Energy Futures: Spring 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, Spring 2013
Main cover image: KVA MATx. Design: Tim Blackburn

PDFDownload a PDF of this issue


Did you know?  You can have your very own copy, delivered right to your inbox OR your front door!

A Letter from the Director

Robert C. ArmstrongA letter from the director
An update on activities of MIT Energy Initiative from Director Robert C. Armstrong.

Updates on the MIT Energy Initiative

MIT’s Ernest J. Moniz becomes Secretary of Energy
Ernest J. Moniz, the founding director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), left the Institute in spring 2013 to lead the US Department of Energy (DOE).

Robert C. ArmstrongRobert C. Armstrong named director of MIT Energy Initiative
On May 16, 2013, Robert C. Armstrong became director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI). Armstrong has served as the deputy director of MITEI since its founding six years ago.

Research Reports

Energy-efficient computing: Enabling smaller, lighter, faster computers
A theoretical computer scientist and his MIT colleagues are finding ways to reduce the energy used in computation—a change that could lead to laptops and mobile devices that are smaller and lighter, generate less heat, and perform complicated calculations with unprecedented speed.

Underground storage of carbon dioxide: Creating more-accurate images at lower cost
MIT geophysicists are developing lower-cost, more-accurate techniques for imaging and monitoring carbon dioxide injected into underground geological formations for long-term storage.

Large-scale irrigation: Understanding energy-water-food connections
An MIT team is providing new understanding of the growing interconnections among three critical resources: energy, water, and food. The work focuses on Pakistan’s Indus Basin, where irrigation water is increasingly pumped from underground, a practice that is intensifying a preexisting shortage of energy.

Building façades that move, textiles that illuminate
A row housing project designed by an international, MIT-led team is demonstrating novel concepts in energy and architecture at the Internationale Bauausstellung (International Building Exhibition, or IBA) in Hamburg, Germany.

Transparent solar cells: Generating power from everyday surfaces
Vladimir Bulović of electrical engineering and computer science (left), Miles Barr PhD ’12 (right), and Richard Lunt are making transparent solar cells that could one day be deposited on everyday objects from mobile devices to windows, turning surfaces everywhere into low-cost energy-harvesting systems.

Research News

MIT Energy Initiative announces latest seed grant awards
The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) has announced its latest round of seed grants to support early-stage innovative energy projects. This year’s winners address a wide range of topics including thermoelectric materials, energy storage, energy-efficient algorithms, and more.

Novel slippery surfaces: Improving steam turbines and ketchup bottles
MIT research that promises to keep ice off of airplane wings and make steam turbines and desalination plants more efficient is now moving into another challenging part of our lives: getting that last bit of ketchup out of the bottle.

Focus on Faculty

Yang Shao-Horn: Catalyzing the next generation of batteries
Professor Yang Shao-Horn works at the cutting edge of basic energy science research, endeavoring to uncover the secret forces at work inside batteries and fuel cells—research that holds promise for a wide range of energy-related applications, from electric cars to solar power.


Bringing science to life: Undergrads learn by seeing, doing in 3.012
How cold can it get before my pipes burst? How long will this new battery last to power my cell phone? Students who took 3.012 Fundamentals of Materials Science and Engineering learned the answers to these questions and more during the new and improved 2012 fall semester of the thermodynamics component taught by Professor Jeffrey C. Grossman.

Energy IAP: Preparing for and adapting to climate variability
In October, “Superstorm Sandy” hit the shores of the United States, leaving an estimated $62 billion of damage in its wake. What does increased climate variability mean for Massachusetts? How can we prepare for and adapt to the changing climate? This topic was the focus of a variety of activities during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP) in January 2013.

Energy classes pass 1 million online visits
In 2009, the MIT Energy Initiative and MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW)—thanks to funding from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation—set out to adapt 15 Energy Studies Minor classes for publication on MIT’s signature online platform. Three years later, that goal will soon be exceeded.

Energy alumni: Where are they now?
We check in on David Danielson PhD ’07, Rhonda Jordan PhD ’12 and Jeremy Johnson PhD ’06.

The MIT Energy Club: Building the energy community on campus and beyond
More than a thousand students strong and growing, the MIT Energy Club is the largest student group on MIT’s campus—and one of the largest clubs of its kind in the nation, with more than four thousand general members worldwide.

Tata Center students spot opportunities to innovate in India
Taking MIT’s “Mens et Manus” (Mind and Hand) motto to heart, the new Tata Center for Technology and Design is pioneering a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving in the context of developing countries.

Campus Energy Activities

Energy savings add up to success for Efficiency Forward
This NSTAR-MIT collaboration has transformed the energy landscape on campus in just three years, reducing the Institute’s energy footprint by 34 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, producing an estimated lifetime savings of $50 million, and preventing more than 20,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere annually.

MIT plans energy-saving upgrades to Main Group
As MIT approaches the 2016 centennial of its move to the William Welles Bosworth–designed Cambridge campus, the Department of Facilities is working to ensure that the buildings of the Main Group are prepared to meet the demands of the next 100 years— including the need for energy efficiency.


Exploring energy game changers: Moving technologies from lab to marketplace
On March 7, 2013, researchers from the MIT Energy Initiative and Stanford’s Hoover Institution met in Washington, DC, to explore the latest energy technologies and to advocate for stronger and sustained investment in research and development to help move these technologies from the lab to the marketplace.

At MIT, Gov. Deval Patrick highlights clean-energy achievements
Earth Day talk details Massachusetts’ accomplishments since the governor’s MIT speech five years ago, and outlines new goals.

IEA Outlook forecasts upheaval in worldwide energy system
Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, visits MIT to present the key findings of the new report.

LFEE - Laboratory for Energy and the Environment

Martin Fellows, 2013–2014
The Martin Family Society of Fellows for Sustainability, established at MIT in 1996 through the generous support of the Martin Foundation, fosters graduate-level research, education, and collaboration in sustainability.

MITEI Members

MIT and Eni renew energy partnership
Visiting campus, Paolo Scaroni, head of the Italian energy company, said ‘cooperation between MIT and Eni can give us phenomenal results.’