Much artificial-intelligence research addresses the problem of making predictions based on large data sets. An obvious example is the recommendation engines at retail sites like Amazon and Netflix. But some types of data are harder to collect than online click histories —information about geological formations thousands of feet underground, for instance. And in other applications — such as trying to predict the path of a storm — there may just not be enough time to crunch all the available data. Dan Levine, an MIT graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics, and his advisor, Jonathan How, the Richard Cockburn Maclaurin Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, have developed a new technique that could help with both problems. Continue reading about his research on MIT News.
Category Archives: Student research
August 19, 2014
August 18, 2014
The magnets cluttering the face of your refrigerator may one day be used as cooling agents, according to a new theory formulated by MIT researchers.
The theory describes the motion of magnons — quasi-particles in magnets that are collective rotations of magnetic moments, or “spins.” In addition to the magnetic moments, magnons also conduct heat; from their equations, the MIT researchers found that when exposed to a magnetic field gradient, magnons may be driven to move from one end of a magnet to another, carrying heat with them and producing a cooling effect.
“You can pump heat from one side to the other, so you can essentially use a magnet as a refrigerator,” says Bolin Liao, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “You can envision wireless cooling where you apply a magnetic field to a magnet one or two meters away to, say, cool your laptop.” Continue reading about his research on MIT News.
August 12, 2014
Harry Asada, the Ford Professor of Engineering in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and graduate student Faye Wu recently presented a paper on a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand at the Robotics: Science and Systems conference in Berkeley, Calif. The robot, which the researchers have dubbed “supernumerary robotic fingers,” consists of actuators linked together to exert forces as strong as those of human fingers during a grasping motion. The device, worn around one’s wrist, works essentially like two extra fingers adjacent to the pinky and thumb. A novel control algorithm enables it to move in sync with the wearer’s fingers to grasp objects of various shapes and sizes. Wearing the robot, a user could use one hand to, for instance, hold the base of a bottle while twisting off its cap. Learn more about Wu’s research at MIT News.
August 11, 2014
In August, grad students Jonathan Perry and Amy Ousterhout will be attending the annual conference of the ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication. The MIT researcher team will present a new network-management system that, in experiments, reduced the average queue length of routers in a Facebook data center by 99.6 percent — virtually doing away with queues. When network traffic was heavy, the average latency — the delay between the request for an item of information and its arrival — shrank nearly as much, from 3.56 microseconds to 0.23 microseconds.
Like the Internet, most data centers use decentralized communication protocols: Each node in the network decides, based on its own limited observations, how rapidly to send data and which adjacent node to send it to. Decentralized protocols have the advantage of an ability to handle communication over large networks with little administrative oversight. Continue reading at MIT News.
August 8, 2014
A special class of tiny gold particles can easily slip through cell membranes, making them good candidates to deliver drugs directly to target cells. A new study from MIT materials scientists reveals that these nanoparticles enter cells by taking advantage of a route normally used in vesicle-vesicle fusion, a crucial process that allows signal transmission between neurons. In the July 21 issue of Nature Communications, the researchers describe in detail the mechanism by which these nanoparticles are able to fuse with a membrane. The findings suggest possible strategies for designing nanoparticles — made from gold or other materials — that could get into cells even more easily.
“We’ve identified a type of mechanism that might be more prevalent than is currently known,” says Reid Van Lehn, an MIT graduate student in materials science and engineering and one of the paper’s lead authors. “By identifying this pathway for the first time it also suggests not only how to engineer this particular class of nanoparticles, but that this pathway might be active in other systems as well.” Continue reading about the research at MIT News.
August 5, 2014
Last year, MIT researchers discovered that when water droplets spontaneously jump away from superhydrophobic surfaces during condensation, they can gain electric charge in the process. The team consists of postdoc Nenad Milikov, associate professor of mechanical engineering, Evelyn Wang, former postdoc Ryan Enright, and MIT graduate Daniel Preston. Now, the researchers have demonstrated that this process can generate small amounts of electricity that might be used to power electronic devices. This approach could lead to devices to charge cellphones or other electronics using just the humidity in the air. As a side benefit, the system could also produce clean water. Learn more about the project on MIT News.
August 1, 2014
Machine learning, in which computers learn new skills by looking for patterns in training data, is the basis of most recent advances in artificial intelligence, from voice-recognition systems to self-parking cars. It’s also the technique that autonomous robots typically use to build models of their environments.
“A single computer has a very difficult optimization problem to solve in order to learn a model from a single giant batch of data, and it can get stuck at bad solutions,” says Trevor Campbell, a graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, who wrote the new paper with his advisor, Jonathan How, the Richard Cockburn Maclaurin Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “If smaller chunks of data are first processed by individual robots and then combined, the final model is less likely to get stuck at a bad solution.”
Continue reading about Campbell’s research on MIT News.
July 31, 2014
The headlines are as unavoidable as they are alarming. This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1 in 68 8-year-old children were diagnosed with some form of autism in 2010, up from 1 in 150 a decade before. No one knows exactly why that rate keeps rising. Researchers have delved into everything from mercury exposure to parental age. But Phech Colatat, who has just earned his PhD in economic sociology from MIT Sloan, thinks we’ve been looking for answers in the wrong places. Learn more about Colatat’s research on the MIT Sloan website.
July 30, 2014
Personalized cancer treatments and better bone implants could grow from techniques demonstrated by graduate students Stephen W. Morton and Nisarg J. Shah, who are both working in chemical engineering professor Paula Hammond’s lab at MIT. Morton’s work focuses on developing drug-carrying nanoparticles to target hard-to-treat cancers — such as triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) — while Shah develops coatings that promote better adhesion for bone implants. Continue reading about Morton and Shah’s research on MIT News. Pictured are Shah (left) and Morton (right); photo by Denis Paiste.
July 29, 2014
Five new graduate students and one continuing recipient have been chosen to receive the prestigious Hugh Hampton Young Memorial Fund Fellowship in the 2014-15 academic year. This highly selective research fellowship at MIT is named for the pioneering medical researcher Hugh Hampton Young. Recipients are chosen for both academic achievement and exceptional strength of character, focusing heavily on the perceived potential of the candidate to positively impact humanity. Photo by Doris Ulmann.
