halve carbon output by 2050, and set a path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2100.”
A day in the sun: MIT Solar Day looks ahead to decades of innovation
In September 2015, the MIT community gathered to learn about each other’s research and to explore the potential of future technologies. Topics addressed ranged from novel solar photovoltaic technologies to new developments in energy storage to the critical role of solar energy in the developing world.

MITEI Members

MITEI members renew agreements
During October 2015, the MIT Energy Initiative signed multiyear renewal agreements with two of its members: Shell and Ferrovial.