Cutting Edge Research

Presenters at the MIT Energy Night are MIT-affiliated individuals associated with energy-related laboratories, early stage start-ups, initiatives, or clubs at MIT. They are passionate and excited about energy and want to share their research and ideas with others. The research presented covers a wide variety of energy topics, representative of the diversity of energy research at MIT.

The presenters and their abstracts are listed below by energy category.





Engineering Microbial Pathways to Branched Alcohols (B1)

Micah Sheppard

In this poster, a pathway in E. coli is explored for the production of branched alcohols from simple sugars.


Mechanistic Understanding of Microbial Desulfurization (B2)

Andres Abin-Fuentes

Chemical Engineering, Wang and Prather Groups

Microbial desulfurization is a new technology in which microbes are used to reduce the sulfur content of fuels derived from petroleum.  Two of the obstacles to the commercialization of this technology are that the desulfurization rates obtained in microbial desulfurization processes are significantly lower than those from the industry-standard hydrodesulfurization process, and that the biocatalysts life is relatively short.  Our research has focused on developing a mechanistic understanding of the microbial desulfurization process in order to determine the rate-limiting step in the process and to investigate the mechanism of biocatalyst inhibition.


Gas-To-Liquid Biofuels Production using a Two-Stage Fermentation System (B3)

Ben Woolston, Sagar Chakraborty, Hamid Rismani

Chemical Engineering, Stephanopolous Group

S.Chakraborty, P. Hu, H. Rismani, A. Silverman, B. Woolston, G. Stephanopoulos
We have developed a two-stage fermentation system to convert the gaseous substrates carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) to liquid biofuels. In the first stage, H2, CO and CO2 are fed to an anaerobic microorganism capable of converting these feedstocks to a 2-carbon compound, acetate. In the second stage, acetate is delivered to an oleaginous microorganism that can use the acetate to grow and produce oil. The oil can then be removed from the reactor and chemically converted to various fuels, for example biodiesel. In this poster, we present our progress on both these stages, focusing in the first stage on reactor design strategies to overcome mass-transfer limitations and the development of genetic tools for optimizing the production of acetate, and in the second stage on a bioreactor operational strategy to improve lipid titers, production rates, and yields.


Molecular Characterization of Salt Tolerance in Cyanobacteria (B4)

Lina Yousef

MIT & Masdar Institute Cooperative Program

Our research is focussed on understanding salt-tolerance in cyanobacteria with the idea of developing salt-tolerant microalgae for the production of bioenergy, and/or identifying cyanobacterial stress genes for use in improving salt tolerance of sensitive microorganisms.  Our near term objective is to develop a clear understanding of the networks that connect environmental stress signals (e.g. salt) to the gene expression response.  Prochlorococcusis an oxygenic phototroph with a small genome size that encodes very few regulators.  Additionally, it requires only sunlight and inorganic compounds for growth. These simplistic features make it an attractive model organism for synthetic biology applications and bio-energy production.



Decision Support System for Buildings Retrofit (D1)

Ehsan Asadi


Many options are available to improve energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality in the building sector. Identifying the most appropriate options is a topic of outstanding importance given the potential costs and impacts involved. This research focuses on using modelling and optimization techniques to assess technology choices in the built environment. The aim is to provide stakeholders sound information to support the definition of intervention measures aimed at minimizing energy use in the building in a cost effective manner, while satisfying the occupant/owner needs. First, the research identifies a set of innovative retrofitting actions and renewable energy solutions suitable for retrofitting existing buildings in Portugal. This set of alternatives then used as an input to a multi-objective optimization model to quantitatively compare the merits of different options. A real world case study is used to demonstrate the functionality of the proposed approach and highlight potential problems that may arise.


Demand Response Potential Forecasting for Buildings Operating in a Smart Grid Environment (D2)

David Blum


Output intermittency and prediction difficulties with respect to solar and wind electricity resources increase the requirement of grid-scale reserve capacity and add strains to existing firm generators that provide reserve and other ancillary services.  Residential and commercial buildings account for a large portion of the electricity consumed in the U.S. and can play a significant role in helping to meet grid-scale stability challenges brought about by intermittent renewable generation.  This research identifies the need and introduces platforms for studying and developing the ability for buildings to forecast and bid into electricity markets HVAC-related demand response and ancillary service potential.  TRNSYS, Dymola, and MATLAB are used to develop simulations of a test chamber that demonstrate and assess the potential of this capability for air-based and radiant systems.


Informed Parametrization: Optimization of Building Energy Loads (D3)

Vasco Portugal


This research presents a methodology for parametric design that embeds knowledge from building performance evaluation software. Current parametric design delivers different solutions throughout the modeling and design process, but in the final stage, it does not allow users to distinguish the energetically optimal solution to develop or how to integrate those solutions into current design process. A specific case study being develop under the Zero + project of the MIT architectural robotics Lab is presented as an example. This approach proposes a performance based exploration of an array of parametric windows (variables) in a perimeter zone linked with simulation and performance evaluation tools. Successively combines the results of the performance simulation software with optimization algorithms, to pick solutions for subsequent exploration. A new design process that can provide immediate quality feedback on building performance, in order to assist the decision making process.


Household Operational Energy Consumption in Urban China: A Multilevel Analysis on Jinan (D4)

Dong Wang

Urban Studies and Planning, Making the Clean Energy Cities in China Project

With decades of economic growth and socio-economic transformation, China’s residential sector has seen rapid expansion in energy consumption.  In this poster, I present an analysis of household operational energy consumption in urban China through empirical evidence from Jinan, capital of eastern China’s Shandong Province.  Based on data from a survey of approximately 4,000 households and spatial analysis of 23 neighborhoods, I construct a multilevel regression model to examine the household, neighborhood, and cross-level interaction effects on operational energy consumption.The research reveals that operational usage accounts for a predominantly large portion of total residential energy consumption, and the consumption patterns vary greatly across households in different neighborhood typologies. The multilevel analysis shows that operational energy consumption is influenced by certain household (household income, size and structure, dwelling unit area, air conditioner ownership), neighborhood (floor area ratio), and cross-level interaction (building function mix with household income, neighborhood porosity with households living on top floors and/or with electric heating) characteristics.


Clubs & Organizations

MIT Energy Conference (C1)

Daniel Connell

MIT Energy Club

Conference Facts: Founded in 2006, this year’s 2-day Conference will be held March 1-2, 2013. As the world’s premier student-led Energy Conference, we value fact-based analysis, foresight and original thinking on a range of energy issues and topics. Mission: Bring together thought-leaders from industry, academia, government, and the investment community to deliver critical knowledge and independent analysis on emerging trends in energy technologies, policies, and markets Our Goal: To help our audience anticipate the energy future and formulate powerful, productive ideas in the face of rapidly change and uncertainty

MIT Clean Energy Prize (C2)

Sam Shaner, Mali Sridharan, George Miller

MIT Energy Club

The MIT Clean Energy Prize (CEP) is an educational platform for innovation, entrepreneurship, and new venture creation in the clean energy space. Above all, the CEP endeavors to stimulate and train tomorrow’s clean energy leaders. This will be achieved by working to foster productive relationships between academic, community, industry, and government organizations with strong interests in meeting the world’s energy challenge through innovation and entrepreneurship.


