Energy Laboratory

The Energy Laboratory and its associated Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) are multi-disciplinary organizations bringing together sectors of the MIT community with research interests related to energy supply, conversion, and utilization technology, as well as associated environmental, political, economic, geographical, and societal impacts. Professor Jefferson Tester is the Director of the Energy Laboratory and is supported by Associate Director Dr. Elisabeth Drake, Associate Director Dr. William Peters, and Administrative Officer John O'Brien. Professor Paul Joskow, with Dr. A. Denny Ellerman, Executive Director, directs the CEEPR. For more than 25 years, the Energy Laboratory has sustained a unique organizational structure to develop and implement strong single- and inter-disciplinary energy-related work at MIT. It provides a variety of research opportunities for students at all levels; from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program to postdoctoral studies. Our research programs in FY2001 supported about 110 undergraduate and graduate students, along with about 60 associated faculty members from twelve academic departments representing all five of MIT's Schools.


Our graduate elective, Sustainable Energy (22.811J/10.391J/ESD66/11.371J/1.818J/3.564J), was offered for the fifth time in the spring of 2001 term. The course was taught collaboratively by members of the Energy Laboratory and the Nuclear Engineering and Chemical Engineering Departments, with participation of other experts from within and without MIT. Several students from the MIT School of Engineering, including the MIT ESD, completed the course, which included quantitative problem sets, topical papers and student-led case studies. The course instructors are preparing a new textbook for the course, with beta testing planned for the spring of 2002.

The Energy Laboratory research volume for FY2001 was over $7.4 million, including sponsored research and fund accounts.

The initial phase of the "Clean Diesel Fuel Research Initiative Program," collaboration between the Energy Laboratory (Sloan Automotive Laboratory) and the Chemical Engineering Department under the University of Alaska-MIT Partnership, received substantial industry support. The initial goal is to identify and assess the potential for significantly cleaner diesel fuels. A proposal on a longer-term research program has been developed.

The Energy Laboratory and the Nuclear Engineering Department have jointly developed a new Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES). The center aims to create through research concepts for nuclear energy systems that promise more favorable economics, safety, proliferation resistance and environmental impact. The center's programs involve development and application of methods for the design, operation, and regulation of current and advanced nuclear reactors and fuel cycles. This requires advances in knowledge about traditional scientific and technical disciplines, modern methods of systems reliability, probabilistic safety analysis and decision analysis, together with human interactions and management science. The center will start operation in September 2000 with Professor Mujid S. Kazimi as its first Director.

CEEPR continued its research focus on emissions trading and electric utility restructuring during the 2000-2001 academic year. During this period, it received two major multi-year grants: one from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to continue the emissions trading research and the other from the Cambridge MIT Institute to conduct joint research with the University of Cambridge's Department of Applied Economics on electric utility restructuring in Europe and the U.S. and the associated improvement in electric utility productivity.

The Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change continues to gain recognition as a leading center of research in its field. This recognition comes not only in the form of new associates and the continuing flow of financial support, but also in the form of more invitations to participate in expert reviews and assessments and to speak or otherwise participate in various meetings. In the past year, research and peer-review lags have been overcome and Joint Program research is appearing in a number of different journals, such as Nature, Climatic Change, Journal of Climate, Foreign Affairs, the Review of Economics and Statistics, and the Energy Journal. In the past year, about a dozen articles were published and another ten were accepted for publication.

We are continuing leadership work relating to technologies for carbon dioxide mitigation through carbon sequestration. We contributed to a major DOE report Carbon Sequestration: Research and Development (December 1999) and co-authored a paper on carbon sequestration for Scientific American (February 2000). Several research projects are on-going, including our participation in the International Collaboration on CO2 Ocean Sequestration, a field experiment to take place in Hawaii in the summer of 2001. On July 1, 2000, we launched our Carbon Sequestration Initiative, an industrial consortium with seven charter members: American Electric Power, BP Amoco, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Norsk Hydro (Norway), Texaco and TotalFinaElf (France). Finally, we were one of three universities asked to submit a proposal to BP Amoco for a major new research program on carbon management (we eventually lost out to Princeton).

The Energy Choices Program continues to pursue three major initiatives relating to its goal of seeking environmentally friendly energy technologies for a greenhouse gas-constrained world: the first is Eco-efficient Buildings for China, under the leadership of Professor Leon Glicksman and in collaboration with Tsinghua and Tongii Universities and building developers at three locations in China; the second focuses on Nuclear Safety and Reliability Guidance for China, led by Professor Mujid Kazimi, with collaborations with Tsinghua University and other nuclear safety groups in China; and the third investigates Road Transportation Options for the Future, under the leadership of Professor John Heywood and Dr. Malcolm Weiss. A recent fourth initiative, funded by ABB Ltd. through the AGS, is the China Energy Technology Project, which examines responsible energy sector development for Shandong Province. A basic research activity involving Professors Greg Stephanopoulos and Tony Sinskey to investigate biotechnology applications to the energy industry is also continuing.

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Selected Current Activities

Many of the laboratory's projects involve quantitative and cross-disciplinary study of complex energy and environmental systems. The Sloan Automotive Laboratory, directed by Professor John Heywood with participation from Professor Wai Cheng, Professor Doug Hart, Professor James Keck, Dr. David Schmidt, Dr. Tian Tian, Dr. Victor Wong and Professor William Green of the Chemical Engineering Department, continues promising research to improve engine performance, efficiency, and fuel utilization in internal combustion engines and reduce adverse emissions. Focusing on new engine and fuel technologies, the Engine and Fuels Research Consortium continues to explore critical fuel-air mixture preparation and emission formation mechanisms in developing engine concepts, with potential application to both gasoline and diesel engines. Complementing the engine and fuels studies, the Consortium on Lubrication in Internal Combustion Engines, involves major engine component and lubricant manufacturers, in addressing issues in oil consumption and engine friction reduction. Some members in these consortia also sponsor separate research projects on related topics of specific application to the individual sponsors. For example, Professors Wai Cheng and John Heywood work with Ford Motor Company on three projects related to engine transients: fuel-air mixture preparation behavior during start-up, emission benefits of engine operation in hybrid electric vehicles, and actual in-use vehicle emissions in stop-and-go traffic. Sloan Laboratory researchers are also involved in assessing new vehicle and propulsion system technologies for future road transportation use. The Sloan Laboratory also engages actively in basic combustion research on advanced engine systems with US DOE support, and in engine emission research with support from the EPA Research Center on Airborne Organics. The initial phase of the "Clean Diesel Fuel Research Initiative Program," collaboration between the Energy Laboratory and the Chemical Engineering Department under the University of Alaska-MIT Partnership, is receiving substantial industry support. The initial goal is to identify and assess the potential for significantly cleaner diesel fuels. Plans for a longer-term research program have been developed and are expected to be funded shortly. The proposed research will complement extensive fuel testing programs being conducted elsewhere and will address: Engine Technology/Fuels Interaction; Fuel Processing Technology; and Special Environmental and Economic Factors.

The Energy Laboratory interacts closely with the Center for Environmental Initiatives (CEI-directed by Professor David Marks) through several major sustainable energy initiatives described later in this section. Administrative duties are also provided to the CEI by the Energy Laboratory staff. Other interactions include the Building Technology program (led by Professor Leon Glicksman) in research on energy efficient, "healthy" buildings. The Energy Laboratory is also an active member of the Program for Environmental Education and Research (PEER) under the leadership of Professors Jeffrey Steinfeld and Philip Gschwend.

The Energy Laboratory held its third fall workshop for participants and sponsors of the program on Energy Choices in a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Constrained World. This initiative is an outgrowth of collaboration with the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change (co-directed by Professors Henry Jacoby and Ronald Prinn) to improve the technology characterizations in their Integrated Global Systems Model, as well as from growing concerns about the role of present and future energy choices on the local, regional, and global environment. Under the leadership of the CEI and its role in the Alliance for Global Sustainability (AGS), a collaboration between MIT, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH-Switzerland), and the University of Tokyo, the Energy Choices Program interfaces with the Joint Program and other AGS activities. This year the focus was on the road transportation options for the future. At present, the program has received funding from the AGS, five industrial sponsors, and the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation, which has established the MIT Venture Fund for Energy Choices, to facilitate the development of the larger program, committing funding of $2.35 million over a four year period. Several Energy Choices research activities are underway:

Faculty and students in Building Technology are conducting a major program of sustainable building design and technology for developing countries. We are actively cooperating with colleagues at Tsinghua University and Tongji University and Chinese developers and designers. Our focus is on residential buildings in large Chinese cities. Projects include the design of four high-rise residential structures in Beijing, two mid-rise multi-story housing units in Shanghai's Taidong Residential Quarter, and a low-rise residential community in Shenzhen City. The goal of these projects is the development of demonstration buildings that use appropriate technologies and designs as a teaching tool and example for future projects in Chinese cities. New technologies are being evaluated such as night cooling, solar driven dehumidification, and ground coupled heat pumps, as well as incorporating traditional technologies such as shading and natural ventilation. Schematic designs for the three developments will be completed during the summer of 2000.

The Building Technology group also is cooperating with colleagues at the University of Tokyo in a study dealing with reduction of pollution from megacities such as Tokyo or Shanghai. This technical work is being carried out in cooperation with the University of Tokyo and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. In this project, technologies such as ground source heat pumps and advanced facades are being evaluated. Ground source heat pumps use low-grade geothermal energy to improve efficiency for both heating and cooling of buildings. The ground source air conditioner, which stores or extracts heat underground, will significantly reduce urban heat island effects in the summer. We have undertaken a comprehensive study of advanced building facades that have air circulation between multiple glazing as well as blinds to control solar input and daylighting. These facade systems, when properly used, will reduce energy for air conditioning as well as artificial lighting. They will also improve interior comfort and ventilation.

Professor Kazimi is leading a collaboration with other faculty members at MIT and Tsinghua University that aims to provide China's growing nuclear energy sector with a firmer foundation for development of nuclear safety standards. That includes the evolution of the list of design basis accidents to be more risk informed, and the application of innovative technologies for safety monitoring of plant operations. In April of 1999, the project organized a major international workshop on these subjects in Beijing. Visits to operating nuclear plants in China are planned for the coming year to share some of the international research findings and develop collaborations that will improve performance and safety.

Professor Heywood and Dr. Weiss have completed the first phase of an assessment of new vehicle and fuel technologies for future road transportation, considering the increasing concerns about limiting both greenhouse gas emissions and criteria pollutants such as particulates and nitrogen oxides. The work started with a critical review of existing assessments (many of which are partial system views with a variety of different assumptions), and then conducted a life cycle assessment of potential fuel/vehicle systems for the 2020 time frame. Finally, the implications of transitions to these future transportation technologies to each of the major stakeholders in the transportation industry, including customers and the government, were evaluated. The focus is to identify barriers and opportunities for accelerating the adoption of such new technologies where they offer advantages relative to the evolving fleets of cars and trucks. A draft report is currently in peer review and will be published later in 2000, following an interactive workshop that focuses on the report and tries to identify responsible pathways for the future.

The AGS China Energy Technology Program (CETP), where Swiss, Japanese and Chinese colleagues, along with the Analysis Group for Regional Electricity Alternatives (AGREA) team are helping Shandong Province identify and develop environmentally responsible electric sector development strategies.

Professors Sinskey and Stephanopoulos continue to receive seed money under the Energy Choices Program to conduct preliminary studies on technology platform development for the applications of metabolic engineering to the energy industry. This research is part of a larger program that includes additional sources of funding within the chemical engineering department.

Professor Jack Howard directs the EPA Center on Airborne Organics. A major goal of this center is to better understand pollution of ambient airsheds by energy and other industrial sources and to use that understanding to prescribe new means of detecting and tracing organic pollutants and new methodologies for preventing pollutant emissions altogether. Specific projects focus on sources, atmospheric transport and transformation, monitoring, and engineering controls for organic pollutant vapors and aerosols. To provide a strong group of experts to address these issues, the center operates as a consortium of MIT, the California Institute of Technology, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Professors John Seinfeld (Caltech) and Robert Pfeffer (NJIT) are associate directors. MIT scientists participating in Center research projects have included Professors Paul Barton, Wai Cheng, William Green, John Heywood, Jack Howard, Mario Molina, John Vander Sande, and Dr. Arthur LaFleur. For several years, the Center has hosted an annual Summer Symposium on high visibility technology and policy topics in ambient air pollution. In July 2000, the focus of this meeting was on The Future of Diesel: Scientific Issues. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Robert Slott, Consultant to the Energy Laboratory. Presentations and panels addressed the present status of the importance of the diesel engine in today's economy, and various issues related to measurement, monitoring and prediction of nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions from diesels. Subsequent sessions addressed diesel emissions regulations in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and issues in implementing clean diesel technology for the future. Two panels then took up health effects and risk assessment of diesel emissions, and the future outlook for diesel propulsion. Reports of the center and of Summer Symposia are available on the center website.

The field of carbon management and sequestration is attracting much interest due to increasing concerns about global climate change. Our continuing work on carbon sequestration technologies focuses on three areas: assessment, education/outreach, and basic research. Howard Herzog leads this effort. We have five projects under this heading:

The University Research Consortium (URC) of the DOE Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) has continued to support research projects at MIT, primarily in nuclear technologies, under the new contractor, Bechtel, which took over management of INEEL in October 1999. With support from the URC, a three-year program was initiated in October 1998 for development of advanced nuclear technology through an MIT/INEEL Strategic Nuclear Research Collaboration (SNRC). The aim of the SNRC is to investigate options that promote nuclear technology as a source of electricity in the next century. In its second year, the program had a total funding at MIT of $1.2 million per year tied with about $1 million funding at INEEL. Four projects were funded under this initiative: The Modular Gas Cooled Reactor (MPBR) under the direction of Professors Andrew Kadak and Ronald Balinger; The Lead-bismuth Cooled Actinide Fueled Reactor (AFR) under the direction of Professors Todreas and Kazimi; Advanced Fuels for Light Water Reactors under the direction of Professors Kazimi and Driscoll; and Methodology of Performance-Based Regulation under the direction of Professors Apostolakis and Golay.

A major collaborative program was started in 1985 between MIT and the INEEL, with funding from DOE Basic Energy Sciences. Today this collaboration seeks new engineering understanding to improve efficiency and materials conservation in energy-intensive processes. Dr. Drake manages the MIT portion of the program, with one project led by Professor David Parks and another by Professor Thomas Eagar. The present project cycle will continue to fund the collaborative research through the end of calendar year 2003. The annual review meeting was held at the MIT Energy Laboratory in June 2000.

With DOE funding, in the Heat Transfer Laboratory, Professor Glicksman and students are carrying out studies of heat transfer and hydrodynamic scale-up in fluidized bed combustors. An experimental scale model of a large-scale commercial fluidized bed has been operated to study overall flow behavior. This will provide design guidance for a larger scale commercial unit. The commercial unit promises to achieve overall thermal efficiency of 50 percent or higher. This unit will also control the emissions when dirty fuel is burned. A key problem in the design of fluidized bed combustors is the proper sizing of heat transfer surface area. These fundamental studies will allow accurate prediction of the heat transfer to the bed walls. Recent research has focused on measuring the turbulence in the bed; this is the key to understanding the transport of particles from the bed core to the heat transfer surfaces at the wall.

Research in competitive power systems continues to advance. Led by Dr. Marija Ilic, research in this area includes the consortium New Concepts and Software for Competitive Power Systems: Operations and Management, and the ABB sponsored Distributed Power Industry of the Future project. Mr. Stephen Connors helps coordinate the Competitive Power Systems group's activities. Funded by ABB, Constellation Power Source, Electricite de France, TransEnergie U.S. and the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, the New Concepts consortium is devising techniques for market players and market monitors to work effectively in a competitive electric industry. Research thrusts include the development and application of congestion management structures and computational capabilities for regional grid operators, price-forecasting techniques for generators and power marketers, and revised criteria for measuring the adequacy and reliability of power supplies. The Distributed Power Industry project focuses on the technical, economic and regulatory challenges that distributed resources pose to distribution system stability. The project, that will hopefully evolve into a consortium in the coming year, is also addressing alternative business models and regulatory structures, which may enable, or constrain, the deployment and use of consumer-based electricity generation, storage, demand control, and power quality enhancement. Also participating in the Distributed Power project are Professors Paul Kleindorfer from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, and Ingo Vogelsang from Boston University. The Energy Lab's contributions in these areas have been magnified by Dr. Ilic's part-time efforts at the National Science Foundation, in the Electrical and Communication Systems Division. As Program Director for Power and Energy Systems, Dr. Ilic has participated in many academic, professional, industry conferences, and workshops, and helped shape the national debate on the future of power systems research, education and practice.

Energy Lab research in the area of strategic planning for energy infrastructures and environmental performance is led by Mr. Stephen Connors. The scenario-based multi-attribute tradeoff analysis approach, developed in the 1980's by Energy Lab researchers, is the primary tool used by the Energy Lab's Analysis Group for Regional Electricity Alternatives (AGREA). Current AGREA projects include studies of Switzerland's, China's and Romania's electricity alternatives, as well as an integrated assessment of the air pollution reduction alternatives for the Mexico City Metropolitan Area. The electricity planning efforts are under the sponsorship of the multi-university Alliance for Global Sustainability, which involves researchers from Switzerland and Japan. While the Swiss case study is nearing completion, the Shandong Province, China case study is now in its second year, with the Romanian case just getting underway. In addition to the multi-attribute tradeoff analysis approach, all three case studies are designed to interact with local decision-makers to ensure the research is relevant, attuned to local conditions, and has a better chance of influencing the decisions of local officials. This is true also of the Mexico City case study. This project, sponsored by the Consortium on Environmental Challenges, includes numerous Mexican institutions and researchers, as well as scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health. On the MIT side, researcher are drawn from the Departments of Earth, Planetary and Atmospheric Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Urban Studies and Planning, and labs and centers such as the Energy Lab, The Center for Transportation Studies and the Center for International Studies. AGREA plays a central role in this effort due to its scenario planning approach, and extensive experience in interacting with local stakeholders.

The Energy Laboratory continues a program of scientific and engineering research to support technologies for destroying military and other hazardous wastes by supercritical water oxidation (SCWO). MIT studies provide new understanding of various important practical issues including kinetics of waste destruction, corrosion prevention, phase equilibria, salt transport and deposition, reactor modeling, and process simulation. Recent work in collaboration with a small business in the computational fluid dynamics sector has focused on development of mathematical models for SCWO reactors (U.S. Army STTR funded). Another Army-funded project focuses on studies of the kinetics of waste destruction. Related MIT projects are concerned with the use of supercritical fluids as media for "green chemistry" and to reduce emissions from diesel engines. MIT research on supercritical fluids is led by Professor Tester and has involved Professors Tomas Arias (now at Cornell), David Cory, Rick Danheiser, Peter Griffith, Jack Howard, Ronald Latanision, Kenneth Smith and Jeffrey Steinfeld, Dr. Michael Modell, Dr. William Peters, Mr. Howard Herzog, and Dr. Frederick Vogel, as well as visiting faculty from Merrimac College, Professors Angelike Rigos and Katherine Swallow, several MIT students pursuing graduate degrees in engineering, and visiting students from ETH Zurich.

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CEEPR and Joint Program

The Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) is an activity, jointly sponsored at MIT by the Energy Laboratory, the Department of Economics, and the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management, that funds policy-related research in energy and environmental economics. The center and the joint program receive financial support from corporate sponsors, government agencies in the U.S. and Norway, and one foundation. In addition, affiliate relations are maintained with several environmental groups and other policy-oriented research groups in other countries.

For the past several years, CEEPR's principal research activity has been conducted under the auspices of the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, sponsored in collaboration with MIT's Center for Global Change Science. This program, led by Professors Jacoby and Prinn, draws on MIT's traditional strengths in science and economics to conduct the serious interdisciplinary work needed to provide a basis for global climate policy. The now seven-year-old Joint Program is one of the world's leading centers for the Integrated Assessment of Climate Change. The Integrated Global Systems Model provides the basis for a number of reports, articles, and presentations on the science and policy of global warming. The principal faculty and researchers are frequently requested to attend scientific and expert group meetings related to climate change. Contributions to the Joint Program remain stable with annual funding now approximately $2.8 million. The work of the Joint Program is supported financially by a number of corporate sponsors in North America, Europe and Japan, the U.S. governments and the Vetlesen Foundation.

CEEPR research outside of the Joint Program has focused on four areas: emissions trading; electricity markets; and energy futures, forwards and arbitrage. By merit of its research on the U.S. SO2 emissions trading program, the center has become an authority on the actual functioning and implementation of emissions trading as an instrument for the more efficient achievement of environmental goals. As an example, CEEPR is assisting in the design of a SO2 cap and trade system for China under a cooperative agreement between the Chinese and U.S. governments. As the electric utility industry is being restructured in many countries, markets in electricity are emerging for the first time. CEEPR's research examines the functioning and performance of these new markets. Particular emphasis is placed on how restructuring decisions with respect to asset ownership, transmission access, and customer choice shape these markets. Finally, research on energy futures, forwards and arbitrage applies an area of expertise at the Sloan School to the emergence of highly liquid spot, futures and forward markets for crude oil and natural gas and to the current development of such markets for coal and electricity.

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New Initiatives

We have formally launched the Carbon Sequestration Initiative (CSI), our industrial consortium on carbon management with a founding group of seven organizations. The CSI will function as a facilitating web information network for members and also will seed selected relevant innovative research ideas.

In the area of supercritical fluids, we are expanding our emphasis from research in support of waste destruction/decontamination to chemical synthesis and other applications that capitalize upon the remarkable solubilizing power, phase relationships, and species transport behavior of fluids near and above their critical point. A new industrially-supported project to determine the feasibility of using compressed water at elevated temperatures as a medium for clean chemical reactions, led by J. Tester and W. Peters, began in July of 2000.

In the area of electrothermal (plasma) processing, W. Peters, J. Howard, and J. Tester plan to pursue applications in extractive metallurgy, wastes recycling, and conversion of biomass and fossil resources to hydrogen, chemical feedstocks, and clean liquid fuels. This work will build on our prior studies of plasma smelting to produce light metals from oxide ores, including a one-year industrially funded exploratory study of a new approach to producing aluminum metal.

At the beginning of the next fiscal year, beginning in July 2001, the MIT Energy Lab will be merged with the Center for Environmental Initiatives to create the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment (LFEE).

Jefferson W. Tester

More information about the Energy Laboratory can be found online at

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