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    Advancing technology for aquaculture

    According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, aquaculture in the United States represents a $1.5 billion industry annually. Like land-based farming, shellfish aquaculture requires healthy seed production in order to maintain a sustainable industry. Aquaculture hatchery production of shellfish larvae — seeds — requires close monitoring to track mortality rates and assess health from the earliest stages of life. 

    Careful observation is necessary to inform production scheduling, determine effects of naturally occurring harmful bacteria, and ensure sustainable seed production. This is an essential step for shellfish hatcheries but is currently a time-consuming manual process prone to human error. 

    With funding from MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS), MIT Sea Grant is working with Associate Professor Otto Cordero of the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Professor Taskin Padir and Research Scientist Mark Zolotas at the Northeastern University Institute for Experiential Robotics, and others at the Aquaculture Research Corporation (ARC), and the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, to advance technology for the aquaculture industry. Located on Cape Cod, ARC is a leading shellfish hatchery, farm, and wholesaler that plays a vital role in providing high-quality shellfish seed to local and regional growers.

    Two MIT students have joined the effort this semester, working with Robert Vincent, MIT Sea Grant’s assistant director of advisory services, through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). 

    First-year student Unyime Usua and sophomore Santiago Borrego are using microscopy images of shellfish seed from ARC to train machine learning algorithms that will help automate the identification and counting process. The resulting user-friendly image recognition tool aims to aid aquaculturists in differentiating and counting healthy, unhealthy, and dead shellfish larvae, improving accuracy and reducing time and effort.

    Vincent explains that AI is a powerful tool for environmental science that enables researchers, industry, and resource managers to address challenges that have long been pinch points for accurate data collection, analysis, predictions, and streamlining processes. “Funding support from programs like J-WAFS enable us to tackle these problems head-on,” he says. 

    ARC faces challenges with manually quantifying larvae classes, an important step in their seed production process. “When larvae are in their growing stages they are constantly being sized and counted,” explains Cheryl James, ARC larval/juvenile production manager. “This process is critical to encourage optimal growth and strengthen the population.” 

    Developing an automated identification and counting system will help to improve this step in the production process with time and cost benefits. “This is not an easy task,” says Vincent, “but with the guidance of Dr. Zolotas at the Northeastern University Institute for Experiential Robotics and the work of the UROP students, we have made solid progress.” 

    The UROP program benefits both researchers and students. Involving MIT UROP students in developing these types of systems provides insights into AI applications that they might not have considered, providing opportunities to explore, learn, and apply themselves while contributing to solving real challenges.

    Borrego saw this project as an opportunity to apply what he’d learned in class 6.390 (Introduction to Machine Learning) to a real-world issue. “I was starting to form an idea of how computers can see images and extract information from them,” he says. “I wanted to keep exploring that.”

    Usua decided to pursue the project because of the direct industry impacts it could have. “I’m pretty interested in seeing how we can utilize machine learning to make people’s lives easier. We are using AI to help biologists make this counting and identification process easier.” While Usua wasn’t familiar with aquaculture before starting this project, she explains, “Just hearing about the hatcheries that Dr. Vincent was telling us about, it was unfortunate that not a lot of people know what’s going on and the problems that they’re facing.”

    On Cape Cod alone, aquaculture is an $18 million per year industry. But the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries estimates that hatcheries are only able to meet 70–80 percent of seed demand annually, which impacts local growers and economies. Through this project, the partners aim to develop technology that will increase seed production, advance industry capabilities, and help understand and improve the hatchery microbiome.

    Borrego explains the initial challenge of having limited data to work with. “Starting out, we had to go through and label all of the data, but going through that process helped me learn a lot.” In true MIT fashion, he shares his takeaway from the project: “Try to get the best out of what you’re given with the data you have to work with. You’re going to have to adapt and change your strategies depending on what you have.”

    Usua describes her experience going through the research process, communicating in a team, and deciding what approaches to take. “Research is a difficult and long process, but there is a lot to gain from it because it teaches you to look for things on your own and find your own solutions to problems.”

    In addition to increasing seed production and reducing the human labor required in the hatchery process, the collaborators expect this project to contribute to cost savings and technology integration to support one of the most underserved industries in the United States. 

    Borrego and Usua both plan to continue their work for a second semester with MIT Sea Grant. Borrego is interested in learning more about how technology can be used to protect the environment and wildlife. Usua says she hopes to explore more projects related to aquaculture. “It seems like there’s an infinite amount of ways to tackle these issues.” More

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    Q&A: Claire Walsh on how J-PAL’s King Climate Action Initiative tackles the twin climate and poverty crises

    The King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI) is the flagship climate change program of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), which innovates, tests, and scales solutions at the nexus of climate change and poverty alleviation, together with policy partners worldwide.

    Claire Walsh is the associate director of policy at J-PAL Global at MIT. She is also the project director of K-CAI. Here, Walsh talks about the work of K-CAI since its launch in 2020, and describes the ways its projects are making a difference. This is part of an ongoing series exploring how the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is addressing the climate crisis.

    Q: According to the King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI), any attempt to address poverty effectively must also simultaneously address climate change. Why is that?

    A: Climate change will disproportionately harm people in poverty, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, because they tend to live in places that are more exposed to climate risk. These are nations in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia where low-income communities rely heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods, so extreme weather — heat, droughts, and flooding — can be devastating for people’s jobs and food security. In fact, the World Bank estimates that up to 130 million more people may be pushed into poverty by climate change by 2030.

    This is unjust because these countries have historically emitted the least; their people didn’t cause the climate crisis. At the same time, they are trying to improve their economies and improve people’s welfare, so their energy demands are increasing, and they are emitting more. But they don’t have the same resources as wealthy nations for mitigation or adaptation, and many developing countries understandably don’t feel eager to put solving a problem they didn’t create at the top of their priority list. This makes finding paths forward to cutting emissions on a global scale politically challenging.

    For these reasons, the problems of enhancing the well-being of people experiencing poverty, addressing inequality, and reducing pollution and greenhouse gases are inextricably linked.

    Q: So how does K-CAI tackle this hybrid challenge?