July 28, 2014
When Kelly Heber goes snorkeling in Bali, she’s not exactly vacationing. In a few minutes, she’ll be onboard a nearby boat, asking the captain if he’s seen any comeback in his fish stocks in recent years. She’ll ask how he decides if a coral reef is healthy enough to support daily visits from boatloads of tourists, and if littering and pollution pose threats.
As a PhD student in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning working in the Science Impact Collaborative, Heber performs her environmental policy fieldwork in rural villages in Indonesia that are fringed by vibrant coral reefs. These reefs suffered during the period from the 1950s to the 1990s, when fishermen commonly exploded cyanide bombs in the water to kill and harvest all the fish in an area at once. Still in recovery, these “post-blast” coral reefs now attract thousands of tourists a year, generating the main source of income for village communities.
Learn more about Heber’s fieldwork on the Oceans at MIT website.
July 25, 2014
MIT graduate student Leon Dimas is no stranger to resilience: At 18, as a rising soccer star, the long-armed goalkeeper was a promising prospect who played for the youth academy of Rosenborg BK, a top-ranked Norwegian soccer club. He was set, it seemed, on a path that would allow him to pursue a professional career playing the game that was his first love. But when Dimas suffered nagging damage to a shoulder tendon, his professional prospects dimmed. Over the course of the next year, he made the decision to abandon professional soccer for good. “Once that dream broke, you wonder if you can get these kinds of feelings again,” Dimas says, “feelings of accomplishment and that someone believes in you.”
It’s fair to say that Dimas, now a doctoral student in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has bounced back. Fittingly, he is now working on creating new materials that have resilience of their own — by borrowing from the oldest blueprint around. Learn more about Leon Dimas’ research at MIT News.
July 24, 2014
Most of the robotic limbs you hear about are meant to replace arms and legs that have been lost to injury, but MIT is working on robotic limbs that are just meant to add on additional ones, giving people three or four arms so that they can get more done. Its researchers demonstrated the limbs — which they call supernumerary robotic arms — at a conference yesterday in China, and videos show that they’re already working to a basic extent. The current suit reportedly weighs just 10 pounds, but right now it seems to mainly be useful for holding light objects in place.
“Once we combine the most significant behavioral modes we are able to control the robot such that, from the wearer’s perspective, it behaves like an extension of his own body,” Baldin Llorens-Bonilla, an MIT researcher working on robotic limbs, tells IEEE Spectrum. Continue reading about his research on The Verge.
July 22, 2014
On a good day, residents in Lagos, Nigeria, get eight hours of electricity—far from enough for a rapidly growing city of 18 million. To address this shortfall, students from across MIT have teamed up to launch a waste-to-energy company that will provide Lagos residents with cheap, reliable electricity.
“Lagos has a severe waste problem, severe unemployment, and an environmental problem. Millions of people are running diesel generators on a daily basis,” said Adetayo “Tayo” Bamiduro, an MIT Sloan MBA ’15 student from Nigeria. The company the students founded, NovaGen Power Solutions, aims to supply biogas to apartment buildings while providing local jobs. “The impact is social, environmental, and economic,” Bamiduro said.
The brainchild of Adeyemi “Yemi” Adepetu, a student in MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) program, NovaGen will collect organic waste from apartments and convert it into biogas to fuel generators. Continue reading the article here. Adepetu pictured at left.
July 21, 2014
Graduate student Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye is working on a new system that would allow individuals to pick and choose what data to share with websites and mobile apps. The example I like to use is personalized music,” says de Montjoye. “Pandora, for example, comes down to this thing that they call the music genome, which contains a summary of your musical tastes. To recommend a song, all you need is the last 10 songs you listened to — just to make sure you don’t keep recommending the same one again — and this music genome. You don’t need the list of all the songs you’ve been listening to.”
De Montjoye says “You share code; you don’t share data. Instead of you sending data to Pandora, for Pandora to define what your musical preferences are, it’s Pandora sending a piece of code to you for you to define your musical preferences and send it back to them.” Read more about de Montjoye’s new system at MIT News.
July 17, 2014
A new optimization process developed by Carolina Osorio, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, and graduate student Linsen Chong can time traffic lights in large urban areas while accounting for the complex and diverse reactions of individual drivers. Their approach uses high-resolution traffic simulators that describe, in detail, the behavior of drivers in response to changes in travel conditions. In detailed simulations of Lausanne’s traffic, they found that the timings produced by their approach reduced the average travel time for commuters by 22 percent, compared with timings generated by commercial traffic-light timing software. Read more about Chong’s research at MIT News.
July 9, 2014
Can you install a false memory in the brain? Researchers at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, including graduate student Steve Ramirez, have shown it’s possible in lab animals. First they locate where in the brain the memory is formed; then they use optogenetics to manipulate the memory neurons. One day such techniques could be used to help people with debilitating traumatic memories. Watch the video on Technology Review.
July 8, 2014
Lulu Li, a graduate student in nuclear science and engineering, has won the award for the best poster presented at the 2014 CASL Annual Education Workshop. Li’s poster described a new physics-based multigrid acceleration method implemented and tested in the OpenMOC framework. At MIT, Li works with professors Kord Smith and Benoit Forget in the Computational Reactor Physics Group (CRPG). CRPG focuses on computational physics methods for modeling and simulation of nuclear reactor cores, including reactor physics analysis methods, core loading design and optimization, and transient safety analysis. Continue reading this article on MIT News. Photo by Justin Knight.
July 7, 2014
MIT’s Mobile Fab Lab — a trailer containing digital fabrication, design, and manufacturing tools, along with an electronics workbench — was on hand Wednesday for the first-ever “White House Maker Faire,” hosted by President Obama and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the White House.
Obama stopped by the Mobile Fab Lab for a briefing on digital fabrication and the future of manufacturing with Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA); Nadya Peek, one of his graduate students, who is working on machines that make machines; and Makeda Stephenson, from Boston’s first fab lab. Visitors to the lab included John Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the OSTP, and two physicists who serve in Congress: Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Bill Foster (D-Ill.), who has introduced a House bill to charter a national network of fab labs based on CBA’s fab labs.
