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MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) professors Jacopo Buongiorno and Dennis Whyte were awarded a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation of $1 million to launch a new Future of Nuclear Energy Technologies study. Buongiorno and Whyte will work with seven MIT faculty members from across the Institute, as well as two Harvard University faculty and two external consultants in a multidisciplinary effort. The goal of the study will be to conduct an objective assessment of the opportunities and challenges affecting the ability of nuclear energy technologies in meeting U.S. and global energy needs in a carbon-constrained world. This study is particularly timely as the landscape and boundary conditions for nuclear energy have drastically changed in the past six-to-eight years due to a number of contributing factors. The study will be conducted over two years and will assess the prospects for innovative nuclear technologies, business models, and governance mechanisms to accelerate the transition to a lower-carbon energy system. It also comes as the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) is launching eight Low-Carbon Energy Centers to advance specific technology areas crucial to addressing climate change, two of which are focused on nuclear energy: the MIT Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, led by Buongiorno; and the Center for Fusion Research, led by Whyte. The centers bring together faculty from across the Institute and employ an innovative model that allows multiple sponsors to collaborate on high-risk, high-reward research programs while also developing their own individual research portfolios. Multidisciplinary research projects will be key components of the new centers. This study is the next project in MITEI’s “Future of…” research series, in-depth overviews of specific energy sources containing detailed recommendations meant to shape and influence policy debates and development, technology choices, and future research. Past “Future of…” studies — the most recent of which was The Future of Solar Energy — have proved useful to members of Congress and the executive branch of government; industry leaders; and the informed public. The multidisciplinary team includes: Jacopo Buongiorno of NSE, Michael Corradini of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and MIT, Dennis Whyte of NSE, and David Petti of Idaho National Laboratory and MIT, all experts in nuclear technology, safety, and regulations; Jessika Trancik of MIT's Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, Jessica Lovering of the Breakthrough Institute, and Robert Varrin of Dominion Engineering, all experts in cost estimates of nuclear power plant systems and other energy systems; Richard Lester of NSE and Joe Lassiter of Harvard Business School, experts in innovation finance, policy, and management; John Parsons of the MIT Sloan School of Management, an expert in energy/electricity markets; Charles Forsberg of NSE and Bilge Yildiz of NSE, experts in energy storage, synthetic fuels, and nuclear hydrogen; and Steven Ansolabehere of Harvard's Department of Government, an expert in public opinion. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation gives endowment-funded grants primarily to support original research and broad-based education related to science, technology, economic performance and the quality of American life. The foundation is unique based in its focus on science, technology, and economic institutions.


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Silvia Espinosa is getting to the bottom of it. A fourth-year nuclear science and engineering graduate student at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), Espinosa is seeking to understand phenomena observed in plasmas that fuel magnetic fusion devices like the center’s Alcator C-Mod tokamak reactor. She hopes to unravel some mysteries of plasma behavior that have stymied researchers in their progress toward fusion energy. The tokamak experiments she studies use magnetic fields to keep hot fusion fuel confined, safely away from the interior walls of the machine. With senior research scientist Peter Catto as her advisor, Espinosa is particularly interested in examining properties of the plasma edge closest to those walls. Research indicates that modifying these properties could almost double energy production. Espinosa knows that understanding and controlling the physical phenomena that cause these improvements could result in even more effective confinement modes. Moreover, the modifications of the edge properties could help eliminate impurities and “fusion ash” — alpha particles that can be absorbed into the core of the plasma. “If heavy impurities are absorbed into the hot plasma, they can cause huge energy losses,” she notes, referring specifically to concerns of international tokamaks like JET at the Culham Center for Fusion Energy and ASDEX-Upgrade at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP). The impurities from their tungsten divertors are a challenge, and will also be problematic for ITER, the next-step fusion device being built in Cadarache, France. “Laboratories are faced with either rebuilding a whole new experiment at considerable expense or figuring out how to manipulate plasma behavior to avoid impurity accumulation,” Espinosa says. This figuring out is what Espinosa loves most. She likens it to a board game of Battleship, in which success depends on guessing the coordinates of your opponent’s ship. At the PSFC, she and her colleagues are also making educated guesses and applying new physics to current models, trying to find the precise combination that can simultaneously coexist with current theory and explain some puzzling plasma edge data. Espinosa has always loved the puzzles science provides. Growing up in