Newsletter, March, 2013


    MIT Materials News that Matters

    March 2013

    Materials Processing Center at MIT MIT Dome
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    Faculty Highlight: Professor Jeffrey C. Grossman

    Combining experimental synthesis with advanced computational methods

    The Grossman Group at MIT is identifying new problems and finding solutions across a wide range of materials for energy, water and building by combining experimental synthesis and characterization with advanced computational and simulation methods.
    "What I want to do is make materials that are relevant to energy and more recently water, understand and improve their properties so that we can engineer their efficiencies and cost," Jeffrey C. Grossman, Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering, in the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering, said.
    "When we started our lab, we were a computational group, so we had some ideas that were brought about by computation," he said. "Now that we have an experimental program, we can go both ways; we can be more opportunistic in terms of how we tackle the challenges of materials design for these problems," Grossman said. Read more
    Efficient Solar Thermal Fuels
    Proving the case for azobenzenes templated on carbon nanotubes


    MIT post-doctoral associate Timothy J. Kucharski is in the process of experimentally proving that azobenzenes templated on carbon nanotubes is an efficient solar thermal fuel, a case first demonstrated computationally in the Grossman Group at MIT. A solar thermal fuel absorbs sunlight and undergoes a molecular transition to a different form, or isomer, that is higher in energy. Because it is a form of chemical storage, thermal insulation isn't needed. "You're storing the heat cold because you are doing a chemical change when it absorbs the light and then you can basically stockpile it. When you are ready to use it, you send it through a reactor, and a catalyst reverses the photochemical reaction releasing heat," Kucharski said.


    Work done previously by Alexie Kolpak, a former post-doctoral associate in the Grossman Group who joined the MIT faculty in the fall 2012 as assistant professor of mechanical engineering, showed the best theoretical performance is from azobenzenes with added hydroxy groups (OH groups) to promote hydrogen bonding at specific locations. Kolpak and Jeffrey C. Grossman, Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering, published those theoretical results in the Nano Letters publication on a paper called "Azobenzene-Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes As High-Energy Density Solar Thermal Fuels," in June 2011. Read more


    Understanding Kerogen Chemistry
    News materials inspired by a component of the shale used for fracking may be possible


    The Grossman Group at MIT, well-known for its computational studies, has opened a new line of experimental research into kerogen, the solid mixed organic rock in shale that contains oil or gas.


    Research scientist Nicola Ferralis, Ph.D., is leading the group's work on kerogen, the organic material at the heart of the burgeoning hydrofracturing, or fracking industry.


    Current projects include:

    * Chemical characterization of kerogen in collaboration with X-Shale Hub at MIT, work that is sponsored by Royal Dutch Shell and Schlumberger.


    * Work on the composition of shale, begun in mid-March 2013, sponsored separately by Royal Dutch Shell Exploration Technologies.


    * Exploration of new materials and processes based on kerogen that might lead to substitutes for materials such as silicon, carbon nanotubes and graphene. Read more


    In This Issue
    * Faculty Highlight: Professor Jeffrey C. Grossman
    *Efficient Solar Thermal Fuels
    * Understanding Kerogen Chemistry
    * Improving Water Desalination
    Quick Links

    Collegium and Advisory Board members have full access to videos of the Oct. 17, 2012, Materials Day presentations: "Materials for Energy Harvesting."

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    Improving Water Desalination
    Work on extremely thin membrane made of graphene with tiny holes to remove salt from water moves to experimental phase

    MIT materials science and engineering doctoral student David Cohen-Tanugi

    A visit to Israel in December 2012 with an Massachusetts delegation on water innovation brought materials science and engineering doctoral student David Cohen-Tanugi face to face with very large desalinaton installations that might benefit from his research on better membranes for water filtration in the Grossman Lab at MIT. "They provide fresh water reliably and in an expensive but not cost prohibitive way for a population that doesn't have many other options," Cohen-Tanugi, 26, said. "Israel actually does turn out to be a model in that field in a lot of ways. We have a lot to learn from how they do things."


    But the experience also introduced Cohen-Tanugi to the enormity of the task that currently requires thousands of water desalination cartridges (each slightly longer than a yard). "They don't have 10 or a 100 or 1,000 of these cartridges, they have 30,000 of these cartridges in parallel, and that's because the water goes so slowly through each one. Having cartridges that do the whole process faster, so that you could have 300 instead of 30,000, that's something ... we could do better." Read more


    Microphotonics Consortium Spring Meeting
    April 16 & 17, 2013
    MIT Faculty Club

    MPhC logo
    The 2013 Spring Meeting of the Microphotonics Center Industry Consortium will examine the drivers and timelines for the commercial entry of integrated microphotonic components at each level of the interconnection hierarchy. Particular attention will be given to analysis of the level-to-level technology transition path. The path from network fiber to the data center AOC has not been iterative. The penetration of microphotonics to the backplane and board levels may be even more disruptive with significant barriers of low cost, high component volume and compatibility with electronic design. For more information please see the meeting agenda or visit the MPhC website.
    The meeting is open to consortium members only. If you would like to find out more information about joining the Microphotonics Center Consortium, please contact Professor Lionel Kimerling at

    Materials Seminar
    Uncovering Nanoscale Dislocations

    Ian M. Robertson, dean of the College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, will deliver a talk, "Uncovering the relationship between evolved microstructure and mechanical properties," for the Materials Science and Engineering Seminar Series at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on April 18, 2013. The talk will be given at 4 p.m. in Room 66-110.

    In his talk, Robertson will demonstrate the complexity of the evolved microstructures under different loading conditions and environments, gaseous hydrogen environments as well as liquid metal.  The implications of these new findings on existing models will be considered and a strategy for development of new ones will be presented.  Read more

    Materials Science at the Heart of MIT
    Materials Science at the Heart of the MIT
    Join the MPC Collegium
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    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.


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