2012 MIT Energy Finance Forum (C3)

Michael Obhof, Xenia Menzies, Bernhard Stohr

MIT Energy Club

The MIT Energy Finance Forum is the central point of the MIT Energy Community’s business and energy nexus. This student-led conference will feature speakers from both the private and public sectors and is attended by hundreds of senior business executives and the brightest in academia. The Forum is a collaboration between the MIT Energy Club and the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Energy Club. Central to this Forum is MIT Sloan’s mission ‘to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice.’

Energy issues will continue to remain at the forefront for decision-makers in the policy and business worlds for years to come. Come explore these issues with us as we seek to develop the next generation of principled energy leaders.


MIT Wind Energy Projects in Action (C4)

Alex Kalmikov

Mechanical Engineering

MIT Wind Energy Projects in Action is a project oriented student team focused on learning wind energy engineering through hands on experience. WEPA works with MIT Facilities, neighboring municipalities, donors and members of industry to implement projects that produce wind based renewable energy solutions and to advance knowledge on use and strategies of such energy approaches through research and educational outreach. Current WEPA projects involve wind resource assessment and project feasibility studies on the MIT campus and in neighboring communities.


MIT Electric Vehicle Team (outside)

Roberto Melendez

MIT Electric Vehicle Team

The MIT Electric Vehicle Team (EVT) is a group of over 30 active undergraduate and graduate students at MIT who are dedicated to the research, design, and operation of electric vehicles (EVs). The team has completed one EV conversion and started a second conversion in June 2009. In addition, the team is active in education and community outreach.


Energy Efficiency

Advancements in Thermal Management through Condensation (E1)

Jean Sack

Mechanical Engineering

Condensation has potential in all applications in which heat transfer is required, especially in the context to removing heat from high performance solar technology, such as thermal solarphotovoltaics.  Four types of condensation, filmwise, dropwise, superhydrophobic jumping and superhydrophobic dropwise,   were induced and tested.  The Copper sample tubes were connected to a chilling loop running through a vacuum chamber, which pumped down to >1Pa, before introducing extremely pure water vapor.  For low supersaturations, a 25% increase in heat flux was found for superhydrophobic dropwise condensation, created by using an oxidized copper sample with saline.  Fundamental work was also done on jumping condensation, which is unique to the copper oxide surface, and exhibited the earliest droplet removal and thus highest heat flux.


Efficient Monte Carlo Algorithms for Nanoscale Heat Transfer (E2)

Jean-Philippe Péraud

Mechanical Engineering

Over the last two decades, nanoscale heat transfer has received significant attention. The fast miniaturization of semiconductor devices has for instance brought about serious heat dissipation issues. At the same time, nanostructured materials have been showing promising thermal conduction properties that can be exploited for designing new thermo-electric materials.At nanoscale level, where heat carriers display a mixture of diffusive and ballistic behavior, Fourier’s law cannot be applied and heat transfer problems can be modeled by the Boltzmann transport equation. Monte Carlo approaches are both intuitive and convenient when dealing with complicated geometries. However, in spite of the ever increasing computational speed, Monte Carlo simulations suffer from statistical uncertainty limitations that make 3D calculations particularly costly and noisy.

The present research essentially aims at developing variance reduction techniques to kinetic transport problems, check their reliability, and apply them to concrete 3D cases. This work focuses particularly on phonon transport.



Energy-Effient Urban Traffic Management: A Microscopic Simulation-Based Approach (E3)

Kanchana Nanduri

Civil and Environmental Engineering, Osorio Group

This study focuses on the development of optimized traffic signal timings for an integrated city network in Lausanne, Switzerland. While conventional signal control methods aim to reduce travel time for road users, our research shows that this may not be optimal in terms of network fuel consumption and/or emissions. We recognize that it is important to specifically account for environmental parameters when evaluating traffic management strategies. Over the last year, we have successfully achieved a 62% reduction in network travel time as well as a 30% improvement in fuel efficiency using our optimization techniques. Current work is centered around the incorporation of emissions modeling into our simulation efforts. The significance of this study lies in its high computational speed and low-cost implementation, since it only uses existing infrastructure in the city.


Stochastic Lighting Control (E4)

Matthew Aldrich, Akash Badshah, Brian Mayton, Joe Paradiso

MIT Media Lab

Within two decades from now, many experts believe that the wide-scale adoption of solid-state lighting will increase the consumption of lighting by a factor of ten (Tsao et al., 2010). Specifically, this implies that the percentage of a nation’s total energy expenditure for lighting will increase. This broad adoption of solid-state lighting will also affect the ways we personally use and consume lighting.

We assume that future lighting networks will be indistinguishable from modern wireless appliances and perform the usual routines such as data collection, distributed control, and actuation (Weiser, 1991; Greenberg et al., 2011). We expect that future dense installations of these lighting networks will leverage distributed, rather than centralized, control and actuation. Specifically, we assume that lighting control (e.g., on-off, course intensity adjustments) are to be modeled completely by stochastic processes and that our behavior within these networks generalizes to nothing more than the basic, fundamental phenomena that gives rise to these models in the first place.


Environment & Sustainability

Urban Energy and Resource Intensity Profiles: How Do Cities Compare? (Y1)

Karen Noiva


With over 50% of the world’s population residing in urban areas and many technological interventions being posed at that scale, cities have come to occupy a critical position in sustainable development discussions. One of the primary aims of sustainable development policies is to reduce the overall environmental impact of society. Yet identifying appropriate policies is complicated by the multi-faceted nature of the problem: environmental impact depends on diverse socioeconomic consumption and production processes. Given the complex socioeconomic character of cities, let alone differences in biogeophysical factors, how can we decide whether an integrated sustainability policy for one city will be appropriate for another? We used statistical clustering techniques to construct a city typology based on a variety of per capita energy and material consumption intensity metrics. Material consumption intensities included construction minerals, industrial minerals, total domestic materials, biomass, and water. Energy intensity metrics included total energy, fossil fuels, electricity, as well as CO2 production.

The Beauty of Fluids Phenomenon in Geologic Carbon Dioxide Storage (Y2)

Xiaojing Fu (Ruby)

Civil and Environmental Engineering, Juanes Group

Geologic sequestration of anthropogenic carbon dioxide is a new technology with great potential to mitigate global warming. The idea is to capture carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and store it in deep saline aquifers. This poster will give a brief overview of the three trapping mechanisms that insure secure CO2 storage underground. In addition, we present graphics and animations that describe some breath-taking fluids phenomenon that occurs during the sequestration process!

Methane Venting from Lakes (Y3)

Benjamin Scandella

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Lake-bottom sediments emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas and energy source, into the overlying water column and atmosphere. A large fraction of the methane is released as bubbles, but constraining the magnitude of this methane flux is challenging because ebullition is patchy in space and episodic in time. We present field measurements methane release in Upper Mystic Lake, MA and explain them using a model of gas flow through dynamic conduits. These conduits respond to the balance of solid stress and fluid pressure in a manner similar to hydrofracturing, and this mechanistic understanding will not only help constrain estimates of the global source of methane from lakes to the atmosphere, but it may also yield understanding of gas transport in ocean sediments that bear methane hydrates, a large potential energy source.


