MIT Energy Initiative Doles Out $1.7M in Seed Funding

The MIT Energy Initiative has doled its second round of seed funding — $1.7 million in grants in total — to 17 separate projects. The initiative, which was established in September 2006 and first proposed during MIT President Susan Hockfield’s inauguration in May 2005, aims to tackle the challenges of energy and the environment. A broad goal, sure, but we like the idea that funding basic scientific research is the best way to get good ideas out of the laboratory and onto the market.

Thermoelectrics was the most prevalent area of research, with four different projects that focused on developing materials and systems to turn heat energy directly into electricity. The hope for some of the projects is that super-efficient thermoelectric materials could replace the dirty and dangerous kerosene and wood-burning lamps and stoves used all over the developing world. A proposed solar-powered, thermoelectric stove is pictured below.

Smart grid and energy management solutions were also popular themes, including policy elements, which are often barriers in regulated markets. Meanwhile, although oil prices have come down, the technology of drilling for deep-sea petroleum also got some attention and money, although that type of drilling can also be used to further geothermal development.

See the complete list of grant recipients after the jump.

Energy Storage:

  • Carbon nanotube super-springs for energy storage
    Carol Livermore (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Supervalent battery
    Donald Sadoway (Materials Science and Engineering)

Energy Generation:

  • The social and economic impact of micro-scale hydroelectric power: design for a randomized experiment in rural Indonesia
    Benjamin Olken (Economics)
  • Offshore renewable energy system for generation and storage
    Alexander Slocum (Mechanical Engineering) and James Kirtley (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)


  • Engineering tolerance in yeast for improved biofuel production
    Gregory Stephanopoulos (Chemical Engineering)


  • Solar PV-thermal hybrid for renewable energy generation in developing countries
    Harold Hemond (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Ahmed Ghoniem (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Solar thermoelectric generator for the developing world
    Rajeev Ram (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)

Smart Grid:

  • PACEM: cooperative control for citywide energy management
    Harold Abelson (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)
  • A regionally integrated systems dynamics and energy and material flow model for the Ica region of Peru
    John Fernandez (Architecture), Michael Flaxman (Urban Studies and Planning), and John Sterman (Sloan School of Management)
  • Do urban energy initiatives actually reduce cities’ carbon footprints?
    Judith Layzer (Urban Studies and Planning)


  • A high-throughput computational approach to finding novel thermoelectric materials
    Gerbrand Ceder (Materials Science and Engineering)
  • Scalable thermoelectric power with novel thin film technology
    Eugene Fitzgerald (Materials Science and Engineering) and Mayank Bulsara (Materials Processing Center)
  • Photonic crystals: enabling efficient energy generation
    John G. Kassakian (Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems) and Marin Soljacic (Physics)


  • Bioinspired hierarchical thermal materials
    Markus Buehler (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
  • Self-powered electronic systems
    Anantha Chandrakasan (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)
  • Energy Initiative computational science: an interdisciplinary, high scale computing and algorithmic approach
    Alan Edelman (Mathematics) and Stephen Connors (MIT Energy Initiative)
  • Millimeter wave deep drilling for geothermal energy, natural gas, and oil
    Paul Woskov (Plasma Science and Fusion Center) and Daniel Cohn (MIT Energy Initiative)

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