News from MIT MechE: more juice, more ketchup

Two stories this week out of MIT’s Department of Mechnical Engineering highlight the range and potential impact of its research.

Prof. Tonio Buonassisi’s Photovoltaic Research Laboratory has just published promising results with a new solar cell design.  As MIT News reports, their proof-of-concept “tandem” solar cell, which combines a layer of perovskite material with a layer of more conventional silicon, may one day deliver substantially better power efficiency over other cell designs.

Photo of several square devices.

Test sample of a monolithic perovskite-silicon multijunction solar cell produced by the MIT-Stanford University team. (Image: Felice Frankel.)

Learn more about solar energy science, technology, and markets in Prof. Buonassisi’s OCW course 2.627 Fundamentals of Photovoltaics. This video-rich course includes complete lecture videos (tandem cell designs are covered briefly in Lectures 4 and 20) and four background tutorials.

While high-efficiency solar cells aren’t (currently) household items, many of us have struggled to get the last ounce of ketchup out of a plastic bottle. Several years ago, Prof. Kripa Varanasi’s research group realized their work on super slippery “non-wetting” coatings for machinery like steam turbines could also solve this mundane but widespread household problem. Their LiquiGlide coating for bottles took runner-up honors at the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship competition, garnered plenty of attention from national news media, and has since joined the ranks of startup companies with roots in MIT research.

As The New York Times reports this week, LiquiGlide coated bottles are coming closer to market.  Such bottles, with both consumer and industrial uses, could eliminate the 15% to 25% product waste that conventional bottles leave behind.

OCW recently published its first course by Prof. Varanasi. 2.06 Fluid Mechanics is an undergraduate-level introduction to the subject, and features many assignment and exam problems to test your understanding.

LiquiGlide is one of many examples of MIT’s flourising culture of entrepreneurship. Learn more with our Entrepreneurship course collection.

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