Photodotes (Y4)

Zenovia Toloudi

Art, Culture, and Technology

Limited natural light in working/living indoor spaces of dense urban environments often causes mental and health disorders such as decreased productivity, depression, women’s cycle patterns irregularities. This research develops a series of architectural devices called Photodotes (=light donors) that transmit natural light energy from outdoor spaces to under-light indoor spaces through fiberoptic cables. This poster presents an experiment that used Photodotes to grow plants in water containers in a dark gallery at MassArt, Boston during Winter 2012. Through collecting, transferring, and emitting natural light, Photodotes helped plants to absorb energy in order to develop. Plants were used both as a model system for living organisms, but also for their potential function to become food energy sources themselves. Through this chain, Photodotes become a greenhouse environment that offers light energy in dark places, proposing a new type of sustainable architecture.


Carbon Dioxide Sequestration: Finite Release Gravity Currents (Y5)

Michelle Dutt

Pre-Medical Environmental Engineering

Our research is aimed at understanding the propagation of carbon dioxide within aquifers as applied to carbon capture and storage. We perform experiments in acrylic micro-models with cylindrical posts, which simulate a porous medium. We conduct the experiments by filling the micro-model with analog fluids while in its vertical orientation, and flipping the micro-model to the horizontal orientation, creating a density driven current. To determine the effects of gravity and pore geometry on the system, we vary these parameters. We have found that both parameters are important in influencing the width of the advancing nose (a characteristic which determines the total distance the plume will travel). The current results of out experiments are mostly qualitative. The fluids tend to travel through wider pores until enough pressure is built up before traveling through a smaller pore. If the experiment is at a lower incline, the nose height will be larger. We have begun experimenting with a random pore geometry and are also running experiments in a glass-bead-packed cell, which provides a more realistic representation of porous medium.


Optically Transparent and Infrared-Teflective Coatings for Automobiles, Buildings and Electronics (Y6)

Mehmet Onbasli

Materials Science and Engineering, C. A. Ross Group

We designed optically transparent and infrared (IR) reflective coatings for windows, automobiles and electronics. Our coatings reflect 80% of incoming IR energy (wavelength range of 700-2000 nm, and constitutes 40% of total solar irradiation) and transmits 80% of incoming visible light (400-700 nm, for maintaining color functionality). The coatings lower the heat intake of buildings and cars and lower the load on the air-conditioning systems. This translates into improved mileage and fuel efficiency for automobiles. As an initial estimate, for about a billion cars around the world, nearly 1 GW power can be saved, 10 million liters of gasoline consumption avoided and 20,000 metric tons of reduction in CO2 emissions can be achieved annually using these coatings. Paint and glass used currently in the market do not shield car bodies and windows from IR, according to our thermal camera measurements of temperature on buildings and cars parked in Cambridge MA. The energy savings for buildings is more than 50 GW annually.


Nanoporous Graphene for Water Desalination (Y7)

David Cohen-Tanugi

Materials Science and Engineering

We show that nanometer-scale pores in single-layer freestanding graphene can effectively filter NaCl salt from water. Using classical molecular dynamics, we report the desalination performance of such membranes as a function of pore size, chemical functionalization, and applied pressure. Our results indicate that the membrane’s ability to prevent the salt passage depends critically on pore diameter with adequately sized pores allowing for water flow while blocking ions. Further, an investigation into the role of chemical functional groups bonded to the edges of graphene pores suggests that commonly occurring hydroxyl groups can roughly double the water flux thanks to their hydrophilic character. The increase in water flux comes at the expense of less consistent salt rejection performance, which we attribute to the ability of hydroxyl functional groups to substitute for water molecules in the hydration shell of the ions. Overall, our results indicate that the water permeability of this material is several orders of magnitude higher than conventional reverse osmosis membranes, and that nanoporous graphene may have a valuable role to play for water purification.

Grid & Storage

Aluminum Seawater Reaction Engine (G1)

Winston Larson

Mechanical Engineering, Hatsopoulos Microfluids Group

Compact energy sources are in constant demand, but batteries are currently the only commonly-used source that can operate without an oxygen supply. To change that, we are developing a reactor which reacts an aluminum-gallium alloy with seawater to produce heat, which then may be transformed into electricity. Aluminum is much more energy dense than the most advanced Li-Ion batteries and reacts violently with water. Coke cans don’t explode because of a thin layer of aluminum oxide on the surface of the metal. We use gallium to remove the oxide layer, allowing water to react with the pure metal and produce heat and hydrogen. We have demonstrated this technology with a prototype reactor, and are now characterizing the aluminum-gallium-water reaction and developing a series of larger reactor prototypes. Our reactor’s small form factor and its independence from oxygen make it attractive for myriad applications.

Improved Carbon Nanotube-Based Ultracapacitor Electrodes for Storage Applications (G2)

David Jenicek, Alex McCarthy

Research Laboratory of Electronics

Due to their mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties and their natural ability to grow on a variety of metallic and non-metallic substrates, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have the potential to significantly enhance the performance of modern ultracapacitors. However, the energy density of these devices – the relevant metric for energy storage applications – still falls far below (about 20x) that of modern lithium-ion batteries. We are investigating different fabrication techniques that enhance electrode energy density to make ultracapacitors more competitive. Specifically, we are targeting an elevated count of CNTs per unit area to increase the specific surface area of each electrode, which can be achieved by modifying the morphology of catalyst particles on the substrate prior to CNT growth. To date, we have demonstrated a 10x variability in CNT areal density which results from different catalyst deposition procedures and growth environment parameters.

The Impacts of Responsive Demand on Cyprus’s Energy Future (G3)

Matthew Bruchon

MIT Energy Initiative

In the next decade, Cyprus plans to transform its energy generation from nearly 100% oil to a mixture of natural gas and renewables.  This project assesses the roles responsive demand can play in aiding this transformation, from an hourly unit commitment perspective.  A stochastic linear programming model characterizes natural gas generation, solar PV, concentrated solar power with thermal storage, intermittent wind with forecast errors, and responsive demand.  Responsive demand is modeled as a variety of shiftable loads, with configurable properties such as: program capacity, maximum duration of a load shift, direction of load shifts allowed, lead time required for a call to shift demand, recovery penalty after a call, and minimum time between calls.  Responsive loads from the residential, commercial, and public works sectors are modeled.  Insights will include the optimal types of responsive demand programs to balance renewables, allow more efficient thermal generation, and reduce electricity prices.


Silicon Nanowires for Energy Storage in Microsystems (G4)

Ahmed Al-Obeidi

Materials Science and Engineering

Micro-batteries provide a critical component for self-powered autonomous microsystems. Lithium-ion batteries provide relatively high energy storage capacities. Significant improvement in energy storage capacities over current generation lithium-ion batteries is achievable by using silicon as the anode material. Silicon has the highest known Li capacity. However, lithiation of silicon results in large volume changes that cannot be sustained in monolithic forms such as fully dense films or substrates. To employ silicon-based lithium batteries, nanostructured silicon such as nanowires with high surface-to-volume ratios and superior mechanical properties over bulk are being investigated. We use metal-catalyzed etching to fabricate the silicon nanowires, a process that offers low-cost, room temperature processing of silicon. The process takes advantages of a thin, patterned metal film that catalyzes the etching of silicon. This process allows one to create large arrays of perfectly ordered nanowires. These high-volume filling arrays are being used to study the next generation of high capacity batteries.