    A: Our initiative is pretty unique. We are a competitive, policy-based research and development fund that focuses on innovating, testing, and scaling solutions. We support researchers from MIT and other universities, and their collaborators, who are actually implementing programs, whether NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], government, or the private sector. We fund pilots of small-scale ideas in a real-world setting to determine if they hold promise, followed by larger randomized, controlled trials of promising solutions in climate change mitigation, adaptation, pollution reduction, and energy access. Our goal is to determine, through rigorous research, if these solutions are actually working — for example, in cutting emissions or protecting forests or helping vulnerable communities adapt to climate change. And finally, we offer path-to-scale grants which enable governments and NGOs to expand access to programs that have been tested and have strong evidence of impact.

    We think this model is really powerful. Since we launched in 2020, we have built a portfolio of over 30 randomized evaluations and 13 scaling projects in more than 35 countries. And to date, these projects have informed the scale ups of evidence-based climate policies that have reached over 15 million people.

    Q: It seems like K-CAI is advancing a kind of policy science, demanding proof of a program’s capacity to deliver results at each stage. 

    A: This is one of the factors that drew me to J-PAL back in 2012. I majored in anthropology and studied abroad in Uganda. From those experiences I became very passionate about pursuing a career focused on poverty reduction. To me, it is unfair that in a world full of so much wealth and so much opportunity there exists so much extreme poverty. I wanted to dedicate my career to that, but I’m also a very detail-oriented nerd who really cares about whether a program that claims to be doing something for people is accomplishing what it claims.

    It’s been really rewarding to see demand from governments and NGOs for evidence-informed policymaking grow over my 12 years at J-PAL. This policy science approach holds exciting promise to help transform public policy and climate policy in the coming decades.  

    Q: Can you point to K-CAI-funded projects that meet this high bar and are now making a significant impact?

    A: Several examples jump to mind. In the state of Gujarat, India, pollution regulators are trying to cut particulate matter air pollution, which is devastating to human health. The region is home to many major industries whose emissions negatively affect most of the state’s 70 million residents.

    We partnered with state pollution regulators — kind of a regional EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] — to test an emissions trading scheme that is used widely in the U.S. and Europe but not in low- and middle-income countries. The government monitors pollution levels using technology installed at factories that sends data in real time, so the regulator knows exactly what their emissions look like. The regulator sets a cap on the overall level of pollution, allocates permits to pollute, and industries can trade emissions permits.

    In 2019, researchers in the J-PAL network conducted the world’s first randomized, controlled trial of this emissions trading scheme and found that it cut pollution by 20 to 30 percent — a surprising reduction. It also reduced firms’ costs, on average, because the costs of compliance went down. The state government was eager to scale up the pilot, and in the past two years, two other cities, including Ahmedabad, the biggest city in the state, have adopted the concept.

    We are also supporting a project in Niger, whose economy is hugely dependent on rain-fed agriculture but with climate change is experiencing rapid desertification. Researchers in the J-PAL network have been testing training farmers in a simple, inexpensive rainwater harvesting technique, where farmers dig a half-moon-shaped hole called a demi-lune right before the rainy season. This demi-lune feeds crops that are grown directly on top of it, and helps return land that resembled flat desert to arable production.

    Researchers found that training farmers in this simple technology increased adoption from 4 percent to 94 percent and that demi-lunes increased agricultural output and revenue for farmers from the first year. K-CAI is funding a path-to-scale grant so local implementers can teach this technique to over 8,000 farmers and build a more cost-effective program model. If this takes hold, the team will work with local partners to scale the training to other relevant regions of the country and potentially other countries in the Sahel.

    One final example that we are really proud of, because we first funded it as a pilot and now it’s in the path to scale phase: We supported a team of researchers working with partners in Bangladesh trying to reduce carbon emissions and other pollution from brick manufacturing, an industry that generates 17 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. The scale of manufacturing is so great that at some times of year, Dhaka (the capital of Bangladesh) looks like Mordor.

    Workers form these bricks and stack hundreds of thousands of them, which they then fire by burning coal. A team of local researchers and collaborators from our J-PAL network found that you can reduce the amount of coal needed for the kilns by making some low-cost changes to the manufacturing process, including stacking the bricks in a way that increases airflow in the kiln and feeding the coal fires more frequently in smaller rather than larger batches.

    In the randomized, controlled trial K-CAI supported, researchers found that this cut carbon and pollution emissions significantly, and now the government has invited the team to train 1,000 brick manufacturers in Dhaka in these techniques.

    Q: These are all fascinating and powerful instances of implementing ideas that address a range of problems in different parts of the world. But can K-CAI go big enough and fast enough to take a real bite out of the twin poverty and climate crisis?

    A: We’re not trying to find silver bullets. We are trying to build a large playbook of real solutions that work to solve specific problems in specific contexts. As you build those up in the hundreds, you have a deep bench of effective approaches to solve problems that can add up in a meaningful way. And because J-PAL works with governments and NGOs that have the capacity to take the research into action, since 2003, over 600 million people around the world have been reached by policies and programs that are informed by evidence that J-PAL-affiliated researchers produced. While global challenges seem daunting, J-PAL has shown that in 20 years we can achieve a great deal, and there is huge potential for future impact.

    But unfortunately, globally, there is an underinvestment in policy innovation to combat climate change that may generate quicker, lower-cost returns at a large scale — especially in policies that determine which technologies get adopted or commercialized. For example, a lot of the huge fall in prices of renewable energy was enabled by early European government investments in solar and wind, and then continuing support for innovation in renewable energy.

    That’s why I think social sciences have so much to offer in the fight against climate change and poverty; we are working where technology meets policy and where technology meets real people, which often determines their success or failure. The world should be investing in policy, economic, and social innovation just as much as it is investing in technological innovation.

    Q: Do you need to be an optimist in your job?

    A: I am half-optimist, half-pragmatist. I have no control over the climate change outcome for the world. And regardless of whether we can successfully avoid most of the potential damages of climate change, when I look back, I’m going to ask myself, “Did I fight or not?” The only choice I have is whether or not I fought, and I want to be a fighter. More

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    Tests show high-temperature superconducting magnets are ready for fusion

    In the predawn hours of Sept. 5, 2021, engineers achieved a major milestone in the labs of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), when a new type of magnet, made from high-temperature superconducting material, achieved a world-record magnetic field strength of 20 tesla for a large-scale magnet. That’s the intensity needed to build a fusion power plant that is expected to produce a net output of power and potentially usher in an era of virtually limitless power production.