Madrid, her early scientific curiosity channeled itself into games with her younger sister; charging a comb with the static electricity from her hair and using it to bend the water flowing from the kitchen faucet, experimenting with vocal changes caused by inhaling helium from balloons, or scattering iron filings over a magnet to observe the circling fields. “They were my magic,” she says. Her aptitude for science led her to study physics and math at Polytechnic University of Madrid, where she ultimately earned an master of science in electrical engineering (MSEE) in nuclear and fluid thermodynamics energy. She also traveled to England for a simultaneous MS in computation fluid dynamics. Research fellowships at the CIEMAT Fusion National Laboratory in Spain and the IPP in Germany deepened her interest in fusion energy. “At first I was more interested in hydraulics and other renewable energies. I was really concerned about nuclear waste; I wanted an energy that was clean and safe,” she says. “When I learned about fusion I thought: This is the future!” She was impressed with fusion’s potential for clean, secure, virtually unlimited and efficient energy. “And helium, a source of my childhood fun, was the harmless byproduct!” Espinosa is still having fun, guessing at the theoretical combinations that will explain what is happening at the plasma edge. “Plasma theory is my passion because I am really curious, and probably insecure as well. That is why I need to get to the bottom of it — to be certain. I want to discover the new physics that are causing the surprising plasma behavior, to understand why and how this massive improvement in energy occurs. I want to figure out how to improve it even more, so we can get closer to creating practical fusion energy for the world.” Espinosa and her colleagues are preparing to publish a series of papers this fall, and to present an invited talk at the American Physical Society — Division of Plasma Physics meeting, revealing their recent discoveries and shedding further light on the mysteries of the plasma edge. “Discovering something completely new — that is one of the best joys ever!” she says. As much as she thrives on discovering new approaches to understanding plasma, she says she would prefer all these scientific mysteries be solved, so that the world could benefit from the potential of fusion power. “When you understand what is going on — ‘Oh, that’s why we have high confinement; that’s why this rapid transition occurred!’ — to finally grasp it, that is what I work for.’”


Chorley N.,Center for Fusion | Hnat B.,Center for Fusion | Nakariakov V.M.,Center for Fusion | Inglis A.R.,Center for Fusion | Bakunina I.A.,Russian Academy of Sciences
Astronomy and Astrophysics | Year: 2010

Long period oscillations of the gyroresonant emission from sunspot atmospheres are studied. Time series data generated from the sequences of images obtained by the Nobeyama Radioheliograph operating at a frequency of 17 GHz for three sunspots have been analysed and are found to contain significant periods in the range of several tens of minutes. Wavelet analysis shows that these periods are persistent throughout the observation periods. The presence of the oscillations is confirmed by several methods (periodogram, wavelets, Fisher randomisation and empirical mode decomposition). Spatial analysis using the techniques of period, power, correlation and time lag mapping reveals regions of enhanced oscillatory power in the umbral regions. Also seen are two regions of coherent oscillation of about 25 pixels in size, that oscillate in anti-phase with each other. Possible interpretation of the observed periodicities is discussed, in terms of the shallow sunspot model and the leakage of the solar g-modes. © 2010 ESO. Source


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The School of Engineering will add an exceptionally large class of new faculty to its ranks during the 2015-16 academic year. Eighteen engineers whose skills span scholarship, invention, innovation, and teaching will contribute to new directions in research and education across the school and to a range of labs and centers across the Institute. “We are welcoming a large and remarkably talented group of young faculty to engineering this year,” says Ian A. Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering. “They are working on an amazing range of exciting topics with direct applications to the world, from medical devices, to energy storage, to data optimization, to biofabrication strategies, and more. Their energy and enthusiasm for solving practical problems is an inspiration — to me, and to our students.” The new School of Engineering faculty members are: Michael Birnbaum will join the Department of Biological Engineering faculty as an assistant professor and become a core member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in January 2016. He received an BA in chemical and physical biology from Harvard University and a PhD in immunology from Stanford University, where he received the Gerald Lieberman Award, given to the school’s most outstanding medical school PhD graduate. Birnbaum’s research combines protein engineering, structural biology, and bioinformatics to understand and manipulate immune-cell responses to antigenic stimuli in cancer and infectious disease. He will teach the Department of Biological Engineering's required sophomore biological thermodynamics subject and assist in creating a new immunoengineering elective. Irmgard Bischofberger will join the faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in January 2016. She received her BS, MS, and PhD in physics from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, and is currently a postdoc at the University of Chicago. Bischofberger received a Kadanoff-Rice postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago, as well as a Swiss