Dear Alumni, Students, Faculty, and Friends,
At the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering, we focus on many important things – from fundamental science and experimentation to making and prototyping. But one of our most important jobs as mechanical engineers is to create technology that can eventually exit the lab and make a positive impact on people’s lives, whether that be improving an everyday struggle or solving a major global challenge.
Our faculty and students are solving challenges big and small every day in the areas of health care, innovation, energy, environment, and security. In this issue of MechE Connects, we are highlighting the global water crisis and some of the solutions we are developing in MechE. We are lucky to have some of the best minds in the field on the problem, such as Professor John Lienhard, who was recently named the founding director of the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Laboratory, and who has served as the director of the Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy at MIT and KFUPM since 2008.
In areas like the Middle East and India, where the rainfall is minimal and the population is high, water is scarce and often unhealthy to drink. In developed countries like the US, tragedies like that in Flint, Michigan, have illustrated our own water infrastructure and health problems.
In this issue’s feature story, we travel to rural India with Assistant Professor Amos Winter and PhD student Natasha Wright to join them as they test their electrodialysis photovoltaic water desalination system with villagers and learn more about their needs. We meet another PhD student Jaichander Swaminathan, who is optimizing a small-scale membrane distillation system for the Indian textile industry and enabling zero-liquid discharge. We reconnect with alum Prakash Govindan, who co-founded the water technology company Gradiant based on the desalination technology he developed as a PhD student in MechE.
You will also read about natural water filters being designed from sapwood by Professor Rohit Karnik, as well as hear Professor John Lienhard talk shop about his extensive experience researching clean water technologies.
As always, thank you for your ongoing support and friendship.
Professor Gang Chen
Department Head and Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering