Tonio Buonassisi, the PI at MIT’s Photovoltaics Lab, recently took a trip to the Folgefonna National Park in Norway. There, he hiked across nearly 200 square km of glaciers. Under the crunch of snow with each step he took, he could hear the water rushing below him — more water than was normal for the ebbs and flows of a glacier’s natural lifetime — a constant reminder that his time to act was running out.
After a prolific residence in MIT's Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which included developing a super-resolution microscope to look at nanoscale resolution of building blocks of brain, Deblina Sarkar is seeking out a new challenge in forming the Nano-Cybernetic Biotrek research group to engineer nanoelectronics for the human brain.
The Electrochemical Materials Lab focuses on finding new ways to process ceramic and glass, leveraging new methods and design paradigms towards new device functionalities that have the potential to make our phones and computers smaller, faster, and smarter than ever before.
With new advancements in technology and the abundance of data, we can better understand the interactions between people and their urban environments. As a result, improvements in urban planning can pave the way for more efficient and environmentally cleaner cities. Researchers at the MIT Senseable City Lab aim to predict and study these improvements from a critical point of view. As conducting research to learn about people’s habits in their urban environment requires members of the lab to consider many diverse viewpoints, the Senseable City Lab is made up of a multidisciplinary team of designers, engineers, computer scientists, biologists, and social scientists. With this diversity of researchers comes a diversity of technologies being utilized in the lab. “Reflecting the diversity of the lab, and the Urban issues, we use big data analysis, machine learning techniques, but also robotics and design,” says the director of the lab, Professor Carlo Ratti.
Since its founding in 1995, the Hammond Lab has been an integral part of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, developing nanoparticles that encapsulate and release drugs to reprogram cancer cells. Chemical engineering department head Paula Hammond ’84, Ph.D ’94 leads research initiatives that range from designing thin films for tissue regeneration to embedding nucleic acids into nanomaterials to silence cancer cell expression.
Consider the following thought experiment: Person A and Person B, on a tour of a chemical factory, stop to take a coffee break. Person A finds a pot containing white powder — a powder which is actually sugar, but is labeled “deadly poison.” Person A put some of this powder into Person B’s coffee; Person B drinks it and remains perfectly healthy.
These issues of voter registration and the lack of security in the election process caught the attention of MIT Professor Charles Stewart, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science and the Founding Director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab (MEDSL). “The thing that I learned, as well as everybody else in America at the time,” said Stewart, “was that it was possible for you to be active and to vote, and for that vote not to count.”
Imagine a world where toxic chemicals abound in the air in the form of unfiltered carbon monoxide from car exhaust. Imagine a world without paper because the pulp cannot be refined into the crisp white sheets we have today. Imagine a world without fertilizer, gasoline, or even plastic. Imagine a world without life because the processes to replicate DNA now take 2.3 billion years. This is the reality of a world without catalysts, which are used to propel reactions in manufacturing, petrochemicals, the human body, and many other areas of life.
There is no question that nature is the best engineer. As hard as material scientists try, replicating nature’s intricate processes and networks is a holy grail that often seems nearly unattainable. Instead of attempting to copy nature, some scientists draw inspiration from nature’s mechanisms and apply them to the synthesis of goods for human use. The field of producing materials using design principles from nature is known as bio-inspired material research.