What is it? »Selling chip makers on optical computing
By designing chips that can be built using existing fabrication processes, MIT researchers show that computing with light isn’t so far fetched.
November 24, 2009
Computer chips that transmit data with light instead of electricity consume much less power than conventional chips, but so far, they’ve remained laboratory curiosities. Professors Vladimir Stojanovic and Rajeev Ram and their colleagues in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics and Microsystems Technology Laboratory hope to change that, by designing optical chips that can be built using ordinary chip-manufacturing processes.
What is it? »Liquid battery big enough for the electric grid?
Professor Donald Sadoway’s research in energy storage could help speed the development of renewable energy.
November 19, 2009
There’s one major drawback to most proposed renewable-energy sources: their variability. The sun doesn’t shine at night, the wind doesn’t always blow, and tides, waves and currents fluctuate. That’s why many researchers have been pursuing ways of storing the power generated by these sources so that it can be used when it’s needed.
So far, those solutions have tended to be too expensive, limited to only certain areas, or difficult to scale up sufficiently to meet the demands. Many researchers are struggling to overcome these limitations, but MIT professor Donald Sadoway has come up with an innovative approach that has garnered significant interest — and some major funding.
What is it? »(Fuel cells get a boost)
Creating tiny steps to electrode surfaces can double the efficiency of the emissions-free electricity sources, MIT researchers find.
October 15, 2009
Fuel cells, devices that can produce electricity from hydrogen or other fuels without burning them, are considered a promising new way of powering everything from homes and cars to portable devices like cellphones and laptop computers. Their big advantage — the prospect of eliminating emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants — has been outweighed by their very high cost, and researchers have been trying to find ways to make the devices less expensive.
What is it? »(Securing the web)
A new MIT programming tool would automatically plug holes that hackers exploit.
October 8, 2009
More and more, malicious hackers are exploiting web site security holes to attack their victims' computers. Programmers try to identify those holes in advance and plug them with code that performs security checks; but if they find a hundred holes and miss one, their programs are still insecure. At next week's ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles, however, MIT researchers will present a new system called Resin, which automatically calls up security checks whenever they're required, even in unforeseen circumstances.
What is it? »(Energy savings in black and white)
MIT students develop concept for color-changing roof tiles that absorb heat in winter, reflect it in summer.
October 8, 2009
Anyone who has ever stepped barefoot onto blacktop pavement on a hot sunny day knows the phenomenon very well: Black surfaces absorb the sun's heat very efficiently, producing a toe-scorching surface. In the wintertime, that can be a good thing: A dark roof heats up in the sun and helps reduce your heating bill. But in summertime, it's definitely a bad thing: Your house gets even hotter, and your air conditioning has to work harder. In most places, the summertime penalty is greater than the wintertime gain, it turns out, so that's why many people, including U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, strongly advocate switching to white roofs.
What is it? »(To peer inside a living cell)
Quantum mechanics could help build ultra-high-resolution electron microscopes that won't destroy living cells, according to MIT electrical engineers.
October 6, 2009
Electron microscopes are the most powerful type of microscope, capable of distinguishing even individual atoms. However, these microscopes cannot be used to image living cells because the electrons destroy the samples.