Newsletter, July 2015 Featured

    MIT Materials News that Matters
    July 2015
    Materials Processing Center at MIT
    77 Massachusetts Avenue
    Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139Youtubetwittergoogle plusfacebook
    MIT Takes Key Role in Photonics Partnership
    $110M national grant to promote American manufacturing of integrated optical and electronic devices goes to consortium of government, industry, and academia.
    Associate Professor Michael R. Watts (left) and Professor Lionel C. Kimerling (right). Photo, Bryce Vickmark.
    Associate Professor Michael R. Watts (left) and Professor Lionel C. Kimerling (right). Photo, Bryce Vickmark.

    David L. Chandler
    MIT News OfficeMIT is a key player in a new $600 million public-private partnership announced July 27, 2015, by the Obama administration to help strengthen high-tech U.S.-based manufacturing.

    Physically headquartered in New York state and led by the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly), the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) will bring government, industry, and academia together to advance domestic capabilities in integrated photonic technology and better position the U.S. relative to global competition.

    Federal funding of $110 million will be combined with some $500 million from AIM Photonics' consortium of state and local governments, manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and nonprofit organizations across the country.

    Technologies that can help to integrate photonics, or light-based communications and computation, with existing electronic systems are seen as a crucial growth area as the world moves toward ever-greater reliance on more powerful high-tech systems. What's more, many analysts say this is an area that could help breathe new life into a U.S. manufacturing base that has been in decline in recent years.

    The public-private partnership announced today aims to spur these twin goals, improving integration of photonic systems while revitalizing U.S. manufacturing. The consortium includes universities, community colleges, and businesses in 20 states. Six state governments, including that of Massachusetts, are also supporting the project.


    Read more.

    Training 'Small Planet' Engineers 
    'Global Principles' course challenges students at MIT and University of Tokyo to develop a cross-cultural, systems approach to materials science and engineering.

    Students in MIT's Global Principles of Engineering Practice class toured Japan after  a May 24, 2015, Symposium at the University of Tokyo.
     Students in MIT's Global Principles of Engineering Practice class toured  Japan after a May 24, 2015, Symposium at the University of Tokyo.

    Today's materials scientists are expected to join multi-disciplinary teams to solve real world problems. A co-operative materials science course between MIT and the University of Tokyo is teaching students at both schools to incorporate social, political and economic factors into large-scale engineering solutions.Now in its seventh year at MIT, the semester long Global Principles of Engineering Practice class developed by Professor Lionel Kimerling began for freshmen only. It expanded to include the Japanese component in 2010 and a year later added a laboratory component to open it to upperclassmen at MIT as well.

    Students learn six engineering principles then break into teams to apply those to a particular project. At the end of the semester, a group from MIT travels to the University of Tokyo in Japan for a Symposium at which students listen to each other's problem definitions and solutions. "Labs, case studies and the projects are the things that the students do, and the principles are the context in which we ask them to practice them," says Kimerling, who is Thomas Lord Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. Read more.

    Programming Materials for Better Designs
    Skylar Tibbits creates smart materials that elegantly transform themselves for improved processes and products.

    Skylar Tibbits, MIT Self-Assembly Lab Director. Courtesy, MIT Industrial Liaison Program.
    Skylar Tibbits, MIT Self-Assembly Lab Director. Courtesy, MIT Industrial Liaison Program.

    Eric Bender

    MIT Industrial Liaison Program 

    We think of the everyday materials we use to build our human world as static, but we can think again: MIT's Self-Assembly Lab programs these materials to transform themselves to handle tasks more simply and efficiently, thus improving or creating a wide variety of products.

    Funded by industry collaboration, "the lab focuses on how to bring computer science to our physical world, how to program our physical world to assemble itself and transform on its own," says Skylar Tibbits, Self-Assembly Lab head and research scientist in the department of architecture.

    "Every material responds to some sort of energy source, and every material has properties of stiffness or flexibility or expansion or contraction," he explains. "We can have customizable smart materials that change shape, change properties or have decision-making. We can combine them in unique ways, so that they can act as sensors, actuators or logic."

    Read more.

    The gyroid surface with a dime on top. Image, Ling Lu and Qinghui Yan

    Part of a 1929 prediction by physicist Hermann Weyl - of a kind of massless particle that features a singular point in its energy spectrum called the "Weyl point" - has finally been confirmed by direct observation for the first time, says an international team of physicists led by researchers at MIT. The finding could lead to new kinds of high-power single-mode lasers and other optical devices, the team says.

    Read more 

    Gradiant's 12,000-barrel-per-day, carrier gas extraction plant (shown here), uses a humidification and dehumidification (HDH) technique that heats produced water into vapor, and condenses it back into water, without contaminants to yield freshwater.

    Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," produces a lot of wastewater. Drilling one well requires millions of gallons of water that's injected into the ground to loosen rocks and release oil. While some is reused, much of the produced water is discarded into deep injection wells, and clean water is purchased again and again.

    Read more 

    Shown here is a prototype laptop power adapter made by Cambridge Electronics using GaN transistors. At 1.5 cubic inches in volume, this is the smallest laptop power adapter ever made. Credits Courtesy, Cambridge Electronics.

    An exotic material called gallium nitride (GaN) is poised to become the next semiconductor for power electronics, enabling much higher efficiency than silicon.   Read more 

    Join the MPC Collegium
    QR code for collegium webpage
    • Facilitation of on-campus meetings
    • Access to Collegium member only briefing materials
    • Representation on the MPC External Advisory Board
    • Customized research opportunity briefs
    • Facilitation of customized student internships
    • Medium and long-term on-campus corporate staff visits
    For more information contact Mark Beals at 617-253-2129 or


    About MPC

    The goals of the Materials Processing Center are to unite the materials research community at MIT and to enhance Institute-industry interactions. Collaboration on research ventures, technology transfer, continuing education of industry personnel, and communication among industrial and governmental entities are our priorities. The MPC 
    Industry Collegium is a major vehicle for this collaboration. The MPC sponsors seminars and workshops, as well as a summer internship for talented undergraduates from universities across the U.S. We encourage interdisciplinary research collaborations and provide funds management assistance to faculty.
    MIT, Materials Processing Center
    77 Massachusetts Avenue
    Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139