    The test was immediately declared a success, having met all the criteria established for the design of the new fusion device, dubbed SPARC, for which the magnets are the key enabling technology. Champagne corks popped as the weary team of experimenters, who had labored long and hard to make the achievement possible, celebrated their accomplishment.

    But that was far from the end of the process. Over the ensuing months, the team tore apart and inspected the components of the magnet, pored over and analyzed the data from hundreds of instruments that recorded details of the tests, and performed two additional test runs on the same magnet, ultimately pushing it to its breaking point in order to learn the details of any possible failure modes.

    All of this work has now culminated in a detailed report by researchers at PSFC and MIT spinout company Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), published in a collection of six peer-reviewed papers in a special edition of the March issue of IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity. Together, the papers describe the design and fabrication of the magnet and the diagnostic equipment needed to evaluate its performance, as well as the lessons learned from the process. Overall, the team found, the predictions and computer modeling were spot-on, verifying that the magnet’s unique design elements could serve as the foundation for a fusion power plant.

    Enabling practical fusion power

    The successful test of the magnet, says Hitachi America Professor of Engineering Dennis Whyte, who recently stepped down as director of the PSFC, was “the most important thing, in my opinion, in the last 30 years of fusion research.”

    Before the Sept. 5 demonstration, the best-available superconducting magnets were powerful enough to potentially achieve fusion energy — but only at sizes and costs that could never be practical or economically viable. Then, when the tests showed the practicality of such a strong magnet at a greatly reduced size, “overnight, it basically changed the cost per watt of a fusion reactor by a factor of almost 40 in one day,” Whyte says.

    “Now fusion has a chance,” Whyte adds. Tokamaks, the most widely used design for experimental fusion devices, “have a chance, in my opinion, of being economical because you’ve got a quantum change in your ability, with the known confinement physics rules, about being able to greatly reduce the size and the cost of objects that would make fusion possible.”

    The comprehensive data and analysis from the PSFC’s magnet test, as detailed in the six new papers, has demonstrated that plans for a new generation of fusion devices — the one designed by MIT and CFS, as well as similar designs by other commercial fusion companies — are built on a solid foundation in science.

    The superconducting breakthrough

    Fusion, the process of combining light atoms to form heavier ones, powers the sun and stars, but harnessing that process on Earth has proved to be a daunting challenge, with decades of hard work and many billions of dollars spent on experimental devices. The long-sought, but never yet achieved, goal is to build a fusion power plant that produces more energy than it consumes. Such a power plant could produce electricity without emitting greenhouse gases during operation, and generating very little radioactive waste. Fusion’s fuel, a form of hydrogen that can be derived from seawater, is virtually limitless.

    But to make it work requires compressing the fuel at extraordinarily high temperatures and pressures, and since no known material could withstand such temperatures, the fuel must be held in place by extremely powerful magnetic fields. Producing such strong fields requires superconducting magnets, but all previous fusion magnets have been made with a superconducting material that requires frigid temperatures of about 4 degrees above absolute zero (4 kelvins, or -270 degrees Celsius). In the last few years, a newer material nicknamed REBCO, for rare-earth barium copper oxide, was added to fusion magnets, and allows them to operate at 20 kelvins, a temperature that despite being only 16 kelvins warmer, brings significant advantages in terms of material properties and practical engineering.

    Taking advantage of this new higher-temperature superconducting material was not just a matter of substituting it in existing magnet designs. Instead, “it was a rework from the ground up of almost all the principles that you use to build superconducting magnets,” Whyte says. The new REBCO material is “extraordinarily different than the previous generation of superconductors. You’re not just going to adapt and replace, you’re actually going to innovate from the ground up.” The new papers in Transactions on Applied Superconductivity describe the details of that redesign process, now that patent protection is in place.

    A key innovation: no insulation

    One of the dramatic innovations, which had many others in the field skeptical of its chances of success, was the elimination of insulation around the thin, flat ribbons of superconducting tape that formed the magnet. Like virtually all electrical wires, conventional superconducting magnets are fully protected by insulating material to prevent short-circuits between the wires. But in the new magnet, the tape was left completely bare; the engineers relied on REBCO’s much greater conductivity to keep the current flowing through the material.

    “When we started this project, in let’s say 2018, the technology of using high-temperature superconductors to build large-scale high-field magnets was in its infancy,” says Zach Hartwig, the Robert N. Noyce Career Development Professor in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. Hartwig has a co-appointment at the PSFC and is the head of its engineering group, which led the magnet development project. “The state of the art was small benchtop experiments, not really representative of what it takes to build a full-size thing. Our magnet development project started at benchtop scale and ended up at full scale in a short amount of time,” he adds, noting that the team built a 20,000-pound magnet that produced a steady, even magnetic field of just over 20 tesla — far beyond any such field ever produced at large scale.

    “The standard way to build these magnets is you would wind the conductor and you have insulation between the windings, and you need insulation to deal with the high voltages that are generated during off-normal events such as a shutdown.” Eliminating the layers of insulation, he says, “has the advantage of being a low-voltage system. It greatly simplifies the fabrication processes and schedule.” It also leaves more room for other elements, such as more cooling or more structure for strength.

    The magnet assembly is a slightly smaller-scale version of the ones that will form the donut-shaped chamber of the SPARC fusion device now being built by CFS in Devens, Massachusetts. It consists of 16 plates, called pancakes, each bearing a spiral winding of the superconducting tape on one side and cooling channels for helium gas on the other.

    But the no-insulation design was considered risky, and a lot was riding on the test program. “This was the first magnet at any sufficient scale that really probed what is involved in designing and building and testing a magnet with this so-called no-insulation no-twist technology,” Hartwig says. “It was very much a surprise to the community when we announced that it was a no-insulation coil.”

    Pushing to the limit … and beyond

    The initial test, described in previous papers, proved that the design and manufacturing process not only worked but was highly stable — something that some researchers had doubted. The next two test runs, also performed in late 2021, then pushed the device to the limit by deliberately creating unstable conditions, including a complete shutoff of incoming power that can lead to a catastrophic overheating. Known as quenching, this is considered a worst-case scenario for the operation of such magnets, with the potential to destroy the equipment.