Optimal Design of Grid-Interfaced EV Chargers with Integrated Generation (G5)

Samantha Gunter

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems (LEES)

The penetration of plug-in electric vehicles and renewable distributed generation is expected to increase over the next few decades. Large scale unregulated deployment of either technology can have detrimental impact on the electric grid. However, appropriate pairing of these technologies along with some storage could mitigate their individual negative impacts. This poster presents a framework and an optimization methodology for designing grid-interfaced systems that integrate electric vehicle chargers, distributed generation and storage. To demonstrate its usefulness, this methodology is applied to the design of optimal architectures for a residential charging case. It is shown that, given current costs, maximizing grid power usage minimizes system lifecycle cost. However, depending upon the location’s solar irradiance patterns, architectures with solar photovoltaic generation can be more cost effective than architectures without.


University Initiatives

Efficiency Forward (I1)

Peter Cooper

MIT Department of Facilities

Efficiency Forward is a $14 million program to reduce electric use on campus by 34 million KWHs (15%) within three years.  Now in the third year we are on target.  Program has been a partnership with NSTAR Electric which has provided incentive funds and technical expertise. Measures have included lighting and controls, HVAC, compressed air and new construction of buildings and central plant addition.


MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) (I2)

Jameson Twomey

MIT Energy Initiative

Founded in 2006, the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) aims to help transform global energy systems. It is a research, education, and outreach program that, in its depth and breadth, is without peer at U.S. academic institutions. An Institute-wide Initiative, MITEI pairs MIT’s world-class research teams with key players across the innovation spectrum to help improve today’s energy systems and shape tomorrow’s global energy marketplace. It is also a resource for policy makers and the public, providing unbiased analysis and serving as an honest broker for industry and government.


MIT Campus Energy Activities (I3)

Steven Lanou, Peter Cooper

Campus Energy Task Force

The Campus Energy Task Force continues to advance MIT’s vision of engaging our entire MIT community in campus energy activities. The Task Force has supported and coordinated a broad community of departments and people – department heads, research scientists, faculty, department staff, custodians, administrative assistants, undergraduate and graduate students, et al. – to help MIT “walk the talk” on energy and sustainability. The campus energy program has provided a guideline and opportunity to impact campus energy use and foster an awareness of energy issues across campus and allow many more people to engage with, learn from, and enrich the MIT Energy Initiative in different capacities.


Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE) (I4)

Katherine Frangos


The Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE) is a US-based non-profit applied R&D center that provides contract services for partners from the solar, building technology, utility and materials industries. We support development, testing, evaluation, education, and marketing of new technologies, with considerable flexibility in project structure and intellectual property. In addition, we support early-stage clean energy companies with grants of in-kind services and technology validation. Our clients range from national labs and Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and spin-outs.


MIT & Masdar Institute Cooperative Program (I5)

Susan Cass

MIT & Masdar Institute Cooperative Program

The MIT & Masdar Institute Cooperative Program (MIT&MICP) is an ongoing collaborative program with Abu Dhabi to provide advice and guidance in the establishment of a graduate research university – Masdar Institute – focused on alternative energy, sustainability, and advanced technology. In its first five years, Masdar Institute has attracted outstanding faculty and students, built a state-of- the-art campus and laboratories, and launched many collaborative research projects bringing together Masdar Institute and MIT researchers. MIT&MICP offers MIT and Masdar Institute faculty and students access to new talent, ideas, collaborations, facilities and research infrastructure, research and educational funding, all in a rich environment for discovery.


Tsinghua-MIT China Energy and Climate Project: Overview of Current Research (I6)

Valerie Karplus, Da Zhang, Tianyu Qi, Paul Kishimoto, Michael Davidson

Tsinghua-MIT China Energy and Climate Project

The Tsinghua-MIT China Energy and Climate Project involves close collaboration and personnel exchange between the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and the Institute for Energy, Environment and Economy at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. The goal of the CECP is to analyze the impact of existing and proposed energy and climate policies in China on technology, energy use, the environment and economic welfare by applying — and, where necessary, developing — both quantitative and qualitative analysis tools. This exhibit will include a set of posters that focus on four recently-completed projects, which have involved the development of two new energy-economic models of China and their application to analyze policy proposals advanced under China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015). Policies analyzed include national and regional carbon intensity targets, constraints on air pollutant emissions, and tariffs on energy-intensive export-oriented industries, among others.



Development of Advanced Nuclear Reactors (N1)

Alex Mieloszyk, Nathan Andres, Koroush Shirvan

Nuclear Science and Engineering

Currently in the United States, only Light Water Reactor (LWR) technology using UO2 fuel is used for the production of electricity. At MIT’s Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES), advanced next-generation reactors are being researched which will allow for future nuclear energy to be safer, more economical, and produce less waste. Changing the nuclear fuel from UO2 to UN increases the stability of the fuel while maintaining lower temperatures, allowing for more power extraction and better accident tolerance. A Boiling Water Reactor with High power Density (BWR-HD) has also been designed with a focus on maintaining current power generation rates and safety while reducing overall reactor cost significantly. Lastly, the Reduced moderation Boiling Water Reactor (RBWR) is being designed as a LWR which is capable of producing more fuel than it consumes or burning reprocessed fuel, depending on configuration.

An Innovative Approach to an Affordable, Compact, High Field Fusion Power Plant (N2)

Justin Ball, Harold Barnard, Brandon Sorbom

Nuclear Science and Engineering, Plasma Science and Fusion Center

Magnetic fusion energy (MFE) is a promising method of power generation that produces energy by fusing isotopes of hydrogen, the same process that powers the sun. One of the leading candidates for MFE power generation is a toroidal device which confines a superheated plasma using magnetic fields, called a tokamak. Although the fuel for MFE, deuterium and lithium, is cheap and plentiful, a major challenge has been designing a tokamak that has low enough capital costs to be economically viable. Last spring’s Engineering Principles for Fusion Reactors course sought to alleviate this by designing the smallest possible 500 MW reactor, named ARC. ARC’s design includes recent advances in demountable high-temperature superconducting magnets, a molten salt “breeding” blanket, and new plasma operating regimes. ARC is completely modular and replaceable, allowing a single machine to initially serve as an experiment and also transition to a first generation commercial reactor.


Towards Energy Gain from Inertial Confinement Fusion (N3)

Hans Rinderknecht

Physics, Plasma Science and Fusion Center, High Energy Density Physics Group

Nuclear fusion promises a sustainable, always-on source of electricity, with limited generation of radioactivity and no danger of proliferation or meltdown.  In recent years, Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF), one of the major avenues of fusion energy research, has made significant progress toward the goal of achieving energy gain from a fusion experiment.  In ICF, high-powered lasers are used to compress and heat capsules filled with fusion fuel, instantaneously reaching pressures and temperatures comparable to stellar interiors.  Since the successful commissioning of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in 2009, great strides have been made toward improving the performance and understanding the physics of ICF implosions.  Experiments are now approaching a regime where nuclear fusion has a significant impact, near the threshold of ignition.  Underlying theory of ICF, progress in experimental campaigns, and prospects for the development of this technology as a commercial energy source will be discussed.


