Bosch-MIT Energy Fellow - Sophie Ni: Creating Novel Energy-Efficient Designs

Changing wave patterns to create more energy-efficient products and systems.

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Vicki Ekstrom, MIT Energy Initiative

Sophie NiBosch-MIT Energy Fellow Sophie Ni. Photo: Justin Knight

When Sophie Ni was searching for graduate schools, she knew she wanted to attend not just a place where cutting-edge energy research was thriving, but also an institution with an innovative, entrepreneurial culture. She found both at MIT.

“Attending MIT allows me to meet talented people who share my vision to change the world using science and technology,” says Ni, who is a PhD candidate in Material Science and Engineering.

Ni is working to put that vision into action as she designs energy efficient devices and systems such as “smart curtains” – her prototype that won MIT’s Making and Designing Materials Engineering Contest (MADMEC) in 2010. The curtains open when attached sensors are exposed to light. When there is no light detected, they close (See Ni’s video demonstration below).

This design exhibits how Ni was able to manipulate light wave transmissions to show how such changes could be used for energy efficient applications. Manipulating waves – whether they are light, sound and/or heat waves – is Ni’s primary research focus.

During the 2009-2010 academic year, Ni received a Bosch-MIT Energy Fellowship that allowed her to dive deeper into this research.

“I was proud to receive funding from a company that shares my passion for technological innovation and my commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability,” Ni says.

Ni hopes to one day commercialize her inventions, like the “smart curtains.” Her extra-curricular activities serving as financial director for several organizations, including the Graduate Student Council, taught her how to optimize limited resources – a skill that will be beneficial as she works “to make a real impact in the world,” she says, through novel energy-efficient designs.