    Part of the mission of the test program, Hartwig says, was “to actually go off and intentionally quench a full-scale magnet, so that we can get the critical data at the right scale and the right conditions to advance the science, to validate the design codes, and then to take the magnet apart and see what went wrong, why did it go wrong, and how do we take the next iteration toward fixing that. … It was a very successful test.”

    That final test, which ended with the melting of one corner of one of the 16 pancakes, produced a wealth of new information, Hartwig says. For one thing, they had been using several different computational models to design and predict the performance of various aspects of the magnet’s performance, and for the most part, the models agreed in their overall predictions and were well-validated by the series of tests and real-world measurements. But in predicting the effect of the quench, the model predictions diverged, so it was necessary to get the experimental data to evaluate the models’ validity.

    “The highest-fidelity models that we had predicted almost exactly how the magnet would warm up, to what degree it would warm up as it started to quench, and where would the resulting damage to the magnet would be,” he says. As described in detail in one of the new reports, “That test actually told us exactly the physics that was going on, and it told us which models were useful going forward and which to leave by the wayside because they’re not right.”

    Whyte says, “Basically we did the worst thing possible to a coil, on purpose, after we had tested all other aspects of the coil performance. And we found that most of the coil survived with no damage,” while one isolated area sustained some melting. “It’s like a few percent of the volume of the coil that got damaged.” And that led to revisions in the design that are expected to prevent such damage in the actual fusion device magnets, even under the most extreme conditions.

    Hartwig emphasizes that a major reason the team was able to accomplish such a radical new record-setting magnet design, and get it right the very first time and on a breakneck schedule, was thanks to the deep level of knowledge, expertise, and equipment accumulated over decades of operation of the Alcator C-Mod tokamak, the Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory, and other work carried out at PSFC. “This goes to the heart of the institutional capabilities of a place like this,” he says. “We had the capability, the infrastructure, and the space and the people to do these things under one roof.”

    The collaboration with CFS was also key, he says, with MIT and CFS combining the most powerful aspects of an academic institution and private company to do things together that neither could have done on their own. “For example, one of the major contributions from CFS was leveraging the power of a private company to establish and scale up a supply chain at an unprecedented level and timeline for the most critical material in the project: 300 kilometers (186 miles) of high-temperature superconductor, which was procured with rigorous quality control in under a year, and integrated on schedule into the magnet.”

    The integration of the two teams, those from MIT and those from CFS, also was crucial to the success, he says. “We thought of ourselves as one team, and that made it possible to do what we did.” More

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    Illustrating India’s complex environmental crises

    Abhijit Banerjee, the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT, and Sarnath Banerjee (no relation), an MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology (CAST) visiting artist share a similar background, but have very different ways of thinking. Both were raised for a time in Kolkata before leaving India to pursue divergent careers, Abhijit as an economist who went on to win the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (an award he shares with MIT Professor Esther Duflo and Harvard University Professor Michael Kremer), and Sarnath as a visual artist and graphic novelist. 

    The two collaborated on a pair of short films, “The Land of Good Intentions” and “The Eternal Swamp,” that blend their expertise in a unique and captivating form. Each film addresses a particular environmental crisis facing present-day India by tracing its origins back through the centuries. The films are presented in a kind of lecture style, with Abhijit appearing as the narrator, unraveling historical details, as graphics by Sarnath visualize the story with an often wry and easy wit. The results apply logic and narrative coherence to problems with complex roots in the forces of nature, economics, and local culture. 

    “The Land of Good Intentions” explores the conditions and policies that led to mass protests by farmers, in Punjab and elsewhere, following the passage of farming legislation in September 2020. The film begins by providing historical context from multiple angles, including the significance of rice to regional culture, its growing conditions (which require a lot of water), the region’s climate (which produces very little), and previous government subsidies that led to its overproduction. The 2020 Farm Bills were intended to address rice overproduction and its consequences, including the depletion of Punjab’s groundwater supply, pollution from the burning of rice stalks, and a surplus going to waste. But farmers considered that they were being asked to shoulder the costs of a problem the government created. 

    “The arguments in the film don’t necessarily align with popular liberal arguments, but it gives subtler shape and layers to them,” Sarnath says. “That dialectical way of thinking is important to the liberal movement, which is driven by passion and a sense of justice. Abhijit is driven by factual analysis, which sometimes makes the argument more complex.”

    Their second film, “The Eternal Swamp,” addresses the crisis of flooding in Kolkata and its causes in the geographical and economic development of the city from the start. Because Kolkata was built on very wet land, and real estate has long been one of the only viable industries in the city, it has been developed without regard to proper drainage in a climate that produces more rainfall than it can handle. There is a pervading sense that Kolkata will eventually be entirely below water.

    “It was a good collaboration from the beginning,” Sarnath says of working with Abhijit on the CAST Visiting Artist project, a process which began just before Abhijit was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2019 and continued through the pandemic. “Both of us work on instinct, but the way he shapes an argument is very different from me,” Sarnath says. “My work does not follow a linear approach to telling a story; it’s fragmentary, driven by mood and emotion more than narrative, like composing a piece of music.”

    Since they first met at a literary conference years ago, Abhijit and Sarnath have been close friends and intellectual sparring partners. Though Sarnath is based in Berlin and Abhijit in Boston, the two often cross paths in different locales and have long, ambling discussions that traverse a wide array of topics. “We spend a lot of time walking together wherever we find ourselves, whether it’s down the Longfellow Bridge in Boston or through Delhi or Kolkata,” Sarnath says. The idea for this project was born out of such conversations, in response to pressing events in their home country. 

    Abhijit wrote a proposal to MIT CAST, and the questions they received through the process helped them further shape the project. “It’s important, when you have the luxury, just to spend time together. Thanks to MIT, we managed to do that across continents,” Sarnath says of their creative process. “It’s more than just telling a story; Abhijit unpacked what was in his head, and I drew and wrote a bit as well,” Sarnath says. And they worked with the editor and animator Niusha Ramzani, whom Sarnath says lent an Iranian aesthetic to the film’s animations. 

