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January 16, 2017

BROWSE NEWS RESULTS

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Technology Review
August 25, 2010

Policy: Piecemeal Efforts Fall Short

Despite ongoing concerns about the United States' vast appetite for petroleum in general and foreign oil in particular, Washington has taken only piecemeal measures to address the challenge. Collectively, these efforts will have only a small impact on the amount of oil the country consumes. In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation tightened fuel economy regulations: cars will be required to achieve an average of 35.5 miles per gallon starting in 2016, up from 27.5 today. The EPA expects this change to save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under these regulations. But that's only a bit more oil than the U.S. consumes in three months.
Technology Review
August 25, 2010

Over the Horizon: The Quest to Sequester

One way to continue using coal and other fossil fuels without promoting catastrophic climate change would be to capture the carbon dioxide released by burning them and then pump it underground for permanent storage, a process called carbon sequestration. This strategy has been demonstrated in a few places. But for it to make a significant impact on carbon emissions, researchers must find economical ways to capture the gas, plus practical ways to liquefy and bury billions of tons of it each year--and keep this up for decades. The need is staggering: coal accounts for 20 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide. In the United States, for example, 600 coal-fired power plants emit two billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. China's coal emissions are roughly double that amount and growing rapidly.
Technology Review
August 25, 2010

China: Beijing Sees Future in Liquefied Coal

With a shortage of domestic oil and an automobile market that's now the world's biggest, China has begun a large-scale program to transform its abundant coal resources into motor fuels. It's already home to the world's largest coal liquefaction plant--a facility in Inner Mongolia that reached its full capacity last year and can now pump out a million gallons of diesel fuel per day. The plant made China only the second country in the world, after South Africa, to successfully derive liquid fuels from coal on a commercial scale. Built by coal producer Shenhua Group, the facility uses the heat and hydrogen generated by gasifying a small amount of coal to brew a wet slurry made from a second stream of coal into diesel fuel. The process makes economic sense but inflicts an environmental double whammy. Simply making the fuel produces prodigious amounts of carbon dioxide, even before the fuel itself is burned. It also uses enormous amounts of another scarce Chinese commodity: water.
Technology Review
August 25, 2010

Natural Gas: Tapping an Unconventional Source

In recent years it has become clear that the United States and Canada hold a bonanza in recoverable natural gas, a resource once thought to be declining. Because natural gas releases just half as much carbon dioxide as coal when it's burned to produce a comparable amount of electricity, the fuel could play an important role in reducing carbon emissions. In the United States, for example, 45 percent of electricity comes from coal and 23 percent from natural gas. If half the electricity from coal were replaced with electricity from natural gas, it would eliminate 20 percent of the U.S. carbon dioxide emissions attributable to electricity generation.
Technology Review
August 25, 2010

Research to Watch: Building Microbial Fuel Factories

Viewed from a biofuels perspective, biological plants waste huge amounts of energy: they use sunlight to make cellulose, starch, lignin, and seeds, some of which can then be broken down and converted into fuels. A growing body of research is seeking to genetically engineer organisms to make liquid fuels directly. Organisms optimized in this way could theoretically be an order of magnitude more efficient than technologies that make fuels from biomass. Joule Unlimited, a startup based in Cambridge, MA, is genetically altering photosynthetic microörganisms so that over their lifetime, they devote only 5 percent of the solar energy they absorb to growing and staying alive. The rest goes to secreting a steady supply of diesel fuel. The company, which is building a pilot plant in Leander, TX, says its process will generate 15 to 25 times as much fuel per acre as technology for making fuels from cellulosic biomass, but that it will take several years to demonstrate at a large scale. Synthetic Genomics, with funding from ExxonMobil that could exceed $300 million, is taking a similar approach, working with algae.
Technology Review
August 25, 2010

Case Study: Mascoma: Seeking a Market Toehold

When the biofuels startup Mascoma launched in 2005, it hoped to capitalize on technology that would produce ethanol from wood chips and other plant waste in an efficient one-step process. Mascoma secured $30 million in financing by 2006 and began building a 200,000-gallon-per-year pilot plant in Rome, NY, the following year. In 2008, the company heralded new research advances toward genetically engineered bacteria that could thrive at high temperatures. Using them made it possible to reduce by 60 percent the quantity of costly enzymes needed to degrade cellulose into fermentable sugars. The company announced plans to build one of the first commercial-scale cellulosic-ethanol plants, in Kinross, MI; it would be able to produce 80 million gallons per year.
Technology Review
August 25, 2010