Study of Boiling Heat Transfer and Two-Phase Flow Using Advanced Visualization Techniques (N4)

Bren Phillips, Eric Forrest, Rosemary Sugrue

Nuclear Science and Engineering, Buongiorno Group

Subcooled flow boiling is a complicated phenomenon present in many industrial heat transfer applications including conventional and nuclear power reactors.  Researchers are now attempting to model the boiling phenomenon using CFD approaches, to gain insight into the detailed mechanisms governing boiling.  The key objective of this study is to generate a new, more detailed, and more comprehensive set of data on subcooled flow boiling phenomena at the spatial and temporal resolution required for CFD validation. To accomplish this, modern non-invasive interrogation techniques such as Infrared (IR) Thermography, High Speed Video (HSV), and Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) that allow for the simultaneous measurement of many flow and bubble parameters are employed.  These methods allow for the measurement of multiple bubble, heater, and flow parameters simultaneously.  The tests will generate 2D velocity profile maps of the liquid phase during subcooled boiling, which will be synchronized with a 2D temperature profile of the heater surface.  Other information can be simultaneously measured, including many bubble parameters and bulk flow parameters. This compilation of data, which directly captures many of the parameters computed by CFD codes, can then be utilized to validate the numerical models in CFD codes.


No-more Fukushima: MIT’s Endeavor to Develop an Accident Tolerant Fuel with SiC Cladding Seems Promising (N5)

Youho Lee

Nuclear Science and Engineering, MIT Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES)

The accidents at Fukushima revealed irreconcilable weakness in current nuclear fuel designs under severe accident conditions. These problems largely pertain to performance of the current fuel cladding material, Zircaloy (Zr), which protectively encapsulates fuel pellet (UO2). We propose a novel accident-tolerant nuclear fuel design that employs SiC as a cladding material instead of Zr. We performed steam-oxidation experiments of SiC cladding. Results showed that the reaction is a few thousand times slower than Zr cladding, which implies no more dreadful hydrogen explosions witnessed in Fukushima. In addition, SiC clad fuel rod has a great potential to be proliferation resistant, and reduce the amount of nuclear-waste without challenging the current reactor design. We are investigating the most attractive innovations in SiC clad fuel designs by simulating fuel rod performance – at the same time conducting thermal shock experiments in search of the most critical issue. The on-going overarching assessment is showing compelling attractiveness of the SiC clad fuel, resulting in drawing international attention.


Energy Research at Laboratory for Electrochemical Interfaces (N6)

Bilge Yildiz

Nuclear Science and Engineering, Laboratory for Electrochemical Interfaces

The Laboratory for Electrochemical Interfaces focuses on understanding the response of the material surface when driven by chemical reactivity and mechanical stress. We probe the coupling of stress to the kinetics of electrochemical reactions on surfaces in two energy technology areas:
1. high temperature electrochemical activity on oxides for electricity and fuels production (fuel cells and electrolysis cells),
2. passivation in metal corrosion (oil transport and nuclear plants infrastructure).
In these systems, the mechanisms governing the interfacial activity are poorly understood and challenging to probe. We advance the quantitative understanding of the mechanisms that govern how the environment drives the surface activity and charge transport. For elucidating these mechanisms, we develop new scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy capabilities in harsh in situ conditions of temperature, reactive gasses and mechanical stresses; a first-of-its kind capability. Our computational specialization includes development of new models to overcome the timescale limitation of traditional methods.


Production of Biodiesel and Biogasoline via Coupling a LBE-cooled Reactor to Hydrogen and Biofuels Plants (N7)

Aditi Verma, Alex Salazar

Nuclear Science and Engineering, 2011 Nuclear Systems Design Team: "Bionukes"

Koroush Shirvan

This study shows that coupling a lead-bismuth eutectic (LBE) cooled fast reactor with hydrogen and biofuels production plants can be economically feasible. The hydrogen and biofuels production plants utilize High Temperature Steam Electrolysis (HTSE) and the Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) processes, respectively. A reactor outlet temperature of 650 °C, a greater than 18 month fuel cycle, and the use of innovative materials resulted in comparable revenues per KWh generated compared to only electricity production, in an uncertain energy climate of escalating oil prices. This makes this facility an attractive competitor to traditional gas-cooled reactor based biofuels production facilities.

Risk-Informed Asset Management for Nuclear Power Plant Life Extension (N8)

Jacob DeWitte

Nuclear Science and Engineering

Over the past two decades, the US has developed a successful life extension program for America’s nuclear fleet to extend their operating licenses from 40 to 60 years.  To date, 73 reactors have renewed their licenses, and about 30 have, or are expected to apply for extensions.  However, the margins originally engineered into the reactor designs, improved material management techniques, and better operating strategies have enabled some to study the feasibility of life extension beyond 60 years.  Achieving those lifetimes will require some structures, systems, and components to be upgraded, replaced, or overhauled due to either degradation or obsolescence.  Several students and faculty in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering are researching and developing improved risk-informed asset management tools for plant operators to investigate life limiting issues, and direct license renewal campaigns.  This poster highlights this work, and presents results from the students’ work.

Oil & Gas

Hybrid Concentrated Solar‐Natural Gas Power Generation Plant (O1)

Konstantina Vogiatzaki

Mechanical Engineering, Reacting Gas Dynamics Laboratory

A.F. Ghoniem, K.Vogiatzaki, S. Taamallah, E. Sheu, G. Kewlani, F. M. Alzahrani
The tremendous growth of the electric energy consumption represents a pressing problem for most countries. Electricity generation currently relies on hydrocarbons which however are running out. The use of alternative energy forms mostly coming from renewable sources has started emerging as a promising solution although there are not yet the technologies available (or even if they are available their cost is prohibitive) to completely replace the use of fossil fuels for large scale energy generation. The Reactive Gas Dynamics Laboratory led by Professor Ghoniem as a member of the Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy at MIT and KFUPM is currently working on a project that is based on the idea of how traditional sources of energy (hydrocarbons) can be supplemented by renewable forms in large power plants. Hybrid Concentrated Solar‐Natural Gas Power (HyCS‐NGP) is a promising electricity generation technology that expands the rating of the existing natural gas powered fleet by adding a solar field to each plant. The novelty of this project is that solar energy will not be used as a direct source of electricity as in traditional solar plants but it will be used to convert natural gas to syngas an environmentally friendlier form of fuel.