    As for the format of the films, they wanted to capture the sense of a serene Bengali afternoon, with Abhijit seated in his home in Kolkata speaking in a relaxed tone. “We wanted it to be a bit like a Royal Society lecture,” Sarnath says, somewhat like a TED Talk but more personable and intimate. The aim was to make their complicated subjects more easily comprehensible, through the language of Abhijit’s narration and with the help of visual metaphors. Still, they did not want to sacrifice complexity.

    “Economists are fabulists,” says Abhijit Banerjee. “We tell stories, simple stories, but that tends to get obscured in the telling, often because we like to be very careful about not overstating our case. Irony and the kind of playful humor that Sarnath brings to narration seemed to offer a different way to avoid being too emphatic, while allowing the story to be told in a way that it reaches a much larger audience. What is brilliant about Sarnath’s work is the play between reliable and the unreliable — the readers are happy to be misdirected because they know that it will ultimately lead them where they want to be. I was hoping we could bring a little of that into economics.” 

    “You have to emancipate yourself from any one definitive answer,” Sarnath Banerjee says, describing Abhijit’s expansive way of thinking, through which he follows multiple thought processes to their logical conclusions. The result allows for ambiguity and contradiction, though the pathways of thinking are clear. The films illustrate the situations facing farmers in Punjab and the waterlogged streets of Kolkata by tracing their roots and examining the history of cause and effect. The results provide clarity, but no simple answers.

    The process was an enriching one for both of them, the kind of advancement in understanding that can only come in dialogue. “With each collaboration, you learn, and learning to me is an artistic form,” Sarnath says. “We are always learning.” More

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    Reflecting on COP28 — and humanity’s progress toward meeting global climate goals

    With 85,000 delegates, the 2023 United Nations climate change conference, known as COP28, was the largest U.N. climate conference in history. It was held at the end of the hottest year in recorded history. And after 12 days of negotiations, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, it produced a decision that included, for the first time, language calling for “transitioning away from fossil fuels,” though it stopped short of calling for their complete phase-out.

    U.N. Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said the outcome in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, COP28’s host city, signaled “the beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era. 

    COP stands for “conference of the parties” to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, held this year for the 28th time. Through the negotiations — and the immense conference and expo that takes place alongside them — a delegation of faculty, students, and staff from MIT was in Dubai to observe the negotiations, present new climate technologies, speak on panels, network, and conduct research.

    On Jan. 17, the MIT Center for International Studies (CIS) hosted a panel discussion with MIT delegates who shared their reflections on the experience. Asking what’s going on at COP is “like saying, ‘What’s going on in the city of Boston today?’” quipped Evan Lieberman, the Total Professor of Political Science and Contemporary Africa, director of CIS, and faculty director of MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI). “The value added that all of us can provide for the MIT community is [to share] what we saw firsthand and how we experienced it.” 

    Phase-out, phase down, transition away?

    In the first week of COP28, over 100 countries issued a joint statement that included a call for “the global phase out of unabated fossil fuels.” The question of whether the COP28 decision — dubbed the “UAE Consensus” — would include this phase-out language animated much of the discussion in the days and weeks leading up to COP28. 

    Ultimately, the decision called for “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner.” It also called for “accelerating efforts towards the phase down of unabated coal power,” referring to the combustion of coal without efforts to capture and store its emissions.

    In Dubai to observe the negotiations, graduate student Alessandra Fabbri said she was “confronted” by the degree to which semantic differences could impose significant ramifications — for example, when negotiators referred to a “just transition,” or to “developed vs. developing nations” — particularly where evolution in recent scholarship has produced more nuanced understandings of the terms.

    COP28 also marked the conclusion of the first global stocktake, a core component of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The effort every five years to assess the world’s progress in responding to climate change is intended as a basis for encouraging countries to strengthen their climate goals over time, a process often referred to as the Paris Agreement’s “ratchet mechanism.” 

    The technical report of the first global stocktake, published in September 2023, found that while the world has taken actions that have reduced forecasts of future warming, they are not sufficient to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global average temperature increase to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

    “Despite minor, punctual advancements in climate action, parties are far from being on track to meet the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Fabbri, a graduate student in the School of Architecture and Planning and a fellow in MIT’s Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism. Citing a number of persistent challenges, including some parties’ fears that rapid economic transition may create or exacerbate vulnerabilities, she added, “There is a noted lack of accountability among certain countries in adhering to their commitments and responsibilities under international climate agreements.” 

    Climate and trade

    COP28 was the first climate summit to formally acknowledge the importance of international trade by featuring an official “Trade Day” on Dec. 4. Internationally traded goods account for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, raising complex questions of accountability and concerns about offshoring of industrial manufacturing, a phenomenon known as “emissions leakage.” Addressing the nexus of climate and trade is therefore considered essential for successful decarbonization, and a growing number of countries are leveraging trade policies — such as carbon fees applied to imported goods — to secure climate benefits. 

    Members of the MIT delegation participated in several related activities, sharing research and informing decision-makers. Catherine Wolfram, professor of applied economics in the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Michael Mehling, deputy director of the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR), presented options for international cooperation on such trade policies at side events, including ones hosted by the World Trade Organization and European Parliament. 

    “While COPs are often criticized for highlighting statements that don’t have any bite, they are also tremendous opportunities to get people from around the world who care about climate and think deeply about these issues in one place,” said Wolfram.

    Climate and health

    For the first time in the conference’s nearly 30-year history, COP28 included a thematic “Health Day” that featured talks on the relationship between climate and health. Researchers from MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) have been testing policy solutions in this area for years through research funds such as the King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI). 

    “An important but often-neglected area where climate action can lead to improved health is combating air pollution,” said Andre Zollinger, K-CAI’s senior policy manager. “COP28’s announcement on reducing methane leaks is an important step because action in this area could translate to relatively quick, cost-effective ways to curb climate change while improving air quality, especially for people living near these industrial sites.” K-CAI has an ongoing project in Colorado investigating the use of machine learning to predict leaks and improve the framework for regulating industrial methane emissions, Zollinger noted.

    This was J-PAL’s third time at COP, which Zollinger said typically presented an opportunity for researchers to share new findings and analysis with government partners, nongovernmental organizations, and companies. This year, he said, “We have [also] been working with negotiators in the [Middle East and North Africa] region in the months preceding COP to plug them into the latest evidence on water conservation, on energy access, on different challenging areas of adaptation that could be useful for them during the conference.”

    Sharing knowledge, learning from others

    MIT student Runako Gentles described COP28 as a “springboard” to greater impact. A senior from Jamaica studying civil and environmental engineering, Gentles said it was exciting to introduce himself as an MIT undergraduate to U.N. employees and Jamaican delegates in Dubai. “There’s a lot of talk on mitigation and cutting carbon emissions, but there needs to be much more going into climate adaptation, especially for small-island developing states like those in the Caribbean,” he said. “One of the things I can do, while I still try to finish my degree, is communicate — get the story out there to raise awareness.”

    At an official side event at COP28 hosted by MIT, Pennsylvania State University, and the American Geophysical Union, Maria T. Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research, stressed the importance of opportunities to share knowledge and learn from people around the world.

    “The reason this two-way learning is so important for us is simple: The ideas we come up with in a university setting, whether they’re technological or policy or any other kind of innovations — they only matter in the practical world if they can be put to good use and scaled up,” said Zuber. “And the only way we can know that our work has practical relevance for addressing climate is by working hand-in-hand with communities, industries, governments, and others.”

    Marcela Angel, research program director at the Environmental Solutions Initiative, and Sergey Paltsev, deputy director of MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, also spoke at the event, which was moderated by Bethany Patten, director of policy and engagement for sustainability at the MIT Sloan School of Management.  More

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    New MIT.nano equipment to accelerate innovation in “tough tech” sectors

    A new set of advanced nanofabrication equipment will make MIT.nano one of the world’s most advanced research facilities in microelectronics and related technologies, unlocking new opportunities for experimentation and widening the path for promising inventions to become impactful new products.

    The equipment, provided by Applied Materials, will significantly expand MIT.nano’s nanofabrication capabilities, making them compatible with wafers — thin, round slices of semiconductor material — up to 200 millimeters, or 8 inches, in diameter, a size widely used in industry. The new tools will allow researchers to prototype a vast array of new microelectronic devices using state-of-the-art materials and fabrication processes. At the same time, the 200-millimeter compatibility will support close collaboration with industry and enable innovations to be rapidly adopted by companies and mass produced.

    MIT.nano’s leaders say the equipment, which will also be available to scientists outside of MIT, will dramatically enhance their facility’s capabilities, allowing experts in the region to more efficiently explore new approaches in “tough tech” sectors, including advanced electronics, next-generation batteries, renewable energies, optical computing, biological sensing, and a host of other areas — many likely yet to be imagined.

    “The toolsets will provide an accelerative boost to our ability to launch new technologies that can then be given to the world at scale,” says MIT.nano Director Vladimir Bulović, who is also the Fariborz Maseeh Professor of Emerging Technology. “MIT.nano is committed to its expansive mission — to build a better world. We provide toolsets and capabilities that, in the hands of brilliant researchers, can effectively move the world forward.”

    The announcement comes as part of an agreement between MIT and Applied Materials, Inc. that, together with a grant to MIT from the Northeast Microelectronics Coalition (NEMC) Hub, commits more than $40 million of estimated private and public investment to add advanced nano-fabrication equipment and capabilities at MIT.nano.

    “We don’t believe there is another space in the United States that will offer the same kind of versatility, capability, and accessibility, with 8-inch toolsets integrated right next to more fundamental toolsets for research discoveries,” Bulović says. “It will create a seamless path to accelerate the pace of innovation.”

    Pushing the boundaries of innovation

    Applied Materials is the world’s largest supplier of equipment for manufacturing semiconductors, displays, and other advanced electronics. The company will provide at MIT.nano several state-of-the-art process tools capable of supporting 150- and 200-millimeter wafers and will enhance and upgrade an existing tool owned by MIT. In addition to assisting MIT.nano in the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the equipment, Applied Materials engineers will develop new process capabilities to benefit researchers and students from MIT and beyond.

    “This investment will significantly accelerate the pace of innovation and discovery in microelectronics and microsystems,” says Tomás Palacios, director of MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories and the Clarence J. Lebel Professor in Electrical Engineering. “It’s wonderful news for our community, wonderful news for the state, and, in my view, a tremendous step forward toward implementing the national vision for the future of innovation in microelectronics.”

    Nanoscale research at universities is traditionally conducted on machines that are less compatible with industry, which makes academic innovations more difficult to turn into impactful, mass-produced products. Jorg Scholvin, associate director for MIT.nano’s shared fabrication facility, says the new machines, when combined with MIT.nano’s existing equipment, represent a step-change improvement in that area: Researchers will be able to take an industry-standard wafer and build their technology on top of it to prove to companies it works on existing devices, or to co-fabricate new ideas in close collaboration with industry partners.

    “In the journey from an idea to a fully working device, the ability to begin on a small scale, figure out what you want to do, rapidly debug your designs, and then scale it up to an industry-scale wafer is critical,” Scholvin says. “It means a student can test out their idea on wafer-scale quickly and directly incorporate insights into their project so that their processes are scalable. Providing such proof-of-principle early on will accelerate the idea out of the academic environment, potentially reducing years of added effort. Other tools at MIT.nano can supplement work on the 200-millimeter wafer scale, but the higher throughput and higher precision of the Applied equipment will provide researchers with repeatability and accuracy that is unprecedented for academic research environments. Essentially what you have is a sharper, faster, more precise tool to do your work.”

    Scholvin predicts the equipment will lead to exponential growth in research opportunities.

    “I think a key benefit of these tools is they allow us to push the boundary of research in a variety of different ways that we can predict today,” Scholvin says. “But then there are also unpredictable benefits, which are hiding in the shadows waiting to be discovered by the creativity of the researchers at MIT. With each new application, more ideas and paths usually come to mind — so that over time, more and more opportunities are discovered.”

    Because the equipment is available for use by people outside of the MIT community, including regional researchers, industry partners, nonprofit organizations, and local startups, they will also enable new collaborations.

    “The tools themselves will be an incredible meeting place — a place that can, I think, transpose the best of our ideas in a much more effective way than before,” Bulović says. “I’m extremely excited about that.”

    Palacios notes that while microelectronics is best known for work making transistors smaller to fit on microprocessors, it’s a vast field that enables virtually all the technology around us, from wireless communications and high-speed internet to energy management, personalized health care, and more.

