ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL FOCUS PERVADES AEROASTRO MATERIALS RESEARCH By Brian L. Wardle
In 2005, MIT President Susan Hockfield announced her Institute-wide energy initiative, saying, “tackling the problems that energy and the environment present will require contributions from all our departments and schools ... bringing scientists, engineers and social scientists together to envision the best energy policies for the future.”
While President Hockfield’s announcement marked an MIT-wide coordinated interdisciplinary energy-related research effort, a number of MIT researchers were already hard at work examining energy issues. Energy and environmental topics pervade much of the research done on the MIT campus, including that done by my research group.
At the time of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) launch, I was the materials and structures lead for an Army-sponsored large multidisciplinary project focused on technologies to replace batteries: we were working on a miniature microchemical fuel cell built using ultra thinfilms (1/1000 the thickness of a human hair) of materials. President Hockfield presented each of MITEI’s founding board members with a memento symbolic of the energy-related work MITEI would pursue. Each person was presented a display block in which was encapsulated a fuel cell fabricated by my student Namiko Yamamoto during her AeroAstro SM thesis. It is a very high-temperature (>600°C) micro-device using highly nontraditional (and nanoscale) materials that we designed, developed the processing to build, and then tested. Because the devices were built on a microelectronics/MEMS platform, thousands were created at one time, making it both scalable and a convenient gift item.
Energy and environmental focus pervades MIT materials research