High-speed Shale Fracture Propagation and Coalescence (O2)

Stephen Morgan

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Due to the need to use hydraulic fracturing in tight shale (for both oil and gas extraction), there has been an increasing demand to describe the fracturing processes observed in shale rocks.  The current study investigates the high speed fracturing processes in an Opalinus clay shale rock.  Prismatic specimens, with cut flaw pairs representing pre-existing cracks, were uniaxially loaded (unconfined) in compression.  Fracturing processes were recorded using a high-speed camera that captures up to 12,000 frames per second.  The initiation, propagation and coalescence of fractures were observed at speeds not visible to the human eye.  The goal of this research is to compare the results of high speed fracturing processes observed in shale rock to those of previously studied brittle rocks in order to better predict the fracture behavior in shale rock reservoirs.


Coal-CO2 Slurry Feed for Pressurized Gasifiers: System-level Performance, Gasification Kinetics, and Slurry Preparation (O3)

Cristina Botero

Mechanical Engineering

Feeding solid fuels like coal into pressurized processes is a challenging task for which several solutions have been proposed. The pumping of a suspension of coal in water, also known as coal-water slurry, is the cheapest technology available today. Nonetheless, the high enthalpy of vaporization of water leads to very low thermal efficiencies in high-temperature processes based on this feeding system, particularly for low-rank coal.

Coal-CO2 slurry feed is presented in this work as a more efficient alternative to coal-water slurry. Liquid carbon dioxide has a very low enthalpy of vaporization and is available in plants with carbon capture. Steady-state process simulation is used to quantify the system-level performance advantage of the coal-CO2 slurry feeding system for an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant with carbon capture as an example application. Furthermore, the implications of a high CO2 environment on the heterogeneous coal gasification kinetics are studied with the help of a reduced-order model of an entrained flow gasifier. Finally, a process for preparing coal-CO2 slurry at ambient temperature via coal-water slurry is presented and its economics compared with that of competing feeding system technologies.


Natural Gas Aircraft: Impacts of Creating a New Market for Natural Gas (O4)

Jonathan Gibbs

Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment

Our poster will show initial findings for the economic and environmental impact of using natural gas in existing aircraft as a supplemental fuel to reduce the need for jet fuel.   The initial results are exciting because they confirm that a new transportation market can be created for the vast supply of clean, low cost, natural gas around the world, even with the capital burden of adding infrastructure.   In addition to being 50% cheaper than jet fuel, each unit of natural gas that replaces jet fuel will improve air quality by 80%, and reduce the carbon footprint by 20%.  This project is sponsored by Lockheed Martin as part of the MIT Energy Initiative.


How do New Technologies Impact the Balance of Fossil Fuel Usage? (O5)

David Ramberg

Engineering Systems Division, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Papers examining the relationship between crude oil and natural gas prices have concluded that the two non-stationary price series exhibited a stable relationship over time. However, each paper came up with a different measurement of that relationship. Ramberg and Parsons (2012) demonstrated that while the crude oil and natural gas spot price series were cointegrated between 1997 and 2010, the relationship shifted over time. David Ramberg’s dissertation postulates that changes in technology and policy, and the way in which fuels are used in response to those changes, drive the shifting relationship. He tests this theory and measures the effects by modeling the impact of new technologies in the fossil fuels complex, which should thus change how the fuels are used and priced. Gas-to-liquids (GTL) and coal-to-liquids (CTL) processes create new competitive and complementary linkages between the fossil fuels, and should also change the competitive balance between fuels in the economy.


Produced Water Treatment by Directional Solvent Extraction (O6)

Anurag Bajpayee

Mechanical Engineering

We have demonstrated Directional Solvent Extraction (DSE) as a low temperature, membrane-free technique for treatment of flowback and produced water and desalination of high salinity brines. DSE uses directional solvents capable of extracting pure water from a contaminated solution without themselves dissolving in the recovered water. This process dissolves the contaminated water into our directional solvent by increasing its temperature, rejects the contaminants, then recovers pure water upon cooling down, and re-uses the solvent. The solvents are recyclable and environmentally benign. DSE circumvents the need for membranes, uses simple, inexpensive machinery, and by operating at low temperatures offers the potential for using waste heat. This technique has been shown to be effective for treatment of feed waters over a wide range of total dissolved solids (TDS) levels and also demonstrated to effectively recover pure water from actual produced water samples from North American gas fields. An energy and economic analysis suggests that DSE could become an effective, affordable method for treatment of flowback and produced water from unconventional oil and gas extraction.



Solar Chimneys Coupled with Atriums for Power Generation in Steep-Slope Mountainous Terrain (S1)

Dr. Reinhard Goethert


A solar chimney concept is coupled with common atrium based multi-story building designs to capture enhanced airflows for internal turbine-generated power. The new building approach draws on previous solar chimney experimentation and brings in recent advances in wind turbine designs for energy capture, and incorporates concepts into a minimally modified standard atrium form, providing a ready source of untapped energy generation. The approach is appropriate for both new and retro-fit of large atrium buildings. The project is developing conceptual models and seeks funding for detailed technical analysis and further development in preparation for construction and testing in mountainous terrain in China.


Rapid De-icing Using Solar Thermal Fuels (S2)

Sam Shames

Materials Science and Engineering

Current windshield deicing is time consuming, taking up to 30 minutes to deice a windshield to safe driving conditions, and inefficient, relying on waste heat from the engine. A transparent thin film made from a rechargeable solar thermal fuel could potential improve both aspects of deicing. In order to assess the potential for this application, we need to determine whether a transparent thin film can store enough energy to deicing a windshield. My experiments measure the temperature of a sheet of glass as it is heated with and without ice. Using the temperature difference, and Stefan theory, preliminary results indicate that a thin film would need to be less 100 microns thick and that a water layer less than 0.5mm must be melted. A model I developed and published predicts the thin film could deice a windshield in under 10 seconds.


Bacteriophage-Based Nanotemplate for Bulk Heterojunction Solar Cells (S3)

Noemie-Manuelle Dorval Courchesne, Matthew Klug

Chemical Engineering, Hammond and Belcher Groups

High aspect ratio M13 bacteriophages constitute unique templates for the creation of nanowires of different inorganic materials because they can specifically bind and align nanomaterials and their precursors.  Organizing these phages into a three dimensional network creates a porous scaffold onto which metallic nanoparticles, crystals or metal oxides like titania can be assembled.  These networks provide a means of manipulating electron and other carrier transport within electrochemical or photoactive devices.   Here we report the construction of thin bacteriophage films of hundreds of nanometers in thickness, carried out via a covalent layer-by-layer assembly method, using a carbodiimide crosslinker commonly employed in bioconjugation.  This method enables the tight control of thickness and composition of different substrate-specific bacteriophage layers.  The films allow for the templating of inorganic nanowire networks, and also for the infiltration of polymeric or metallic materials into the pores, to form a nanostructured active layer for bulk heterojunction solar cells.

High Efficiency, Low Cost Photovoltaics using III-V on Silicon Tandem Cells (S4)

Prithu Sharma, Tim Milakovich

Materials Science and Engineering

High quality epitaxial growth of GaAsP on Si would allow access to materials and band gaps that enable high efficiency, low cost solar cells and yellow-green LEDs. However, realizing GaAsP/Si integration has proved difficult due to the formation of defects at the heterovalent interface that are detrimental to the device performance. We have established strain-engineering methods at the GaAsP/SiGe heterovalent interface to prevent dislocation loop nucleation and expansion, which has resulted in a reduction of defect density by two orders of magnitude (from 1E8 cm-2 to 1E6 cm-2). We are currently using the high quality thin films, obtained by this technique, to create a tandem solar cell structure using GaAsP as the upper cell and Si as both the substrate and the lower cell. This allows access to the highest efficiency possible for a two-cell tandem: 36.5%. We are also using this technique to demonstrate yellow-green InGaP LEDs on Si.