Industry Challenges: The End of Easy Oil

The world won't run short of petroleum in the next few decades, but there's a limited supply of easy-to-reach oil. Between now and 2030, production from such "conventional" sources will barely rise--from 79 million to 85 million barrels per day. During the same period, demand for liquid fuels is expected to rise from 86 million to 106 million barrels per day. While more than half of that extra demand will be met by other sources, such as biofuels and fuels derived from coal or natural gas, the petroleum industry will have to make up the rest from harder-to-extract oil supplies.
Technology Review
August 25, 2010

Technology Overview: Making Cellulosic Biofuels Competitive

As long as electric vehicles remain a niche, biofuels will be the most serious alternative to fossil fuels as a way to power cars and trucks. Millions of existing vehicles can run on fuels mixed with high concentrations of ethanol or biodiesel. The rest, hundreds of millions more in the U.S., can run on mixtures that include some ethanol. Making vast quantities of biofuels without cutting into food supplies, however, means finding a way to use wood chips, corn stalks, and other forms of cellulosic biomass as feedstocks. Dozens of pilot and demonstration-scale plants for producing cellulosic ethanol have been built across the United States, and a few are planned abroad, including some in China. But it's still not clear when the technology will prove competitive.
Technology Review
August 25, 2010

Fossil Fuels Remain a Mainstay

Scientists generally agree that to limit global warming to less than 2.4 °C--and avoid the worst effects of climate change--greenhouse-gas emissions must be reduced 50 percent by 2050. But humanity is a long way from being weaned from the petroleum, natural gas, and coal whose use causes much of this pollution. In fact, global energy demand is expected to increase about 40 percent over the next two decades. By 2030, the use of petroleum, coal, and natural gas is expected to jump by 23 percent, 44 percent, and 37 percent, respectively. "You look at the world of renewables and you see a lot of progress, but they are not going to outpace the growing demand for energy," says Peter Jackson, a senior director at IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, an energy consultancy and think tank.
Technology Review
August 25, 2010

Taking Over a Car

Researchers "break in" with software and a laptop.
Cars are becoming more computerized, an evolution that could have an unintended side effect: vulnerability to attacks. Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego, led by Tadayoshi Kohno and Stefan Savage, recently showed that by taking over a car's computers, they could disable the brakes, stop the engine, and control the door locks. For now, most of the attacks require access to a port inside the car. But wreaking havoc could get easier as carmakers add more wireless connectivity. The researchers hope their work will motivate manufacturers to add security features.
Technology Review
August 25, 2010

Taking Stock of the Stimulus

The technology funding in last year's recovery act is just beginning to reach its targets.
The technology funding in last year's recovery act is just beginning to reach its targets.
Technology Review
August 25, 2010

Vandiver Wedding

In the above photo, standing, left to right: Dr. Danielle Lemay '95; Dr. Kathy Vandiver, step-mother of the bride, director of Community Outreach and Education Core at the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences; Curran Schiefelbein, MIT's Lincoln Labs; Dr. Nick Ingolia '00 and Dr. Liana Lareau '00; Tim Schiefelbein, MIT's Lincoln Labs, with son John; Laurel Bobrow '06; Heather Harrison '97; Alex Vandiver '05 CS '07, brother of the bride; Dr. Kim Vandiver OE '75 , father of the bride, Dean for Undergraduate Research at MIT, Director of the MIT Edgerton Center, Director of the MIT Office for Experiential Learning, and faculty in the MIT Mechanical Engineering department; Rob Gruhl '97, brother of the groom; Amy Gruhl né Vandiver '98, CS '02, and Dan Gruhl '94 CS '00; Edward Gruhl '69, father of the groom; Dr. Jen Vandiver '01, ME '06, sister-in-law of the bride; Dr. Pam Vandiver ML '85, mother of the bride, former faculty of the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering, co-founder of the MIT Glass Lab; Abby Spinak '01; Christine Robson '03 CS '04 and Josh Weaver '00 CS '05. Seated, left to right: Angie Hinrichs '95 with son Edison; Dr. Ben Vandiver '00 CS '08, brother of the bride, with son Ian Mead Vandiver; Liz Hollar '96 TP '98 and Seth Hollar '96, with their son Orson and daughter Rosalind, respectively.