Continue reading this article on MIT News. Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais; from left to right, President Barack Obama, Gershenfeld, Peek
July 3, 2014
The more cores — or processing units — a computer chip has, the bigger the problem of communication between cores becomes. For years, Li-Shiuan Peh, the Singapore Research Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, has argued that the massively multicore chips of the future will need to resemble little Internets, where each core has an associated router, and data travels between cores in packets of fixed size. In a network-on-chip, each core is connected only to those immediately adjacent to it. “You can reach your neighbors really quickly,” says Bhavya Daya, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science, and first author on the new paper. “You can also have multiple paths to your destination. So if you’re going way across, rather than having one congested path, you could have multiple ones.” Continue reading this article on MIT News.
June 18, 2014
Solar-cell technology has advanced rapidly, as hundreds of groups around the world pursue more than two dozen approaches using different materials, technologies, and approaches to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Now a team at MIT has set a new record for the most efficient quantum-dot cells — a type of solar cell that is seen as especially promising because of its inherently low cost, versatility, and light weight.
While the overall efficiency of this cell is still low compared to other types — about 9 percent of the energy of sunlight is converted to electricity — the rate of improvement of this technology is one of the most rapid seen for a solar technology. The development is described in a paper, published in the journal Nature Materials, by MIT professors Moungi Bawendi and Vladimir Bulović and graduate students Chia-Hao Chuang and Patrick Brown.
The new process is an extension of work by Bawendi, the Lester Wolfe Professor of Chemistry, to produce quantum dots with precisely controllable characteristics — and as uniform thin coatings that can be applied to other materials. Learn more about Chuang and Brown’s on MIT News.
June 16, 2014
A new algorithm could transfer acclaimed photographers’ signature styles to cellphone photos. Celebrated portrait photographers like Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, and Martin Schoeller made their reputations with distinctive visual styles that sometimes required the careful control of lighting possible only in the studio. Now MIT researchers, and their colleagues at Adobe Systems and the University of Virginia, have developed an algorithm that could allow you to transfer those distinctive styles to your own cellphone photos. They’ll present their findings in August at Siggraph, the premier graphics conference.
“Style transfer” is a thriving area of graphics research — and, with Instagram, the basis of at least one billion-dollar company. But standard style-transfer techniques tend not to work well with close-ups of faces, says YiChang Shih, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and lead author on the Siggraph paper. Continue reading on MIT News.
June 2, 2014
Talk about resourcefulness: An MIT team that has leveraged two novelty items to more rapidly and accurately diagnose one of the world’s most deadly diseases — malaria — captured the grand prize at last night’s MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.
“What if I told you I could save 1 million lives, every year, with just refrigerator magnets and a laser pointer?” John Lewandowski, a PhD student in mechanical engineering, posited during his winning pitch for Disease Diagnostics Group (DDG).
DDG’s device — called “RAM,” for Rapid Assessment of Malaria — uses these magnets to align, and lasers to illuminate, the iron-based crystals left behind by malarial parasites; this approach can determine infection level using a single drop of blood, in one minute, with 94 percent accuracy. This offers drastic improvement over traditional methods…
Continue reading on MIT News.
May 30, 2014
If a bulky electrical box has to be placed at the edge of a public park, what’s the best way to conceal it so that it won’t detract from its surroundings? How about an air-conditioning condenser beside a historical building, or a portable toilet along a scenic trail?
At the conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition in June, researchers from MIT and several other institutions take a first stab at answering these types of questions, with a new algorithm that can analyze photos of a scene, taken from multiple perspectives, and produce a camouflage covering for an object placed within it.
According to Andrew Owens, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and lead author on the new paper, the problem of disguising objects in a scene is, to some degree, the inverse of the problem of object detection, a major area of research in computer vision.
Continue reading on MIT News.
May 29, 2014
Researchers at MIT and the University of Vienna have created an imaging system that reveals neural activity throughout the brains of living animals. This technique, the first that can generate 3-D movies of entire brains at the millisecond timescale, could help scientists discover how neuronal networks process sensory information and generate behavior.
The team used the new system to simultaneously image the activity of every neuron in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans, as well as the entire brain of a zebrafish larva, offering a more complete picture of nervous system activity than has been previously possible. [...]
Boyden’s team developed the brain-mapping method with researchers in the lab of Alipasha Vaziri of the University of Vienna and the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna. The paper’s lead authors are Young-Gyu Yoon, a graduate student at MIT, and Robert Prevedel, a postdoc at the University of Vienna.
Continue reading on MIT News.
May 28, 2014
Over the past three years, researchers in the Camera Culture group at the MIT Media Lab have steadily refined a design for a glasses-free, multiperspective, 3-D video screen, which they hope could provide a cheaper, more practical alternative to holographic video in the short term.
Now they’ve designed a projector that exploits the same technology, which they’ll unveil at this year’s Siggraph, the major conference in computer graphics. The projector can also improve the resolution and contrast of conventional video, which could make it an attractive transitional technology as content producers gradually learn to harness the potential of multiperspective 3-D. [...]
The MIT researchers — research scientist Gordon Wetzstein, graduate student Matthew Hirsch, and Ramesh Raskar, the NEC Career Development Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and head of the Camera Culture group — built a prototype of their system using off-the-shelf components.
Continue reading on MIT News.
May 23, 2014
RNA interference (RNAi), a technique that can turn off specific genes inside living cells, holds great potential for treating many diseases caused by malfunctioning genes. However, it has been difficult for scientists to find safe and effective ways to deliver gene-blocking RNA to the correct targets.
Up to this point, researchers have gotten the best results with RNAi targeted to diseases of the liver, in part because it is a natural destination for nanoparticles. But now, in a study appearing in the May 11 issue of Nature Nanotechnology, an MIT-led team reports achieving the most potent RNAi gene silencing to date in nonliver tissues.
“There’s been a growing amount of excitement about delivery to the liver in particular, but in order to achieve the broad potential of RNAi therapeutics, it’s important that we be able to reach other parts of the body as well,” says Daniel Anderson, the Samuel A. Goldblith Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and one of the paper’s senior authors.
The paper’s other senior author is Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a member of the Koch Institute. Lead authors are MIT graduate student James Dahlman and Carmen Barnes of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.
Read the article on MIT news. photo courtesy Aude Thiriot/Harvard
May 20, 2014
MIT researchers have devised a novel cancer treatment that destroys tumor cells by first disarming their defenses, then hitting them with a lethal dose of DNA damage.
In studies with mice, the research team showed that this one-two punch, which relies on a nanoparticle that carries two drugs and releases them at different times, dramatically shrinks lung and breast tumors. The MIT team, led by Michael Yaffe, the David H. Koch Professor in Science, and Paula Hammond, the David H. Koch Professor in Engineering, describe the findings in the May 8 online edition of Science Signaling.
For this project, Hammond and her graduate student, Stephen Morton, devised dozens of candidate particles. The most effective were a type of particle called liposomes — spherical droplets surrounded by a fatty outer shell.
Read the article on MIT news.
May 19, 2014
Would you like to share your research with MIT alumni? Do you want to meet successful graduate alumni and learn about their experiences after MIT? Come to the Grad-Alumni poster session and present your research at MIT! You will be able to practice your presentation skills in front of a general audience, network with alumni, and even find someone who can give further insights on your projects! All presenters will get a $10 Starbucks/Amazon gift card as well as feedback from attending alumni. Free appetizers and an open bar will be provided for all the presenters and attendees. If you are interested, please register as a presenter online before Friday, May 30, 2014. Have your poster ready on time and take the opportunity to present it on Saturday, June 7th, 2014. For questions, email email@example.com.
May 16, 2014
Researchers in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, working with colleagues at the University of Washington, have developed a new computer system that can automatically solve the type of word problems common in introductory algebra classes.
In the near term, the work could lead to educational tools that identify errors in students’ reasoning or evaluate the difficulty of word problems. But it may also point toward systems that can solve more complicated problems in geometry, physics, and finance — problems whose solutions don’t appear in the back of the teacher’s edition of a textbook.
According to Nate Kushman, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and lead author on the new paper, the new work is in the field of “semantic parsing,” or translating natural language into a formal language such as arithmetic or formal logic. Most previous work on semantic parsing — including his own — has focused on individual sentences, Kushman says. “In these algebra problems, you have to build these things up from many different sentences,” he says. “The fact that you’re looking across multiple sentences to generate this semantic representation is really something new.”
Continue reading the article on MIT news. photo courtesy Jose-Luis Olivares
May 15, 2014
Even though malaria kills more than 600,000 people every year, it’s often difficult to tell who has got it. For a proper test, you need skilled health care workers and sensitive chemicals. Both are often difficult to obtain in hard-hit regions like sub-Saharan Africa.
Now John Lewandowski, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, thinks he has the answer. He helped invent a battery-powered machine that uses magnets and lasers to identify malaria-infected blood, and cofounded a company, Disease Diagnostic Group (DDG), to develop it.
The small device, called the Rapid Assessment of Malaria (RAM), is portable and easy to use in the field; testers do not need specialized medical training. Each test can be done in about one minute, and cheaply — for about 25 cents. Importantly, it can also detect malarial infections in people who do not yet show symptoms of the disease.
Continue reading the article in The Boston Globe. AP photo
May 14, 2014
Thousands of consumer products — including cosmetics, sunscreens, and clothing — contain nanoparticles added by manufacturers to improve texture, kill microbes, or enhance shelf life, among other purposes. However, several studies have shown that some of these engineered nanoparticles can be toxic to cells.
A new study from MIT and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) suggests that certain nanoparticles can also harm DNA. This research was led by Bevin Engelward, a professor of biological engineering at MIT, and associate professor Philip Demokritou, director of HSPH’s Center for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology.
The researchers found that zinc oxide nanoparticles, often used in sunscreen to block ultraviolet rays, significantly damage DNA. Nanoscale silver, which has been added to toys, toothpaste, clothing, and other products for its antimicrobial properties, also produces substantial DNA damage, they found.
The research was funded by MIT’s Center for Environmental Health Sciences, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health. Other authors of the study are MIT graduate student Jing Ge, Harvard graduate student Joel Cohen, and Harvard postdoc Georgios Pyrgiotakis.
Read the article on MIT news. Photo courtesy Christine Daniloff
May 9, 2014
Our DNA is under constant attack from many sources, including environmental pollutants, ultraviolet light, and radiation. Fortunately, cells have several major DNA repair systems that can fix this damage, which may lead to cancer and other diseases if not mended.
The effectiveness of these repair systems varies greatly from person to person; scientists believe that this variability may explain why some people get cancer while others exposed to similar DNA-damaging agents do not. A team of MIT researchers has now developed a test that can rapidly assess several of these repair systems, which could help determine individuals’ risk of developing cancer and help doctors predict how a given patient will respond to chemotherapy drugs.
The new test, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of April 21, can analyze four types of DNA repair capacity simultaneously, in less than 24 hours. Previous tests have been able to evaluate only one system at a time.
Graduate students Carrie Margulies and Isaac Chaim; technical assistants Siobhan McRee and Patrizia Mazzucato; and research scientists Vincent Butty, Anwaar Ahmad, Ryan Abo, and Anthony Forget also contributed to the research, which was funded by the NIH and NIEHS.
Read the article on MIT news. photo courtesy Aprotim Mazumder
May 9, 2014
Come to this special seminar on the Dos and Don’ts of talking about your not-yet-patented research or invention on Friday, May 9th, 2014 from 1:00pm to 2:30pm in Singleton Auditorium (46-3002). The speaker will be Christopher Noble from the MIT Technology Licensing Office. He specializes in intellectual property terms of sponsored research, evaluation and patenting of MIT inventions, IP marketing, and negotiation of commercial licenses with startups and established companies. Learn about when your idea has turned into an “invention,” who to talk to about it, and when. Learn what belongs to you and what belongs to MIT, as well as how to patent your invention and who will pay for it. Please register for this seminar.
May 8, 2014
Measuring tumors’ oxygen levels could help doctors make decisions about treatments, but there’s currently no reliable, noninvasive way to make such measurements. However, a new sensor developed at MIT could change that: A research team led by professor Michael Cima has invented an injectable device that reveals oxygen levels over several weeks and can be read with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Using this kind of sensor, doctors may be able to better determine radiation doses and to monitor whether treatments are having the desired effect, according to the researchers, who describe the device in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of April 21.
“In cases where you are trying to make therapeutic decisions, you want to have some numbers that you can fall back on,” says Vincent Liu, a graduate student in Cima’s lab at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and lead author of the paper.
Continue reading the article on MIT news.
May 7, 2014
Suppose you’re trying to navigate an unfamiliar section of a big city, and you’re using a particular cluster of skyscrapers as a reference point. Traffic and one-way streets force you to take some odd turns, and for a while you lose sight of your landmarks. When they reappear, in order to use them for navigation, you have to be able to identify them as the same buildings you were tracking before — as well as your orientation relative to them.
That type of re-identification is second nature for humans, but it’s difficult for computers. At the IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition in June, MIT researchers will present a new algorithm that could make it much easier, by identifying the major orientations in 3-D scenes. The same algorithm could also simplify the problem of scene understanding, one of the central challenges in computer vision research.
Julian Straub, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, is lead author on the paper. He’s joined by his advisors, John Fisher, a senior research scientist in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and John Leonard, a professor of mechanical and ocean engineering, as well as Oren Freifeld and Guy Rosman, both postdocs in Fisher’s Sensing, Learning, and Inference Group.
Read the article on MIT news.
May 6, 2014
Delivering chemotherapy drugs in nanoparticle form could help reduce side effects by targeting the drugs directly to the tumors. In recent years, scientists have developed nanoparticles that deliver one or two chemotherapy drugs, but it has been difficult to design particles that can carry any more than that in a precise ratio.
Now MIT chemists have devised a new way to build such nanoparticles, making it much easier to include three or more different drugs. In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers showed that they could load their particles with three drugs commonly used to treat ovarian cancer.
Continue reading on MIT News.
May 5, 2014
Some 2 to 5 percent of all international trade involves counterfeit goods, according to a 2013 United Nations report. These illicit products — which include electronics, automotive and aircraft parts, pharmaceuticals, and food — can pose safety risks and cost governments and private companies hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
Many strategies have been developed to try to label legitimate products and prevent illegal trade — but these tags are often too easy to fake, are unreliable, or cost too much to implement, according to MIT researchers who have developed a new alternative. [...]
The paper’s lead authors are MIT postdoc Jiseok Lee and graduate student Paul Bisso. MIT graduate students Rathi Srinivas and Jae Jung Kim also contributed to the research.
Continue reading on MIT News.
April 29, 2014
The shells of a sea creature, the mollusk Placuna placenta, are not only exceptionally tough, but also clear enough to read through. Now, researchers at MIT have analyzed these shells to determine exactly why they are so resistant to penetration and damage — even though they are 99 percent calcite, a weak, brittle mineral.
The shells’ unique properties emerge from a specialized nanostructure that allows optical clarity, as well as efficient energy dissipation and the ability to localize deformation, the researchers found. The results are published this week in the journal Nature Materials, in a paper co-authored by MIT graduate student Ling Li and Professor and Dean for Graduate Education Christine Ortiz. Continue reading on MIT News.
April 28, 2014
Looking for a few good tips – not on stocks or the races – but on ways to punch up your productivity? Then lynda.com has a series for you.
Monday Productivity Pointers features lynda staff author Jess Stratton, who shares insights about using your devices and software more effectively. Every Monday she’s back with tips on a new topic; most of these tutorials run from two to ten minutes. She also posts a blog entry on each of her weekly installments, so you can find out more about a topic up front.
Stratton’s episodes are all over the map in terms of content, from fixing browser annoyances to presenting from an iPad. Some focus on personal productivity, while others can be useful at work, home, or on the road.
See the IST website for more information.
April 23, 2014
Light waves can be defined by three fundamental characteristics: their color (or wavelength), polarization, and direction. While it has long been possible to selectively filter light according to its color or polarization, selectivity based on the direction of propagation has remained elusive.
But now, for the first time, MIT researchers have produced a system that allows light of any color to pass through only if it is coming from one specific angle; the technique reflects all light coming from other directions. This new approach could ultimately lead to advances in solar photovoltaics, detectors for telescopes and microscopes, and privacy filters for display screens.
The work is described in a paper appearing this week in the journal Science, written by MIT graduate student Yichen Shen, professor of physics Marin Soljačić, and four others. “We are excited about this,” Soljačić says, “because it is a very fundamental building block in our ability to control light.” Continue reading on MIT News.
April 14, 2014
Inspired by natural materials such as bone — a matrix of minerals and other substances, including living cells — MIT engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate nonliving materials, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots.
These “living materials” combine the advantages of live cells, which respond to their environment, produce complex biological molecules, and span multiple length scales, with the benefits of nonliving materials, which add functions such as conducting electricity or emitting light.
The new materials represent a simple demonstration of the power of this approach, which could one day be used to design more complex devices such as solar cells, self-healing materials, or diagnostic sensors, says Timothy Lu, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and biological engineering. Lu is the senior author of a paper describing the living functional materials in the March 23 issue of Nature Materials.
The paper’s lead author is Allen Chen, an MIT-Harvard MD-PhD student. Other authors are postdocs Zhengtao Deng, Amanda Billings, Urartu Seker, and Bijan Zakeri; recent MIT graduate Michelle Lu; and graduate student Robert Citorik.
Read the article on MIT news.
April 10, 2014
Come to the SIAM & CCE Student Seminar on Thursday, April 10th, 2014, at 4:00pm in MIT Room 4-237. The topic for this seminar will be Topological Microfluidics: Exploring anisotropic fluids in microfluidic environment, with speaker Anupam Sengupta, Roman Stocker group, CEE. Light refreshments will be served.
Liquid crystals (LCs) are complex anisotropic fluids, well-known for display applications. Their properties are in contrast to the isotropic fluids which we typically encounter in state-of- the-art microfluidic science and technology. This allows us to explore LCs as a suitable functional material for developing a microfluidic technology which harnesses the coupling interactions between the flow, the molecular orientation, and the ordering or topology of the system.
The MIT chapter of The Society for Applied and Industrial Mathematics (SIAM) is open to both undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in applied mathematics, computational science and mathematical applications in an engineering field. Visit their website for more information.
April 8, 2014
Come to the 2014 HST Forum, an annual showcase of student research, to be held in the TMEC Atrium at Harvard Medical School on Thursday, April 10th, 2014, from 1:00pm to 6:30pm. The Forum is a great opportunity to support HST students and the program as a whole, as well as discover current research projects. Take this opportunity to share ideas and connect with members of the HST community. For more information and to RSVP, visit the website.
April 2, 2014
Small protein fragments, also called peptides, are promising as drugs because they can be designed for very specific functions inside living cells. Insulin and the HIV drug Fuzeon are some of the earliest successful examples, and peptide drugs are expected to become a $25 billion market by 2018.
However, a major bottleneck has prevented peptide drugs from reaching their full potential: Manufacturing the peptides takes several weeks, making it difficult to obtain large quantities, and to rapidly test their effectiveness.
That bottleneck may soon disappear: A team of MIT chemists and chemical engineers has designed a way to manufacture peptides in mere hours. [...] The lead author of the paper is Mark Simon, a graduate student in Pentelute’s lab. Other authors include Klavs Jensen, head of MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, and Andrea Adamo, a research associate in chemical engineering.
Read more on MIT News.
March 31, 2014
Even in a crowded room full of background noise, the human ear is remarkably adept at tuning in to a single voice — a feat that has proved remarkably difficult for computers to match. A new analysis of the underlying mechanisms, conducted by researchers at MIT, has provided insights that could ultimately lead to better machine hearing, and perhaps to better hearing aids as well.
Our ears’ selectivity, it turns out, arises from evolution’s precise tuning of a tiny membrane, inside the inner ear, called the tectorial membrane. The viscosity of this membrane — its firmness, or lack thereof — depends on the size and distribution of tiny pores, just a few tens of nanometers wide. This, in turn, provides mechanical filtering that helps to sort out specific sounds.
The new findings are reported in the Biophysical Journal by a team led by MIT graduate student Jonathan Sellon. Continue reading on MIT News.
March 28, 2014
Soft robots — which don’t just have soft exteriors but are also powered by fluid flowing through flexible channels — have become a sufficiently popular research topic that they now have their own journal, Soft Robotics. In the first issue of that journal, out this month, MIT researchers report the first self-contained autonomous soft robot capable of rapid body motion: a “fish” that can execute an escape maneuver, convulsing its body to change direction in just a fraction of a second, or almost as quickly as a real fish can.
The robotic fish was built by Andrew Marchese, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and lead author on the new paper, where he’s joined by postdoc Cagdas D. Onal and Daniela Rus, a professor of computer science and engineering, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and one of the researchers who designed and built the fish. Each side of the fish’s tail is bored through with a long, tightly undulating channel. Carbon dioxide released from a canister in the fish’s abdomen causes the channel to inflate, bending the tail in the opposite direction.
“We’re excited about soft robots for a variety of reasons,” says Rus. “As robots penetrate the physical world and start interacting with people more and more, it’s much easier to make robots safe if their bodies are so wonderfully soft that there’s no danger if they whack you.”
Read the article on MIT news. photo by M. Scott Brauer
March 24, 2014
Scientists looking for dark matter face a serious challenge: No one knows what dark matter particles look like. So their search covers a wide range of possible traits — different masses, different probabilities of interacting with regular matter. Today, scientists on the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search experiment, or CDMS, announced that they have shifted the border of this search down to a dark-matter particle mass and rate of interaction that has never been probed.
The analysis, led by Adam Anderson, an MIT graduate student in physics, is the first dark matter result using a new sensor technology — developed, in part, at MIT — that shows much better rejection of background events than the previous generation of CDMS detectors. The work was presented today at the Symposium on Sources and Detection of Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the Universe, held at the University of California at Los Angeles.
“We’re pushing CDMS to as low mass as we can,” says Fermilab physicist Dan Bauer, the project manager for CDMS. “We’re proving the particle detector technology here.” Continue reading the article on MIT news.
March 19, 2014
A team of MIT researchers has used a novel material that’s just a few atoms thick to create devices that can harness or emit light. This proof-of-concept could lead to ultrathin, lightweight, and flexible photovoltaic cells, light emitting diodes (LEDs), and other optoelectronic devices, they say.
Their report is one of three papers by different groups describing similar results with this material, published in the March 9 issue of Nature Nanotechnology. The MIT research was carried out by Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, the Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor of Physics, graduate students Britton Baugher and Yafang Yang, and postdoc Hugh Churchill. Read the rest of the article on MIT news.
March 17, 2014
Program marketers can increase participation rates by simply giving people a chance to say “yes” or “no” on email solicitations, MIT Sloan School of Management PhD candidate Nell Putnam-Farr, MBA ’10, has found.
Putnam-Farr teamed with Jason Riis, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School (now visiting the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania), on a study focusing on how a “yes” or “no” email response option affected participation rates in corporate wellness programs offered by RedBrick Health, a health engagement and behavior change technology company.
Continue reading on MIT Sloan Newsroom.
March 7, 2014
Long fascinated by artificial intelligence, MIT Sloan PhD candidate Matt Beane finally decided to pursue an academic career after reading about MIT professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland’s work using technology to evaluate human conversation. “I read this paper and thought, ‘The future is coming way faster than we expect,’” Beane said. “I applied to MIT Sloan because I was very motivated to see how people would react to getting sensitive personal feedback from technology.”
At the time, Beane was a senior consultant for Roger Schwarz & Associates working with top executives on culture change initiatives at large companies. Often, he found he could improve group dynamics simply by helping people to communicate more effectively. But he discovered that Pentland’s technology was able to accomplish much the same task—taking note, for example, when one person was dominating the conversation or interrupting others. What’s more, feedback from the device actually affected the way people behaved. “It immediately changed participation in groups,” Beane said. Pentland’s study made Beane realize that software might someday be doing his job.
Read the rest of the article on the MIT Sloan Newsroom website.
February 27, 2014
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) visited MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) this week for the official restart of the Alcator C-Mod tokamak. The resumption of work by nearly 100 staff, faculty, and graduate students on the project follows recent congressional budget action, which reversed an earlier proposal by the Department of Energy (DOE) to shut down the C-Mod program.
“It’s not enough to fight [for funding] year to year,” Warren said. “Graduate students need to be able to come here and work, and know that they can start projects, and that the lab will still be open a year from now, three years from now, five years from now, as their work continues.”
Read the article on MIT news.
February 24, 2014
Disease Diagnostic Group last night won the MIT $100K Accelerate Contest, netting a $10,000 prize. Bragging rights, photos with the big ceremonial check, and applause all pale in comparison to the promise of the company’s mission: developing an inexpensive, portable malaria testing device with the potential to save half a million lives, mostly of children, globally each year.
For Disease Diagnostic Group, founded by MIT mechanical engineering graduate student John Lewandowski, presenter Jonathan Edward, who is pursuing an MBA at Harvard Business School, said the resources provided by the Accelerate contest during MIT’s January Independent Activities Period proved invaluable. Malaria is highly treatable with early diagnosis, but expense and access to reliable tests are substantial barriers, Edward said. The team had proven the science of their rapid assessment of malaria device, but through the Accelerate program they developed a plan to make it sturdier, an important attribute for a pocket-sized device that will be carried in military packs into remote villages.
“We’ll be using the prize money to continue to build and refine improvements on the prototype,” Edward said. “Early models were broken in shipping, and [through Accelerate] we were able to access design assistance to make them much more robust. They’re going out with the military; they need to be able to withstand harsh treatment to be effective.”
Read the entire article here.
February 21, 2014
Multiple theories have aimed to explain the cause of what’s now known as the end-Permian extinction, including an asteroid impact, massive volcanic eruptions, or a cataclysmic cascade of environmental events. But pinpointing the cause of the extinction requires better measurements of how long the extinction period lasted.
Now researchers at MIT have determined that the end-Permian extinction occurred over 60,000 years, give or take 48,000 years — practically instantaneous, from a geologic perspective. The new timescale is based on more precise dating techniques, and indicates that the most severe extinction in history may have happened more than 10 times faster than scientists had previously thought.
In addition to establishing the extinction’s duration, Sam Bowring, graduate student Seth Burgess, and a colleague from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology also found that, 10,000 years before the die-off, the oceans experienced a pulse of light carbon, which likely reflects a massive addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This dramatic change may have led to widespread ocean acidification and increased sea temperatures by 10 degrees Celsius or more, killing the majority of sea life.
Continue reading on MIT News.
February 12, 2014
Consider the last time you dealt with an airline service mishap: a bag lost in transit, a flight delayed or canceled, or an overbooked plane. Are you more or less likely to make a formal complaint about service quality if you’re flying on a long-established “network” carrier or a newer, budget-friendly airline? According to a new MIT study, passengers of low-cost upstarts tend to complain less, even though the quality of service may be the same as more expensive airlines.
In a study published in the Journal of Air Transport Management, Michael Wittman, a graduate student in MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation, tallied airline-related complaints made to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) from 2002 to 2012. He found that regardless of the type of service failure, passengers complained up to 10 times more often about network carriers than low-cost carriers. Continue reading the article on MIT news.
February 11, 2014
The MIT Think Tank is a new organization which builds interdisciplinary teams of MIT community members (ranging from undergrads to postdocs) to tackle real-world challenges in domains such as medicine, education, government, and the arts. They collaborate with professionals in society such as doctors and educators who experience these problems first hand. MIT Think Tank is currently recruiting! Applications and general information can be found on the MIT Think Tank website.
February 7, 2014
Each MIT faculty member is invited to nominate one outstanding student to become a member of the Martin Family Society of Fellows for Sustainability for 2014-2015. The student should presently be a second- or third-year graduate student pursuing doctoral research and should be a resident at MIT during the Fellowship period. Nominees should be working in, or interested in, an area of environment and sustainability as indicated by his/her clearly articulated statement of interest, subjects taken, and proposed research area. Nominations for Martin Fellowships for Sustainability are due February 24, 2014. See the MITEI nominations website and the attached PDF’s for additional information. Photo by photologue_np
February 4, 2014
MIT and Imperial College London are jointly offering an intensive four-day Global Fellows Program for PhD students. Twenty PhD students from each school, Imperial and MIT, will have the opportunity to develop the professional skills required to launch and manage a successful research career. Program participants will engage in presentations, interactive work, and hands-on activities. Emphasis will be on creating and sustaining successful international research collaborations. The program will be held on June 8-14, 2014 in Wokingham, United Kingdom. Only PhD students are eligible and preference is given to students who have passed qualifying exams and have a few years remaining before completing their PhD program. The fellowship covers the cost of travel, the program, and some meals. Attend the Global Fellows Program information session on Tuesday, February 4, 3:00-4:00pm in 24-121. For further information, visit the website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Submit your application here by Friday, February 14.
January 31, 2014
A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by MIT researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say. In this case, adding the extra step improves performance, because it makes it possible to take advantage of wavelengths of light that ordinarily go to waste. The process is described in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, written by graduate student Andrej Lenert, associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang, physics professor Marin Soljačić, principal research scientist Ivan Celanović, and three others. Continue reading the article on MIT News. Photo by John Freidah.
January 29, 2014
Transparent displays have a variety of potential applications — such as the ability to see navigation or dashboard information while looking through the windshield of a car or plane, or to project video onto a window or a pair of eyeglasses. A number of technologies have been developed for such displays, but all have limitations. Now, researchers at MIT have come up with a new approach that can have significant advantages over existing systems, at least for certain kinds of applications: a wide viewing angle, simplicity of manufacture, and potentially low cost and scalability. The innovative system is described in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications, co-authored by MIT professors Marin Soljačić and John Joannopoulos, graduate student Chia Wei (Wade) Hsu, and four others. Continue reading the article on MIT News.
January 28, 2014
The Intel PhD Fellowship is a one-time, external fellowship award for doctoral students performing research on:
- Applications, programming, and new usage models
- Computing leadership
- Semiconductor innovation
The award consists of an educational stipend of $45K and a Research Total Industry Experience (TIE) grant of $5K. MIT can submit six general nominations to Intel. The Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE) will evaluate, select, and submit the nominations. Intel does not accept direct applications from students or faculty. Visit the website for more information about eligibility.
The internal MIT competition for the Intel PhD Fellowship will require an unofficial graduate transcript, C.V., research summary (500 words maximum), and a letter of recommendation (one page maximum) from current research advisor. Each department within MIT is requested to forward up to three general nominations as well as an unlimited number of applications from highly qualified students from underrepresented groups (e.g. African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders). Each department should send their nominations and accompanying application materials to ODGE Manager of Graduate Fellowships Scott Tirrell (email@example.com) as single PDF files.
The deadline for the internal MIT competition is 5:00pm on Monday, February 3, 2014. ODGE will notify candidates of the status of their internal application by Friday, February 28. Nominated candidates will be able to complete their full application via the Intel website between March 3-April 4, 2014. Winners will be announced by Intel in May 2014. Contact Scott Tirrell at (617) 325-7021 or firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions. Photo by infocux Technologies.
January 28, 2014
Learn more about current trends in the field of molecular biology, the role of the scientific journal editor, and best practices for getting published. The event titled “High Profile Publishing in Molecular Biology” will be held on Wednesday, January 29, 3:00-5:00pm in 69-181. It will feature a presentation by Helene Hodak and Marina Ostankovitch, the scientific editors of the Journal of Molecular Biology, followed by a panel discussion including MIT Professor Amy Keating. This event is sponsored by the Graduate Student Council and Elsevier. Photo by Libertas Academica.
January 24, 2014
Researchers have tried a variety of methods to develop detectors that are responsive to a broad range of infrared light — which could form imaging arrays for security systems, or solar cells that harness a broader range of sunlight’s energy — but these methods have all faced limitations. Now, a new system developed by researchers at five institutions, including MIT, could eliminate many of those limitations. The new approach is described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications by MIT graduate student Jonathan Mailoa, associate professor of mechanical engineering Tonio Buonassisi, and 11 others. Continue reading this artcle on MIT News.
January 22, 2014
Finding the most efficient way to transport items across a network like the U.S. highway system or the Internet is a problem that has taxed mathematicians and computer scientists for decades. To tackle the problem, researchers have traditionally used a maximum-flow algorithm, also known as “max flow,” in which a network is represented as a graph with a series of nodes, known as vertices, and connecting lines between them, called edges. In a paper to be presented at the ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms in Portland, Ore., Kelner and his colleague Lorenzo Orecchia, an applied mathematics instructor, alongside graduate students Yin Tat Lee and Aaron Sidford, describe a new theoretical algorithm that can dramatically reduce the number of operations needed to solve the max-flow problem, making it possible to tackle even huge networks like the Internet or the human genome. Continue reading this article on Phys.org.
January 20, 2014
MIT engineers have devised a way to measure the mass of particles with a resolution better than an attogram — one millionth of a trillionth of a gram. Weighing these tiny particles, including both synthetic nanoparticles and biological components of cells, could help researchers better understand their composition and function. “Now we can weigh small viruses, extracellular vesicles, and most of the engineered nanoparticles that are being used for nanomedicine,” says Selim Olcum, a postdoc in Manalis’ lab and one of the lead authors of a paper describing the system in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Graduate student Nathan Cermak is also a lead author of the paper, and Manalis, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, is the paper’s senior author. Researchers from the labs of MIT professors and Koch Institute members Angela Belcher and Sangeeta Bhatia also contributed to the study. Continue reading this article at MIT News.
January 20, 2014
Join the MIT Transportation Club for the 4th edition of the MIT Transportation Showcase. The main objectives of the event is to showcase transportation research conducted at MIT and foster connections among the MIT transportation community, particularly between industry and academia. The Showcase is also an excellent avenue for students and faculty to get advice, feedback, and ideas for future research, as well as to connect with possible research collaborators. This year, the Showcase will feature a keynote seminar about tomorrow’s transportation systems. The Showcase will be held on Wednesday, February 12, 6pm-9pm at the MIT Museum. In addition to participating, you can present your research, submit your resume, and/or help as a volunteer. For more information, visit the website or contact email@example.com. Photo by Trey Ratcliff.
January 17, 2014
Lithium batteries, with their exceptional ability to store power per a given weight, have been a major focus of research to enable use in everything from portable electronics to electric cars. Now researchers at MIT and Brookhaven National Laboratory have found a whole new avenue for such research: the use of disordered materials, which had generally been considered unsuitable for batteries. Certain kinds of disorder can provide a significant boost in cathode performance, the researchers have found through a combination of computer modeling and laboratory experiments. These surprising findings are reported this week in the journal Science, in a paper by MIT graduate student Jinhyuk Lee, professor of materials science and engineering Gerbrand Ceder, and four others. Continue reading this article on MIT News.
January 15, 2014
Computer scientists are constantly searching for ways to squeeze ever more bandwidth from communications networks. Now a new approach to understanding a basic concept in graph theory, known as “vertex connectivity,” could ultimately lead to communications protocols — the rules that govern how digital messages are exchanged — that coax as much bandwidth as possible from networks. Mohsen Ghaffari, a graduate student in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, will present a new technique for addressing vertex-connectivity problems at the ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms in Portland, Ore., in January. Read the whole story on MIT News.
January 10, 2014
In this week’s issue of the journal Science, researchers from MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) describe a new lidar-like system that can gauge depth when only a single photon is detected from each location. Since a conventional lidar system would require about 100 times as many photons to make depth estimates of similar accuracy under comparable conditions, the new system could yield substantial savings in energy and time — which are at a premium in autonomous vehicles trying to avoid collisions.
As Ahmed Kirmani, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and lead author on the new paper, explains, the very idea of forming an image with only a single photon detected at each pixel location is counterintuitive. “The way a camera senses images is through different numbers of detected photons at different pixels,” Kirmani says. “Darker regions would have fewer photons, and therefore accumulate less charge in the detector, while brighter regions would reflect more light and lead to more detected photons and more charge accumulation.”
In a conventional lidar system, the laser fires pulses of light toward a sequence of discrete positions, which collectively form a grid; each location in the grid corresponds to a pixel in the final image. The technique, known as raster scanning, is how old cathode-ray-tube televisions produced images, illuminating one phosphor dot on the screen at a time. Continue reading the article on MIT News.
January 6, 2014
In deciding how best to meet the world’s growing needs for energy, the answers depend crucially on how the question is framed. Looking for the most cost-effective path provides one set of answers; including the need to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions gives a different picture. Adding the need to address looming shortages of fresh water, it turns out, leads to a very different set of choices.
That’s one conclusion of a new study led by Mort Webster, an associate professor of engineering systems at MIT, published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study, he says, makes clear that it is crucial to examine these needs together before making decisions about investments in new energy infrastructure, where choices made today could continue to affect the water and energy landscape for decades to come.
In addition to Webster, the work was carried out by graduate student Pearl Donohoo and recent graduate Bryan Pelmintier, of the MIT Engineering Systems Division. Continue reading the article on MIT News.