    He says he’s personally excited to use the new machines to do research around power electronics and semiconductors, including exploring promising new materials like gallium nitride, which could dramatically improve the efficiency of electronic devices.

    Fulfilling a mission

    MIT.nano’s leaders say a key driver of commercialization will be startups, both from MIT and beyond.

    “This is not only going to help the MIT research community innovate faster, it’s also going to enable a new wave of entrepreneurship,” Palacios says. “We’re reducing the barriers for students, faculty, and other entrepreneurs to be able to take innovation and get it to market. That fits nicely with MIT’s mission of making the world a better place through technology. I cannot wait to see the amazing new inventions that our colleagues and students will come out with.”

    Bulović says the announcement aligns with the mission laid out by MIT’s leaders at MIT.nano’s inception.

    “We have the space in MIT.nano to accommodate these tools, we have the capabilities inside MIT.nano to manage their operation, and as a shared and open facility, we have methodologies by which we can welcome anyone from the region to use the tools,” Bulović says. “That is the vision MIT laid out as we were designing MIT.nano, and this announcement helps to fulfill that vision.” More

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    Meeting the clean energy needs of tomorrow

    Yuri Sebregts, chief technology officer at Shell, succinctly laid out the energy dilemma facing the world over the rest of this century. On one hand, demand for energy is quickly growing as countries in the developing world modernize and the global population grows, with 100 gigajoules of energy per person needed annually to enable quality-of-life benefits and industrialization around the globe. On the other, traditional energy sources are quickly warming the planet, with the world already seeing the devastating effects of increasingly frequent extreme weather events. 

    While the goals of energy security and energy sustainability are seemingly at odds with one another, the two must be pursued in tandem, Sebregts said during his address at the MIT Energy Initiative Fall Colloquium.

    “An environmentally sustainable energy system that isn’t also a secure energy system is not sustainable,” Sebregts said. “And conversely, a secure energy system that is not environmentally sustainable will do little to ensure long-term energy access and affordability. Therefore, security and sustainability must go hand-in-hand. You can’t trade off one for the other.”

    Sebregts noted that there are several potential pathways to help strike this balance, including investments in renewable energy sources, the use of carbon offsets, and the creation of more efficient tools, products, and processes. However, he acknowledged that meeting growing energy demands while minimizing environmental impacts is a global challenge requiring an unprecedented level of cooperation among countries and corporations across the world. 

    “At Shell, we recognize that this will require a lot of collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society,” Sebregts said. “That’s not always easy.”

    Global conflict and global warming

    In 2021, Sebregts noted, world leaders gathered in Glasgow, Scotland and collectively promised to deliver on the “stretch goal” of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — a level that scientists believe will help avoid the worst potential impacts of climate change. But, just a few months later, Russia invaded Ukraine, resulting in chaos in global energy markets and illustrating the massive impact that geopolitical friction can have on efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

    “Even though global volatility has been a near constant of this century, the situation in Ukraine is proving to be a turning point,” Sebregts said. “The stress it placed on the global supply of energy, food, and other critical materials was enormous.”

    In Europe, Sebregts noted, countries affected by the loss of Russia’s natural gas supply began importing from the Middle East and the United States. This, in turn, drove up prices. While this did result in some efforts to limit energy use, such as Europeans lowering their thermostats in the winter, it also caused some energy buyers to turn to coal. For instance, the German government approved additional coal mining to boost its energy security — temporarily reversing a decades-long transition away from the fuel. To put this into wider perspective, in a single quarter, China increased its coal generation capacity by as much as Germany had reduced its own over the previous 20 years.

    The promise of electrification

    Sebregts noted the strides being made toward electrification, which is expected to have a significant impact on global carbon emissions. To meet net-zero emissions (the point at which humans are adding no more carbon to the atmosphere than they are removing) by 2050, the share of electricity as a portion of total worldwide energy consumption must reach 37 percent by 2030, up from 20 percent in 2020, Sebregts said.

    He pointed out that Shell has become one of the world’s largest electric vehicle charging companies, with more than 30,000 public charge points. By 2025, that number will increase to 70,000, and it is expected to soar to 200,000 by 2030. While demand and infrastructure for electric vehicles are growing, Sebregts said that the “real needle-mover” will be industrial electrification, especially in so-called “hard-to-abate” sectors.

    This progress will depend heavily on global cooperation — Sebregts pointed out that China dominates the international market for many rare elements that are key components of electrification infrastructure. “It shouldn’t be a surprise that the political instability, shifting geopolitical tensions, and environmental and social governance issues are significant risks for the energy transition,” he said. “It is imperative that we reduce, control, and mitigate these risks as much as possible.”

    Two possible paths

    For decades, Sebregts said, Shell has created scenarios to help senior managers think through the long-term challenges facing the company. While Sebregts stressed that these scenarios are not predictions, they do take into account real-world conditions, and they are meant to give leaders the opportunity to grapple with plausible situations.

    With this in mind, Sebregts outlined Shell’s most recent Energy Security Scenarios, describing the potential future consequences of attempts to balance growing energy demand with sustainability — scenarios that envision vastly different levels of global cooperation, with huge differences in projected results. 

    The first scenario, dubbed “Archipelagos,” imagines countries pursuing energy security through self-interest — a fragmented, competitive process that would result in a global temperature increase of 2.2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. The second scenario, “Sky 2050,” envisions countries around the world collaborating to change the energy system for their mutual benefit. This more optimistic scenario would see a much lower global temperature increase of 1.2 C by 2100.

    “The good news is that in both scenarios, the world is heading for net-zero emissions at some point,” Sebregts said. “The difference is a question of when it gets there. In Sky 2050, it is the middle of the century. In Archipelagos, it is early in the next century.”

    On the other hand, Sebregts added, the average global temperature will increase by more than 1.5 C for some period of time in either scenario. But, in the Archipelagos scenario, this overshoot will be much larger, and will take much longer to come down. “So, two very different futures,” Sebregts said. “Two very different worlds.”

    The work ahead

    Questioned about the costs of transitioning to a net-zero energy ecosystem, Sebregts said that it is “very hard” to provide an accurate answer. “If you impose an additional constraint … you’re going to have to add some level of cost,” he said. “But then, of course, there’s 30 years of technology development pathway that might counteract some of that.”