National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship, and was a poster prize winner for the APS Gallery of Fluid Motion in 2012. She works in the areas of fluid dynamics and soft-matter physics, with a focus on the formation of patterns from instabilities in fluid and technological systems. In her graduate work, she studied the phase behavior and solvation properties of thermosensitive polymers. As a postdoc, she has discovered “proportional growth” — a new growth pattern that had not been previously observed despite its common occurrence in biological systems. Guy Bresler, the Bonnie and Marty (1964) Career Development Professor, joined the faculty in July in both the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society; he will also be a member of the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems. Bresler received his BS in electrical and computer engineering and an MS in mathematics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received his PhD from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California at Berkeley, and was subsequently a postdoc at MIT. He is the recipient of a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship, a Vodafone graduate fellowship, the Barry M. Goldwater scholarship, and the Roberto Padovani Award from Qualcomm. Bresler’s research interests are at the interface of statistics, computation, and information theory. A current focus is on understanding the relationship between combinatorial structure and computational tractability of high-dimensional inference in graphical and statistical models. Betar Gallant will join the MIT faculty in January 2016 as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Gallant completed her BS, MS, and PhD in mechanical engineering at MIT. During her graduate studies with Professor Yang Shao-Horn, she was an National Science Foundation graduate research fellow, an MIT Martin Family Fellow and an MIT Energy Initiative Fellow. Gallant was a Kavli Nanoscience Institute Prize postdoctoral fellow at Caltech, where her research focused on tuning mechanical properties via surface chemistry control in Si-polymer structures for solar fuels applications. She will develop materials and devices for energy and environmental cleanup applications including greenhouse gas and pollutant capture and conversion, which will be informed by the understanding of chemical and electrochemical reaction pathways. She plans to utilize nanoscale insights into heat and mass transfer and energy conversion to bridge molecular control of processes with scalable environmental technologies. Ming Guo joined the faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in August. He received a BE and an ME in engineering mechanics from Tsinghua University in China, and an MS and PhD from Harvard University. His doctoral research investigated the mechanical and dynamic properties of living mammalian cells, with an emphasis on intracellular mechanics and forces, the mechanics of cytoskeletal polymers, the equation of state of living cells, and the effect of cell volume and intracellular crowding on cell mechanics and gene expression. Guo discovered that there is a direct relationship between cell stiffness and volume. By varying the cell volume through a number of different techniques, he showed that the volume of cells is a much better predictor of their stiffness than any other cue, and he developed a method to measure the mechanical properties and overall motor forces inside living cells by monitoring the fluctuation of microbeads inside the cells and delineating the timescales under which the contribution of active cellular processes could be distinguished from passive mechanical properties. Jeehwan Kim joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty in September. He received his BS from Hongik University in South Korea, his MS from Seoul National University, and his PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles in 2008, all in materials science. Since 2008, Kim has been a research staff member at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center, conducting research in photovoltaics, 2-D materials, graphene, and advanced complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) devices. He has been named a master inventor at IBM for his prolific creativity, with over 100 patent filings in five years. Kim’s breakthrough contributions include: demonstration of peeling of large-area single-crystal graphene grown from a SiC substrate, enabling reuse of the expensive substrate; successful growth of GaN on graphene, with 25 percent lattice mismatch, demonstrating that GaN films grown from the process function well as LEDs and pointing to a new principle for growing common semiconductors for flexible electronics; and achieving high efficiency in silicon/polymer tandem solar cells and 3-D solar cells. Luqiao Liu joined MIT as an assistant professor in electrical engineering and computer science in September. He received his BS in physics from Peking University in China and his PhD in applied physics from Cornell University. He received a graduate student fellowship and the Aravind V. Subramanium T.L. Memorial Award from Cornell. Before joining MIT, Liu worked as a research staff member at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center. His research is in the field of spin electronics. In particular, he focuses on nanoscale materials and devices for spin logic, non-volatile memory, and microwave applications. Liu is also a recipient of the Patent Application Achievement Award from IBM. Nuno Loureiro will join the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering faculty as an assistant professor in January 2016; he will work with the theory group of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center. He earned a degree in physics engineering from Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) in Portugal, and a PhD in plasma physics from Imperial College for analytical and numerical work on the tearing instability. Loureiro held a postdoctoral position at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a fusion research fellowship at the Culham Center for Fusion Energy in the UK, and was awarded an advanced fellowship from the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation to work at the Institute for Plasmas and Nuclear Fusion (IPFN) at IST Lisbon. In 2012 Loureiro was appointed head of the Theory and Modeling Group at IPFN and served as an invited associate professor at the physics department of IST. His research interests cover a broad range of plasma-physics theoretical problems, including magnetic reconnection, the generation and amplification of magnetic fields, turbulent transport in magnetized plasmas, and fast-particle-driven instabilities in fusion plasmas. Loureiro is the 2015 recipient of the American Physical Society’s Thomas H. Stix Award for outstanding early career contributions to plasma physics. Robert Macfarlane, the AMAX Career Development Professor in Materials Engineering, joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering this past summer. He earned his BA in biochemistry at Willamette University and his PhD in chemistry at Northwestern University. Macfarlane’s research is focused on developing a set of design principles for synthesizing new inorganic/organic composite materials, where nanoscale structure can be manipulated to tune the emergent physical properties of a bulk material. These structures have the potential to significantly impact energy-related research via light manipulation (e.g. photonic band gaps or plasmonic metamaterials), electronic device fabrication (e.g. semiconducting substrates or data storage devices), and environmental and medical research (e.g. hydrogels for sustained drug delivery). Karthish Manthiram will join the faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering in 2017. Currently a postdoc at Caltech, he received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University and his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He received the Dan Cubicciotti Award of the Electrochemical Society, a Department of Energy Office of Science graduate fellowship, a Tau Beta Pi fellowship, the Mason and Marsden prize, a Dow Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Berkeley Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering teaching award. As a graduate student, Manthiram developed transition-metal oxide hosts for redox-tunable plasmons and nanoparticle electrocatalysts for reducing carbon dioxide. His research program at MIT will focus on the molecular engineering of electrocatalysts for the synthesis of organic molecules, including pharmaceuticals, fuels, and commodity chemicals, using renewable feedstocks. Benedetto Marelli will join the faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in November. He received a BE and an MS in biomedical engineering from Polytechnic University of Milan and pursued his doctoral studies in materials science and engineering at McGill University. His dissertation focused on the biomineralization of tissue-equivalent collagenous constructs and their use as rapidly-implantable osteogenic materials. As a postdoc at Tufts University, Marelli worked on the self-assembly and polymorphism of structural proteins, particularly silk fibroin. Marelli’s research at MIT will be in the area of structural biopolymers, biomineralization and self-assembly, mechanical and optoelectronic properties of natural polymers, biocomposites, additive manufacturing, and emerging technologies. By combining basic material principles with advanced fabrication techniques and additive manufacturing, he has developed new strategies to drive the self-assembly of structural biopolymers in advanced materials with unconventional forms and functions such as inkjet prints of silk fibroin that change in color in the presence of bacteria or flexible keratin-made photonic crystals. Using biofabrication strategies, his group will design bio-inspired materials that act at the biotic/abiotic interface to reduce or mitigate environmental impact. Admir Masic joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in September. He received an MS in inorganic chemistry and a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Torino in Italy. He was a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, investigating the structural and mechanical properties of biological materials and received the Young Investigator Award from the German Research Foundation focusing on effects of water on the mechanical properties of collagen-based materials. During his PhD, Masic developed advanced characterization methodologies for the non-invasive study of deterioration pathways in ancient manuscripts, including quantifying the extent of collagen degradation in Dead Sea Scrolls. His research focus is on the development of novel, high-performance, in situ, and multi-scale characterization techniques that are able to overcome current research bottlenecks in the investigation of complex hierarchically organized materials. His work is geared towards investigating the structural and mechanical properties of biological materials, including the study of ageing and pathological processes. He is interested in the degradation and preservation of cultural artifacts, historical buildings, and civil infrastructure. Julia Ortony, the John Chipman Career Development Professor, will join the Department of Materials Science and Engineering faculty in January 2016. She earned her BS in chemistry at the University of Minnesota and her PhD in materials chemistry at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Ortony’s research interests are in two main areas: the design and optimization of soft materials with nanoscale structure for important