Varied Pressure Deposition and Co-Sputtering of ZnO for Quantum Dot Solar Cells (S5)

Yao (Rebecca) Zhang

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

In order to improve the conversion efficiency of PbS ZnO quantum dot photovoltaics, we are optimizing the performance of the n-type semiconductor by improving the interface between the n-type and p-type semiconductor layers. By varying the synthesis techniques of the n-type layer as well as selecting doping and alloying agents, we can identify parameters that promote conversion efficiency. Thin-film deposition of ZnO is achieved by sputtering, and changing the background pressure within the sputterer affects ZnO morphology and the smoothness of the film itself. Preliminary experiments show that at a higher pressure, ZnO performs better. At 20 mTorr, the highest pressure we tested, our devices reached a power conversion efficiency (PCE) of 2.17% where as at 3 mTorr, the lowest pressure we tested, our devices yielded 0.00288% PCE.  We have also explored the effect of doping the ZnO layer with aluminum by co-sputtering to create aluminum zinc oxide (AZO) and increase conductivity within our devices. Our experiments show that co-sputtering may cause undesired recombination at the heterojunction between the semiconductor layers. In future works, we hope to find an optimal design that capitalizes aluminum doping while minimizing undesired recombination. We will also explore the effects of alloying ZnO with other metal oxides.


Solution-Processed ZnO Nanowire Arrays for Quantum Dot Photovoltaics (S6)

Joel Jean

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Organic and Nanostructured Electronics Laboratory (ONE Lab)

Solar cells based on colloidal quantum dots (QDs) could provide a cheap, solution-processed alternative to traditional silicon and thin-film photovoltaics. Despite rapid gains in efficiency in recent years, however, QD solar cells remain limited by a fundamental tradeoff between light absorption and charge collection. Our work demonstrates that vertical arrays of solution-grown ZnO nanowires can decouple absorption from collection and increase QDPV power conversion efficiencies by up to 35% over planar devices.


Engineering Nanomaterials to Increase Photoactivity of Chloroplasts for Solar Energy Harvesting (S7)

Sean Faltermeier

Chemical Engineering

Using or mimicking photosynthesis for harnessing solar energy is a large field of research.  However, the use of intact chloroplasts as a cheap, abundant source for such schemes hasn’t yet been explored.  One obstacle is that despite their internal self-repair mechanisms, isolated chloroplasts lose their most of their photoactivity within 6-8 hours, largely due to reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation.  A promising approach for extending the lifetime and photoactivity of isolated chloroplasts is through addition of nanomaterials that can scavenge ROS, thus preventing them from damaging the photosynthetic proteins.  The effects of several potential antioxidants, including carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, and cerium nanoparticles (nanoceria) are quantified using several oxidative dyes.  While none of these materials entirely prevent photodamage, nanoceria is shown to reduce concentrations of ROS.  This work suggests that nanomaterials can be used to help improve lifetimes and photosynthetic conversion of chloroplasts for incorporation into solar harvesting devices.


Thin Cost-Effective Silicon Wafers for Heterojunction-Based Photovoltaic Devices (S8)

Adel Gougam

MIT & Masdar Institute Cooperative Program

The Photovoltaic (PV) industry has seen a surge in the last two decades, both at research and industrial levels. Many technical challenges have been overcome in a relatively short time, resulting in novel solar cell technologies and device architectures. While materials quality requirements differ to a degree, the majority of both integrated circuit (IC) and PV devices are fabricated from crystalline silicon. As a consequence, many PV fabrication steps share a commonality with the electronics-based technology. A photovoltaic device is different from an IC, in that the entire PV wafer thickness absorbs photons and thus constitutes the active device region while in the IC, typically only a thin region, on the order of microns, is utilized by the active devices. Nevertheless, materials science-oriented investigations of fundamental properties can be expected to contribute to a productive cross-fertilization between the two industries. One of the major issues still impeding solar cell technology’s ability to compete with conventional power generating technologies is their cost. A major cost component is the silicon wafer used in the mainstream PV devices. Significantly reducing wafer thickness, while increasing efficiency, represents a path toward cost competitiveness with fossil fuels. In this project we intend to adapt one of the most efficient existing Si based technologies namely the heterojunction one (with 23-24% efficiency) to thin Si substrates and appropriate subsequent layers present in this kind of cell architecture.


Start Ups

Bioenerji: Block Out the Blackouts (U1)

Arjun Gupta


bioenerji aims to develop, build, own and operate anaerobic digestion facilities to recover energy and nutrient-rich fertilizers from India’s organic waste. It has identified a niche first market along with customers, local partners, and advisers to deliver these projects. The entire organic waste feedstock will be procured from a single credit-worthy counter party under long-term contract; the energy will be sold as bioCNG to local factories without access to the natural gas pipeline at a discount to their current energy prices; and the liquid fertilizer will be sold to farmers to improve soil health and crop yields.


RetroSiM (U2)

Ehsan Asadi, Bruno Bueno

Building Technology Lab

RetroSim is a web-based, software-as-a-service platform that combines remote building monitoring, building energy simulations, and an optimization engine to produce complete building analysis and retrofit action recommendation in a matter of minutes. In the course of a retrofit project, building engineers spend nearly 60% of their time dealing with building energy monitoring and simulation. Our solution can dramatically reduce this burden, allowing building owners, engineers, and their affiliated companies to be more productive and profitable. We need €850K to finalize our product. According to our economic feasibility study, the payback period is only 2 years.


CoolChip Technologies: Unlocking Energy Efficiency Through Advanced Electronics Cooling (U3)

Steve Stoddard

CoolChip Technologies, Inc.

The electronics in today’s embedded systems, smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles become very hot, very quickly, requiring compact cooling solutions that keep the electronic systems from overheating. Current electronics cooling solutions are difficult to form fit into these smaller devices while maintaining cooling performance at reasonable prices. Through proprietary ways of transferring heat to moving frames of reference, CoolChip develops kinetic cooling devices with smaller form factors, lower acoustics signatures, and better thermal performance than today’s existing solutions. See how advanced electronics cooling technologies have the potential to unlock large-scale energy efficiencies in data centers and computing systems.


Takachar: Turning Urban Waste into Cooking Fuel (U4)

Kevin Kung

Biological Engineering, Van Oudenaarden Group

About one-sixth of the world population lives in urban slums, where energy shortage is a severe problem. In a typical slum, the demand for charcoal (as a cooking fuel) exceeds 200 tons/day, and this consumption is responsible for massive deforestation. At the same time, due to charcoal scarcity, the skyrocketing prices are trapping families in poverty. Takachar addresses this urban energy bottlenect by turning common urban household organic waste into energy products (charcoal and biogas). We work with local microentrepreneurs and use an incentive-based waste collection system to mobilize the entire slum to turn in its waste, and not just the few houses that can afford service. In this way, Takachar aims to save trees, reduce greenhouse emissions from decomposing organic waste, provide a safe, affordable, and reliable source of cooking fuel, and generate local income.


