Letter from the Department Head

 

Gang Chen“The transportation industry is on the brink of yet another disruptive change.”

Gang Chen, Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering and Department Head

 

Dear Alumni, Students, and Friends,

Along with many members of our community, I believe that the transportation industry is on the brink of yet another major change. We’ve recently seen many history-making transformations begin unfolding before us – such as commercial space flights – and many more are just around the bend.

For example, the possibility – and indeed request by global leaders – of providing consumers with desirable clean-energy transportation is more tangible now than ever and will transform the industry on every level, from design and engineering to economics and policy. Similarly, the progressive implementation of controls and robotics in transportation is leading the path toward a safer – and likely more autonomous – experience.

In the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering, our faculty, post-docs, and graduate students have been working on how to solve these issues – and many others – for years, and in many different ways, each tackling it from their own unique area of expertise.

For example, Professor Wai Cheng is working on ways to increase the efficiency of engines and reduce the emission of toxic particulates; Professor Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis is developing ways to wirelessly charge batteries for underwater autonomous vehicles (AUVs); Professor Ahmed Ghoniem is investigating the best ways to produce zero-carbon biomass as a clean fuel alternative; Professor John Leonard is developing a Level 2 autonomous car that will never crash; Professor Yang Shao-Horn is working to advance energy storage for electric vehicles; and Professor Wierzbicki is researching ways to design fracture-resistant batteries for electric vehicles.

We feel so strongly about the importance of this type of research in the future of transportation that we are investing heavily in the renovation of MIT’s Building 31, home to key laboratories for the Center for 21st Century Energy (http://web.mit.edu/c21ce/), including the Sloan Automotive Lab, led by Professor Cheng; the Electrochemical Energy Lab, led by Professor Shao-Horn; and the Reacting Gas Dynamics Lab, led by Professor Ghoniem.

A passion for safe, innovative, and energy-efficient transportation and propulsion drove many of us to pursue mechanical engineering in the first place, and I am very pleased to present an issue that illustrates how important it is to progress the technology of this industry for the greater good and how many members of our MechE community are propelling that progress forward.

With gratitude for your ongoing support,
Chen Signature

Professor Gang Chen
Department Head and Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering