The MIT Energy Research Council

ERC Research Spotlights

Nanotech + nuclear = more electricity

MIT researchers have a recipe for getting 20 percent more electricity out of today’s nuclear power plants. The key ingredient: a sprinkling of tiny particles added to the water that takes heat from the hot nuclear fuel to the power-generating equipment.

Posted: 4/5/07

Storing carbon dioxide safely underground

A new analysis led by an MIT scientist describes a mechanism for injecting carbon dioxide captured from power plants into briny porous rock deep underground, where it will be trapped naturally as tiny bubbles.

Posted: 3/22/07

Energy-efficient lighting: bringing daylight indoors

By combining a tilting platform, an acrylic dome, and a light source that mimics the sun, MIT researchers are creating a device that will help manufacturers design window systems that bring more daylight into buildings while controlling incoming solar radiation. The result should be significant energy savings and more contented occupants.

Posted: 3/8/07

MIT ethanol analysis clarifies benefits of biofuels

Controversy over the benefits of using corn-based ethanol in vehicles has been fueled by studies showing that converting corn into ethanol may use more fossil energy than the energy contained in the ethanol produced. Now a new MIT analysis shows that the energy balance is actually so close that several factors can easily change whether ethanol ends up a net energy winner or loser.

Posted: 2/22/07

Building solar cells from ribbons

Reducing the cost of solar power requires slashing the cost of manufacturing the silicon wafers on which solar cells are built. A technique first proposed in the 1980s by Professor Emanuel M. Sachs of mechanical engineering is doing just that by doubling the number of wafers made per pound of expensive silicon.

Posted: 2/7/07

Underground heat: an omnipresent source of electricity

A new MIT-led study concluded that a major future energy source is in the ground beneath us—not coal or natural gas or oil but heat trapped in underground rocks virtually everywhere.

Posted: 1/29/07

MIT math model could aid natural gas production

MIT engineers have developed a mathematical model that could help energy companies produce natural gas more efficiently and ensure a more reliable supply of this valuable fuel.

Posted: 1/11/07

Acoustic data may reveal hidden gas, oil supplies

Just as doctors use ultrasound to image internal organs and unborn babies, MIT Earth Resources Laboratory researchers listen to the echoing language of rocks to map what's going on tens of thousands of feet below the Earth's surface.

Posted: 12/21/06

Engineered yeast speeds ethanol production

MIT scientists have engineered yeast that can improve the speed and efficiency of ethanol production, a key component to making biofuels a significant part of the U.S. energy supply.

Posted: 12/7/06

Climate change tops Americans' environmental concerns, MIT survey finds

According to a recent MIT survey, Americans now rank climate change as the country's most pressing environmental problem—a dramatic shift from three years ago, when they ranked climate change sixth out of 10 environmental concerns.

Posted: 11/22/06

Ethanol-boosted engine promises high efficiency at low cost

MIT researchers are developing a half-sized gasoline engine that performs like its full-sized cousin but offers fuel efficiency approaching that of today's hybrid engine system—at a far lower cost.

Posted: 11/3/06

Saying goodbye to batteries

Researchers at MIT are developing a new device that has the potential to hold as much energy as a conventional battery but could be recharged in seconds rather than hours, would last almost indefinitely, and won’t mind the cold.

Posted: 10/19/06

Efficient photovoltaic power—without the sun

MIT researchers are devising an electricity-producing device that would let resting truck drivers run the lights and air conditioners inside their cabs without keeping their big rigs idling all night. The new device is a high-tech combination of a small flame and a power-generating solar cell.

Posted: 9/29/06

Engine on a chip promises to best the battery

MIT researchers are putting a tiny gas-turbine engine inside a silicon chip about the size of a quarter. The resulting device could run 10 times longer than a battery of the same weight can, powering laptops, cell phones, radios, and other electronic devices.

Posted: 9/15/06

Giant wind turbines, floating out of sight

An MIT researcher has a vision: 400 huge offshore wind turbines providing onshore customers with enough electricity to power several hundred thousand homes—and nobody standing onshore can see them.

Posted: 8/25/06

Engineering viruses: using biology to assemble materials, devices

MIT Professor Angela Belcher of materials science and engineering and bioengineering has an army of specially trained workers who have built—molecule by molecule—a small, flexible rechargeable battery.

Posted: 8/11/06

Algae system transforms greenhouse emissions into green fuel

For the past year, exhaust from MIT’s main power plant has been bubbling up through tubes of algae soup. The result? A dramatic cut in CO2 emissions — and abundant algae that can be turned into biofuel for the power plant or a diesel vehicle.

Posted: 7/24/06

Novel fusion device mimics the planets

A novel device built by MIT and Columbia University researchers suggests that nature’s way of trapping hot, ionized gases called plasma could one day provide a means of harnessing nuclear fusion.

Posted: 6/30/06

A recipe for solar energy: learning from nature

For the past 20 years, MIT Professor Daniel G. Nocera of chemistry has been working on a novel system for producing pollution-free energy in real time without adding fuel.

Posted: 6/9/06

Clicking together a small, safe nuclear power plant

Building a nuclear power plant can take decades—unless you follow a plan devised by MIT Professor Andrew Kadak of nuclear engineering. He likens his approach to building with Lego blocks: a small, meltdown-proof power plant would be made by “clicking together” prefabricated modules at building sites, cutting traditional construction time and costs in half.

Posted: 5/23/06

Hold the AC

Operating commercial buildings consumes a sixth of all the energy used in the western world. Getting rid of air conditioning could cut that consumption by as much as a third — but people can’t work in sweltering heat.

Posted: 5/3/06