    In some cases, such as air travel, Sebregts said, it will likely remain impractical to either rely on electrification or sequester carbon at the source of emission. Direct air capture (DAC) methods, which mechanically pull carbon directly from the atmosphere, will have a role to play in offsetting these emissions, he said. Sebregts predicted that the price of DAC could come down significantly by the middle of this century. “I would venture that a price of $200 to $250 a ton of CO2 by 2050 is something that the world would be willing to spend, at least in developed economies, to offset those very hard-to-abate instances.”

    Sebregts noted that Shell is working on demonstrating DAC technologies in Houston, Texas, constructing what will become Europe’s largest hydrogen plant in the Netherlands, and taking other steps to profitably transition to a net-zero emissions energy company by 2050. “We need to understand what can help our customers transition quicker and how we can continue to satisfy their needs,” he said. “We must ensure that energy is affordable, accessible, and sustainable, as soon as possible.” More

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    K. Lisa Yang Global Engineering and Research Center will prioritize innovations for resource-constrained communities

    Billions of people worldwide face threats to their livelihood, health, and well-being due to poverty. These problems persist because solutions offered in developed countries often do not meet the requirements — related to factors like price, performance, usability, robustness, and culture — of poor or developing countries. Academic labs frequently try to tackle these challenges, but often to no avail because they lack real-world, on-the-ground knowledge from key stakeholders, and because they do not have an efficient, reliable means of converting breakthroughs to real-world impact.

    The new K. Lisa Yang Global Engineering and Research (GEAR) Center at MIT, founded with a $28 million gift from philanthropist and investor Lisa Yang, aims to rethink how products and technologies for resource-constrained communities are conceived, designed, and commercialized. A collaboration between MIT’s School of Engineering and School of Science, the Yang GEAR Center will bring together a multidisciplinary team of MIT researchers to assess today’s most pressing global challenges in three critical areas: global health, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the water-energy-food nexus.

    “As she has shown over and over through her philanthropy, Lisa Yang shares MIT’s passion for connecting fundamental research and real-world data to create positive impact,” says MIT president Sally Kornbluth. “I’m grateful for her powerful vision and incredible generosity in founding the K. Lisa Yang GEAR Center. I can’t imagine a better use of MIT’s talents than working to improve the lives and health of people around the world.”

    Yang’s gift expands her exceptional philanthropic support of human health and basic science research at MIT over the past six years. Yang GEAR Center will join MIT’s Yang Tan Collective, an assemblage of six major research centers focused on accelerating collaboration in basic science, research, and engineering to realize translational strategies that improve human health and well-being at a global scale.

    “Billions of people face daily life-or-death challenges that could be improved with elegant technologies,” says Yang. “And yet I’ve learned how many products and tools created by top engineers don’t make it out of the lab. They may look like clever ideas during the prototype phase, but they are entirely ill-suited to the communities they were designed for. I am very excited about the potential of a deliberate and thoughtful engineering effort that will prioritize the design of technologies for use in impoverished communities.”

    Cost, material availability, cultural suitability, and other market mismatches hinder many major innovations in global health, food, and water from being translated to use in resource-constrained communities. Yang GEAR Center will support a major research and design program with its mission to strategically identify compelling challenges and associated scientific knowledge gaps in resource-constrained communities then address them through academic innovation to create and translate transformative technologies.

    The center will be led by Amos Winter, associate professor of mechanical engineering, whose lab focuses on creating technologies that marry innovative, low-cost design with an in-depth understanding of the unique socioeconomic constraints of emerging markets.

    “Academia has a key role to play in solving the historically unsolvable challenges in resource-constrained communities,” says Winter. “However, academic research is often disconnected from the real-world requirements that must be satisfied to make meaningful change. Yang GEAR Center will be a catalyst for innovation to impact by helping colleagues identify compelling problems and focus their talents on realizing real-world solutions, and by providing mechanisms for commercial dissemination. I am extremely grateful to find in Lisa a partner who shares a vision for how academic research can play a more efficient and targeted role in addressing the needs of the world’s most disadvantaged populations.”

    The backbone of the Yang GEAR Center will be a team of seasoned research scientists and engineers. These individuals will scout real-world problems and distill the relevant research questions then help assemble collaborative teams. As projects develop, center staff will mentor students, build and conduct field pilots, and foster relationships with stakeholders around the world. They will be strategically positioned to translate technology at the end of projects through licensing and startups. Center staff and collaborators will focus on creating products and services for climate-driven migrants, such as solar-powered energy and water networks; technologies for reducing atmospheric carbon and promoting the hydrogen economy; brackish water desalination and irrigation solutions; and high-performance, global health diagnostics and devices.

    For instance, a Yang GEAR Center team focused on creating water-saving and solar-powered irrigation solutions for farmers in the Middle East and North Africa will continue its work in the region. They will conduct exploratory research; build a team of stakeholders, including farmers, agricultural outreach organizations, irrigation hardware manufacturers, retailers, water and agriculture scientists, and local government officials; design, rigorously test, and iterate prototypes both in the lab and in the field; and conduct large-scale field trials to garner user feedback and pave the way to product commercialization.

    “Grounded in foundational scientific research and blended with excellence in the humanities, MIT provides a framework that integrates people, economics, research, and innovation. By incorporating multiple perspectives — and being attentive to the needs and cultures of the people who will ultimately rely on research outcomes — MIT can have the greatest impact in areas of health, climate science, and resource security,” says Nergis Mavalvala, dean of the School of Science and the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics.

    An overarching aim for the center will be to educate graduates who are global engineers, designers, and researchers positioned for a career of addressing compelling, high-impact challenges. The center includes four endowed Hock E. Tan GEAR Center Fellowships that will support graduate students and/or postdoctoral fellows eager to enter the field of global engineering. The fellowships are named for MIT alumnus and Broadcom CEO Hock E. Tan ’75 SM ’75.

    “I am thrilled that the Yang GEAR Center is taking a leading role in training problem-solvers who will rethink how products and inventions can help communities facing the most pressing challenges of our time,” adds Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “These talented young students,  postdocs, and staff have the potential to reach across disciplines — and across the globe — to truly transform the impact engineering can have in the future.” More