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ISSUE #156

The Hydrogen Evolution Edition

Making a remarkable material even better


Professor Evelyn Wang (right), head of MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering; student Elise Strobach (left); and their colleagues have been performing theoretical and experimental studies of low-cost silica aerogels optimized to serve as a transparent heat barrier in specific devices. Incorporated into a solar thermal collector, a slab of aerogel would allow sunshine to come in unimpeded but prevent heat from coming back out—a key problem in today’s systems. And if the transparent aerogel were sufficiently clear, it could be incorporated into windows, where it would act as a good heat barrier but still allow occupants to see out.

Deep cuts in greenhouse emissions are tough but doable, experts say

MIT News

Speakers at “Economy-wide Deep Decarbonization: Beyond Electricity,” the fourth in MIT’s Climate Action symposia series, addressed pathways to scalable, affordable low- to no-carbon fuels; the role of biofuels, hydrogen, and long-term energy storage; and large-scale capture of carbon dioxide and gigaton-scale utilization. The event was co-chaired by Ernest J. Moniz, a former U.S. Secretary of Energy and founding director of the MIT Energy Initiative, and Kristala Prather, the Arthur D. Little Professor of Chemical Engineering, and featured speakers from MIT and elsewhere. Moniz also provided the event’s framing remarks, and MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield offered closing perspectives.
3 Questions: Emre Gençer discusses the evolving role of hydrogen in the energy system


As the world increasingly recognizes the need to develop more sustainable and renewable energy sources, low-carbon hydrogen has reemerged as an energy carrier with the potential to play a key role in sectors from transportation to power. MIT Energy Initiative research scientist Emre Gençer shares his thoughts on the history of hydrogen and how it could be incorporated into our energy system as a tool for deep decarbonization to address climate change.
Mending broken lives through clean energy solutions

MacArthur Foundation

A project spearheaded by the University of Waterloo, in collaboration with MITEI and other university programs, aims to provide affordable, equitable, and sustainable access to energy services to over 500,000 individuals in refugee camps and provide nearby “educational-health-water” facilities using local renewable energy sources. The MacArthur Foundation selected this project as one of the highest-scoring proposals in MacArthur’s “100&Change” competition. The winning proposal will receive a $100 million grant.

Related: The top proposals for “100&Change” included several other projects from MIT, including a proactive climate resilience system co-developed with BRAC, a leading development organization. The “Climate Resilience Early Warning System Network” aims to help climate threatened populations to make timely, science-driven decisions about adaptation and relocation.

Reducing the cost of decarbonization through cutting-edge carbon capture innovation


At a recent MITEI event, Brian Anderson, director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, highlighted state-of-the-art carbon capture R&D and discussed crosscutting scientific and technological initiatives underway at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory to meet some of the nation’s most important energy challenges—delivering reliable, low-cost, and low-carbon energy.

Watch the recording.

MITEI Events Calendar

View all of MITEI’s upcoming 2020 events. Those listed below include MITEI events and other climate- and energy-related events of interest to the MIT community.

OK Vroomer: Millennials and car culture
Webinar: Thursday, March 12, 2:00-2:30 pm

In this Eno Center for Transportation webinar, Joanna Moody, the research program manager for MITEI’s Mobility Systems Center, will discuss how for many people, owning and using a car symbolizes social status and personal image, and how this symbolic value reinforces car consumption. In addition, she will discuss the key differences between age and generational effects and the tools that are needed to disentangle them, and summarize recent findings on whether or not millennials truly differ from previous generations in terms of their car ownership and use, as well as millennial attitudes toward cars and urban living.


MIT Energy Conference
April 2-3, 8:00 am-6:00 pm, Boston Marriott Cambridge

Tickets to the student-run MIT Energy Conference are now on sale. This year’s theme is “Decision 2020: Creating the landscape for our energy future.” Explore the energy decisions being made today that are on track to deliver the greatest impact over the next five to ten years.


MIT Climate Action Hack
Saturday, April 25, 10:00 am-6:30 pm, MIT Stratton Student Center

MIT’s Plan for Action on Climate Change is turning 5 years old and this all-day hackathon will help shape a new plan that will take MIT’s climate agenda forward. Students will spend all day diving into the different sections of the plan and imagine new ways MIT can contribute to driving down emissions and taking robust action on climate change.

At the end of the day, teams will present their ideas to members of the MIT Climate Action Advisory Committee (CAAC), which makes recommendations to MIT’s senior leadership about the plan. A jury of CAAC members will announce the winners, and all ideas will be taken into consideration.

This event is only open to MIT students.


EERE Energy Storage Internship Program 

May-September 2020

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Energy Storage Internship Program offers 10-week, hands-on, practical internships at U.S. national laboratories. Participants will conduct research related to the development of newer chemistries, battery designs, and manufacturing processes needed to usher in changes in energy storage. Check out the eligibility guidelines. Applications and supporting materials are due by March 2.

Call for nominations: 2020 C3E Women in Clean Energy Awards 

The annual C3E Awards help to raise the visibility of women in the clean energy sector. The Awards honor mid-career leadership and achievement—and boost recipients’ careers. Awards are given in eight categories: advocacy, business, education, entrepreneurship, government, international, law and finance, and research. Each winner will receive $8,000 and national recognition at the annual C3E Women in Clean Energy Symposium, which will be held at MIT this fall. Nominations are due by
March 11.

Call for applications: 2020-2021 Energy Fellows 
MITEI is now accepting applications for 2020-2021 Energy Fellows. MIT faculty members may nominate graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in recognition of keen interest in energy and excellence in research. Nominees may then complete the full application. The full applications are due by Friday, March 20.
UIC Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy (SISE) 

July 9-22, University of Illinois at Chicago

SISE is a two-week summer "boot camp" for future decision makers eager to join the sustainability and energy revolution happening around the globe. This year’s theme, “Resiliency: Climate Change and the Power of Data + Response”, considers what it takes to be resilient in the face of climate change. SISE Fellows will engage with a new energy mapping initiative being developed by the American Energy Society and identify best practices for activists and advocates committed to achieving climate justice by offsetting climate catastrophe. Apply by May 30.


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“Climate change is one of the most urgent threats facing human civilization today, and while the world’s most vulnerable did not create this challenge, they are the first to inherit it.”

John Aldridge, an assistant leader of the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Systems Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and project leader of the MIT/BRAC Climate Resilience Early Warning System Network.

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Hydrogen economy

The use of hydrogen as an energy carrier, mostly for the transportation sector. The term was coined by John Bockris, a professor at Texas A&M University, in a 1970 talk at General Motors. Read more about the history and evolution of hydrogen in our interview with MITEI research scientist Emre Gençer.

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