Loci Controls: Landfill Gas to Energy Optimization (U5)

Andy Campanella, Melinda Hale, Lesley Yu

Loci Controls, Inc.

Many US landfills have installed generators or gas turbines powered by landfill gas, and they sell the electricity back to the grid as an extra source of revenue.  The decomposition of waste is a biological process, and the gas extraction rate is affected by numerous environmental factors like temperature, rainfall, and atmospheric pressure.  Despite this variability, the collection systems are currently manually adjusted around once per month.  Loci is building a distributed control system of wireless sensors and control valves to optimize the vacuum pressure at each well in the landfill, so that the collection system can track the underlying variability in gas production.  We believe that an extra 20-30% yield is possible with the addition of our product to the existing gas collection systems.


Ambri: Storing Electricity for Our Future (U6)

Michael McNeley

Group Sadoway

Ambri (formerly Liquid Metal Battery Corporation) is developing an electricity storage solution that will change the way electric grids are operated worldwide. Ambri will enable the more widespread use of renewable generation like wind and solar, reduce power prices and increase system reliability. Ambri’s technology — the liquid metal battery — was invented in the lab of Dr. Donald Sadoway, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT, the Liquid Metal Battery Project built upon Professor Sadoway’s 40 years of experience working with extreme electrochemical processes, ranging from aluminum smelting, to molten oxide electrolysis for extracting oxygen from lunar regolith, to lithium polymer batteries. The research on campus has been supported by the Deshpande Center, the Chesonis Family Foundation, ARPA-E and the French energy company, Total. David Bradwell (now Senior Vice President of Commercialization & Chief Technology Officer of Ambri) played an instrumental role in advancing the technology while he completed an M.Eng degree, a Ph.D degree, and a one-year postdoctoral fellowship. In 2010, Bradwell and Sadoway, along with Luis Ortiz, co-founded Ambri with the goal of commercializing the technology.


SolidEnergy: Reinventing the Battery (U7)

Mike Hagerty, Qichao Hu, Jim McQuade

SolidEnergy Systems Corp

SolidEnergy’s mission is to deliver a safe, high-energy-density, and high-temperature rechargeable lithium metal battery that will reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and U.S. dependence on foreign oil. SolidEnergy’s Polymer Ionic Liquid (PIL) battery will accelerate the market adoption of electric vehicles with 2.5x energy density of current technology and enable the recovery of additional domestic oil and gas resources from high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) wells. The company’s commercialization plan is three-phased beginning in downhole oil & gas electronics and expanding into the consumer electronics and electric vehicle markets. The SolidEnergy battery will lead to thinner, lighter and longer lating laptop and cell phone batteries and extend the range of current EV.

SolidEnergy was the winner of the Rice Business Plan Competition Clean Energy Prize, the Grand Prize Runner Up at the first National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition in Washington, DC and the Energy Track Winner at the MIT 100K competition.


Micro CSP for Trigeneration in Rural Health Clinics (U8)

Matt Orosz, Bryan Urban, Amy Mueller

CEE Parsons Lab

Energy demand in developing countries is growing rapidly amidst deepening concern over the challenges posed by climate change.  Affordable, reliable and climate-friendly energy systems are needed, especially at the front line institutions providing critical services to unelectrified communities.  Solar Tri-Gen has developed a solution to power rural health centers and schools using micro-Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants and a micro-utility distribution scheme.  Micro-CSP is a viable in areas with more than 1800 kWh of direct sunlight per m2 per year, which includes parts of 115 countries.  In 95 of these countries (46 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa), a sizeable proportion of the population lacks access to electricity.  The overlap of unmet demand with the solar resources appropriate for CSP forms the market boundaries for Solar Tri-Gen, including nearly 90,000 rural clinics and over 260,000 unelectrified schools (World Bank), serving 1.1 billion.


CoolComply: A Solar-Powered Medical Refrigerator (U9)

Kenneth McEnaney, Anna Young

Little Devices

In many parts of the developing world, people lack access to electricity.  Without electricity, patients have no way of storing temperature-sensitive medication.  CoolComply, an inexpensive solar-powered medical refrigerator, addresses this fundamental problem with for tuberculosis patients.   In addition, CoolComply actively monitors patient access to the drugs inside and relays the information to the patient’s local healthcare provider via text message.


Solarclave: Reliable Solar-Powered Sterilization for Rural Clinics in Nicaragua. (U10)

Charles Hsu, Alejandro Dinsmore, Anna Young, Samantha Darryanto

Innovations in International Health, D-Lab, MIT

Rural clinics worldwide often face a lack of access to sterilization, preventing proper sterilization of frequently used instruments, leading to increased rates of post-surgical infection and even mortality. The Solarclave project aims at addressing this problem through the design, development, and dissemination of a solar-powered autoclave (a device used to steam-sterilize medical equipment) in rural Nicaragua using locally available materials, and working with local health professionals, manufacturers, and distributors to maximize the social integration and impact of our device. Our group has successfully achieved standard-meeting prototypes through iterations of co-development with Nicaraguan health professionals and manufacturers to best create a device that is integrable into their daily work cycles. We have begun market research to investigate options for effective manufacture and distribution of our device locally. The Solarclave project applies basic solar energy principles to address not only health issues but also social and economic issues in rural Nicaragua.


Buoyant High: Altitude Wind Energy (U11)

Eph Lanford

Altaeros Energies

Altaeros Energies is developing a breakthrough airborne wind turbine to produce abundant, low cost, renewable energy. Altaeros uses safe and reliable aerospace technology to lift wind turbines to operate at higher heights where winds are much stronger and more consistent than on the ground. Altaeros turbines are designed for easy mobility and rapid deployment at remote, military, and offshore sites. Altaeros Energies is a Massachusetts-based business led by MIT and Harvard alumni.


Keystone Tower Systems: Advanced Wind Turbine Tower Manufacturing (U12)

Eric Smith

Keystone Tower Systems

Keystone Tower Systems is an early stage start-up founded by a team out of the MIT Mechanical Engineering department that is developing a new manufacturing process for towers for wind turbines.  Keystone’s new manufacturing process enables the wind industry to cost effectively reach higher hub-heights where the wind is stronger.  This results in a large increase in energy capture and significantly lowers the cost of wind energy.  Backed by over $1M in US Department of Energy grants, and partnerships with some of the largest turbine manufacturers in the world, Keystone’s team is working quickly to design and build automated manufacturing equipment to produce some of the largest mass-produced objects ever constructed.



MIT CSAIL: Wind Farm Layout Optimization (W1)

Dennis Wilson


Wind turbine layout is a complex problem that is difficult to solve dynamically. Multiple layout options are desired for responding to changing property values, obstructions, and material costs. Optimization goals aren’t well defined and consist mostly of power output, without taking costs and revenue into account. We present two algorithms that utilize cloud scale computing to efficiently create optimized layouts that adhere to physical constraints while performing well for both energy revenue and costs.