The lightbulb reimagined, with the potential to save more than 10% of global electricity. Flexible solar panels as easy to produce as an inkjet print. Rapidly charging batteries. New materials to harvest energy from heat. Nanotechnology enables sweeping transformations to our sources and systems of energy that address surging demand while safeguarding the health of the planet.
Tapping the Sun's Energy Through Heat
A pair of MIT professors are collaborating to explore a novel material made in part from carbon nanotubes. Sunlight heats the material, causing it to emit infrared radiation that is then collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. Adding the extra step not only improves performance by taking advantage of wavelengths of light that ordinarily go to waste, but could also make it easier to store energy in the form of heat for later use.
Professor Marin Soljačić '96 and Associate Professor Evelyn Wang '00
Solving the Energy Storage Problem
The biggest drawback to many sources of clean, renewable energy is their intermittency: the wind doesn't always blow, the sun doesn't always shine. The power they produce may not be available when it's needed. An MIT team is developing inexpensive liquid batteries with nanoscale components that could help solve the problem by storing that energy on a scale useful to major electric utilities.
Professor Donald Sadoway and David Bradwell MEng '06, PhD '11
New Wireless Energy Technologies
Wireless sensors have seemingly endless uses, but there is one limiting factor to the technology: power. A new micro-electro mechanical system the size of a quarter harvests energy from low-frequency vibrations, such as those produced by a swaying bridge. This naturally powered system could generate many times the power of similar devices—and power wireless sensors indefinitely.
Professor Sang-Gook Kim PhD '85 and Arman Hajati PhD '11