new technologies, and the development of advanced instrumentation for measuring conformational and water dynamics analogous to molecular dynamics simulations. By combining these thrusts, technologies ranging from biomedical therapies to energy materials will be explored with special consideration paid to molecular motion. Ellen Roche will join the Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty in summer 2016, following postdoctoral training at the University of Galway; she will also be a core member of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. She received her BE in biomedical engineering from the National University of Ireland in Galway, and her MS in bioengineering from Trinity College in Dublin. Between these degrees, she spent five years working on medical device design for Mednova Ltd., Abbot Vascular, and Medtronic. She later received her PhD in bioengineering from Harvard University. Roche’s awards include the American Heart Association Pre-doctoral fellowship, a Fulbright international science and technology award, the Harvard Pierce fellowship for outstanding graduates, the Medtronic AVE Award, and the Ryan Hanley Award. She specializes in the design of cardiac medical devices. At Harvard, she performed research on the design, modeling, experimentation, and pre-clinical evaluation of a novel soft-robotic device that helps patients with heart failure. Her invention, the Harvard Ventricular Assist Device (HarVAD), is a soft-robotic sleeve device that goes around the heart, squeezing and twisting it to maintain the heart’s functionality. The device has no contact with blood, dramatically reducing the risks of infection or blood clotting as compared to current devices. Additionally, she worked on incorporation of biomaterials into the device to deliver regenerative therapy directly to the heart. Roche’s device, which has been validated in testing with animals, could restore normal heart function in heart failure patients. Serguei Saavedra will join the faculty in January 2016 as an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He received a PhD in engineering science from Oxford University. For the past four years he has been working as a postdoc at the Department of Integrative Ecology at Doñana Biological Station in Spain, at the Department of Environmental Systems Science at ETH Zurich, and at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich. Saavedra works in the area of community ecology, developing quantitative methods to understand the factors responsible for sustaining large species interaction networks. His work has revealed significant connections between the structure of these networks and the range of conditions leading to species coexistence. He has established foundations to study the response of these networks to the effects of environmental change. Saavedra’s work also has applications to sustainability in large socioeconomic systems. Justin Solomon will join the faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science by July 2016. He is currently a National Science Foundation mathematical sciences postdoc in applied math at Princeton University. He earned his MS and PhD in computer science from Stanford University, where he also earned a BS in mathematics and computer science. Solomon is a past recipient of the Hertz Foundation fellowship, a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship, and the National Defense science and engineering graduate fellowship. His research focuses on geometric problems appearing in shape analysis, optimization, and data processing, with application in computer graphics, medical imaging, machine learning, and other areas. He taught classes on numerical analysis, computational differential geometry, and computer science at Stanford. His textbook, "Numerical Algorithms," was released in 2015 (CRC Press). Cem Tasan will join the faculty in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in January 2016. He holds a BS and MS from Middle East Technical University in Turkey, both in metallurgical and materials engineering, and a PhD from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands in mechanical engineering. Tasan was previously a group leader in adaptive structural materials at the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research, where he had also been a postdoc working on microplasticity at phase boundaries of multi-phase steels. He explores the boundaries of physical metallurgy, solid mechanics, and analytical microscopy in order to provide structural materials solutions to environmental challenges. His interests in micro-mechanically guided design of damage-resistant alloys and simulation-guided design of healable alloys have many applications for problems in energy and the environment. Caroline Uhler joined the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society as an assistant professor in October. She holds an MS in mathematics, a BS in biology, and an MEd in high school mathematics education from the University of Zurich. She obtained her PhD in statistics, with a designated emphasis in computational and genomic biology, from the University of California at Berkeley. She is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute and received a START Award from the Austrian Science Fund. After a semester as a research fellow in the program on “Theoretical Foundations of Big Data Analysis” at the Simons Institute at Berkeley and postdoctoral positions at the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications at the University of Minnesota, and at ETH Zurich, she joined the Institute of Science and Technology Austria as an assistant professor. Her research focuses on mathematical statistics, in particular on graphical models and the use of algebraic and geometric methods in statistics, and its applications to biology.

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