MechE research news

New DOE Research Centers

The White House has announced that MIT will be home to two new multimillion-dollar Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) being established by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. The Solid State Solar Thermal Energy Conversion Center (S3TEC) will be directed by Gang Chen, the Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. A second center will be headed by electrical engineering Associate Professor Marc A. Baldo. A total of forty-six EFRCs are being set up at universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms across the nation.

S3TEC will receive initial five year funding of $17.5 million to pursue advanced energy research. The center’s objective is to create novel solid-state materials for the conversion of sunlight and heat into electricity. “As global energy demand grows over this century, there is an urgent need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and imported oil and curtail greenhouse gas emissions,” says U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “Meeting this challenge will require significant scientific advances. These centers will mobilize the enormous talents and skills of our nation’s scientific workforce in pursuit of the breakthroughs that are essential to make alternative and renewable energy truly viable as large-scale replacements for fossil fuels.”

EFRC researchers will take advantage of new capabilities in nanotechnology, high-intensity light sources, neutron scattering sources, supercomputing, and other advanced instrumentation to lay the scientific groundwork for fundamental advances.

MechE Hosts Clean Water & Energy Center

The MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering (MechE) and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia have launched a seven-year research and education program focused on solar energy, the desalination of seawater, and other technologies related to the production of fresh water and low-carbon energy. The joint effort will lay the groundwork for the creation of the Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy at MIT and KFUPM. The center will be housed within the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Under the direction of John H. Lienhard, Samuel C. Collins Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Professor Kamal Youcef-Toumi, the center is expected to conduct 16 joint research projects and eight joint educational projects over seven years. Approximately 20 MIT faculty members will team up with a corresponding number from KFUPM during the center’s first year to research topics of mutual interest. The joint projects will be funded by KFUPM.

Faculty and graduate students from KFUPM will have the opportunity to spend one or two semesters at MIT, and faculty from MIT will visit KFUPM for one to two weeks each year. The center will include a groundbreaking outreach program that will bring Saudi women engineers and scientists to MIT for research and educational projects.

SMART Opens BioSystem Group in Singapore

The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) has established the BioSystem and Micromechanics Interdisciplinary Research Group (BioSyM IRG) with the support of the Singapore National Research Foundation (NRF). The BioSyM IRG brings together a diverse team of faculty members and researchers from MIT and Singapore’s universities and research institutes to develop biotechnologies that will produce the next generation of discoveries in biology. Roger D. Kamm, Germeshausen Professor of Mechanical and Biological Engineering, is the lead principal investigator for the group.

The primary focus of BioSyM is to develop technologies that will help answer critical biological and medical questions associated with a variety of diseases. The group also seeks to provide new technological solutions to the healthcare industry and to the broader Singapore research infrastructure. Established in 2007, SMART is MIT’s first research center outside Cambridge and its largest international research endeavor. Professor Rohan Abeyaratne, former head of the Department of Mechanical Engineeering, serves as the director of SMART. SMART is also the initial center at the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) being developed by the NRF.

Chevron-sponsored Ocean Engineering Partnerships

The Center for Ocean Engineering’s productive, long-term sponsored research program with Chevron is helping to establish close educational, training, and research links between academia and industry in areas of mutual interest related to oil and gas production. The program’s research focus is on remote development and production of oil and gas in ultradeep waters.

The Chevron program offers two levels of support for sponsored research. The first is for seed level projects designed to develop promising research ideas and establish collaborative links between MIT and Chevron researchers. Seed projects are awarded $40,000 to $80,000 and are expected to span approximately one year. The second level of support enables successful seed projects to evolve into full research projects. Such projects are funded at $100,000 to $150,000 per year for a period of two to three years.

Battelle Grants for National Security Research

The Department of Mechanical Engineering and Battelle have teamed up to award as many as five one-year seedling challenge grants of approximately $50,000 to $80,000 for one year. The grants, which have the potential for renewal, will support innovative research related to national security and associated commercial applications. Areas of interest include nanoscale heat transfer, advanced cooling, supramolecular chemistry, advanced multifunctional materials, comfortable/stretchable electronics, production of superhydrophobic surfaces, scalable separation methods for single-wall carbon nanotubes, and production of patterns with sub-250 nanometer features over large curved surfaces.

New NSF Center for Integrated Cellular Systems

The Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems Center (EBICS) has been founded at MIT with a $25 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Roger Kamm, MIT’s Germeshausen Professor of Mechanical and Biological Engineering, will be the center’s founding director. Part of the NSF’s Science and Technology Centers Integrative Partnerships program, EBICS is a partnership among MIT, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The center’s objectives are to dramatically advance research in complex biological systems, to create new educational programs based on this research, and to demonstrate leadership involving groups traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering.