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MIT team develops first solar power cells printed on paper May 31, 2010

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What if you could simply staple solar panels to your house rather than hiring a professional installation team? That’s not as far-fetched as it sounds — MIT researchers have figured out a way to print thin film solar cells on paper using a process that resembles a standard inkjet printer. If they’re able to gear efficiencies up to scale, the development could revolutionize the production and installation of solar panels.

MIT solar cells printed on paper for the first time

Photo by Martin LaMonica at CNET

MIT’s new semiconductor-coated paper features carbon-based dyes that give the cells an efficiency of 1.5 to 2 percent. That’s not incredibly efficient, but the convenience factor makes up for it. And in the future, researchers hope that the same process used in the paper solar cells could be used to print cells on metal foil or even plastic.

Of course, paper solar cells are a long way from commercialization. MIT researchers say that the technology is still in the research phase and it could take years before being commercialized. And once it is? There’s no telling how it could revolutionize the home solar industry, which currently relies on pricey professional installers to set up panels.

MIT Team designs an airplane that uses 70% less fuel than conventional aircraft May 31, 2010

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Today a team of researchers at MIT unveiled their latest feat of engineering — an airplane that uses 70% less fuel than conventional aircraft. The MIT team was one of six groups — and the only university led team — across the US chosen by NASA to help redesign current aircraft to increase fuel efficiency, lower emissions and allow planes to take off on shorter runways. The team accomplished all of NASA’s set goals with their innovative D-series plane, lovingly referred to as the “double bubble”.

MIT Double Bubble Fuel Efficient Aircraft Design

MIT Double Bubble Fuel Efficient Aircraft Design

NASA is calling this government-funded initiative the “N+3″, signifying that the planes are meant to revolutionize the aircraft industry in three generations. MIT, Boeing, GE Aviation and Northrop Grumman were given the task of rethinking the subsonic commercial aircraft market while teams from Boeing and Lockheed-Martin were entrusted with creating supersonic commercial aircraft — passenger planes traveling faster than the speed of sound! NASA’s goals were to reduce fuel consumption while taking into account that in 3 decades air traffic is set to double. Now that the designs have been revealed the teams are awaiting news in the next few months of which designs will receive funding to go on to the second phase of the program.

MIT designed their D-series as a 180 passenger aircraft meant to replace the domestic 737 market. Conventional airplanes utilize a single fuselage design, while the D-series uses two partial tubular shapes placed beside each other — which accounts for the bubble nickname. The plane utilizes a host of technological advances to decrease its fuel consumption. It has thinner longer wings and a smaller tail and engine placement at the rear of the plane instead of on the wings. All of these features account for part of the reduction in fuel usage. The MIT team also unveiled their H-series — a “hybrid wing body” plane that seats 350 passengers and could replace the 777 overseas market. NASA expects designs from this program to take flight in 2035.

MIT also unveiled its 'hybrid wing body' H-series, which is intended to replace 777 class aircraft

MIT also unveiled its 'hybrid wing body' H-series, which is intended to replace 777 class aircraft

Cambridge-based MIT spinoff Metabolix (MBLX) pioneers biodegradeable plastics made from plant matter: Bioplastic April 23, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Biotech, Manufacturing, Products, renewable energy, Startups.
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The publicly traded company has seen its stock nearly double over the past year. The company has genetically engineered a microbe that eats sugar from corn and generates a plastic-like molecule called PHA. After a few months, the bioplastic will decompose in water or soil and is so pure that waste containers made with the material are safe for use in backyard composting heaps. Metabolix also claims its bioplastic is carbon neutral.


The company has entered into a joint venture with the Archer Daniels Midland company (ADM) which is called Telles. The venture will begin shipping their “Mirel” bioplastic pellets from a new plant in Clinton, Iowa. Newell Rubbermaid’s Paper Mate division is one of the first customers, using the Mirel bioplastic pellets in a resin form for their new $1.25 biodegradeable Paper Mate pens.


Metabolix charges around $2.50 a pound for its green bioplastic, about twice the price of traditional plastics. But increased customer demand for “Green” products and biodegradeable items is so strong in many cases that lower margins can be made up for by increased unit sales.


Metabolix creates products that are genetically modified – a taboo in many environmentalist circles. And, as the demand for bioplastics increases, many worry that the demand for corn, already being used increasingly for ethanol production, will rise even more dramatically, driving up food prices.


Metabolix is working to address these concerns by researching next generation plastics made from nonfood material such as prairie switchgrass.


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MIT Researchers discover new electricity production method utilizing carbon nanotubes March 8, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in green technology, Manufacturing, Nanotechnology.
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MIT Researchers discover new electricity production method utilizing carbon nanotubes. The team of researchers at MIT have announced that they have made a new breakthrough for producing electricity with carbon nanotubes, and the discovery may one day lead to a myriad of new devices such as sensors the size of dust that can be dispersed in air to monitor the environment or perhaps the technology might lead to implantable devices that produce their own power. The researchers discovered a phenomenon that was previously unknown that produces powerful waved of energy that shoots though carbon nanotubes, producing electricity.

The team of researchers called the phenomenon “thermopower waves.” MIT’s Michael Strano, the Charles and Hilda Roddey Professor of Chemical Engineering, and senior author of the paper reporting the findings said, “[Thermopower waves] opens up a new area of energy research, which is rare.”

The thermal wave is a moving pulse of heat that travels along the microscopic carbon nanotubes and drives electrons along with it creating an electrical current. The team coated carbon nanotubes with a highly reactive fuel that produces heat as it decomposes. The fuel was ignited at one end of the nanotube with a laser beam or high-voltage spark.

The resulting ignition created a fast moving thermal wave that travels about 10,000 times faster than the normal speed of the reaction according to the team. The temperature of the ring of heat reaches about 3,000 kelvins, pushing electrons along the tube creating a substantial electrical current. Strano says that the combustion waves have been mathematically studied for more than a hundred years, but he claims to be the first to predict that the combustion waves could be guided by a nanotube or nanowire and push an electrical current along the wire.

Since the discovery is so new, it is hard to predict how it could be used in practical application. The team plans to conduct more research using different kinds of reactive materials for the fuel coating and the team suspects that by using other materials for the coating the front of the wave could oscillate to produce an alternating current. The team points out that most of the power generated with the new method is given off as light and heat and work is ongoing to make the process more efficient.

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MIT professor and double amputee invents the Iwalk PowerFoot, the world’s most advanced robotic prosthetic foot December 3, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Hardware, Health Care IT, Robotics, Startups, Venture Capital.
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MIT professor and double amputee Dr. Hugh Herr is building the world’s most advanced prosthetic foot. In 2006, Herr founded Iwalk, which has plans to release next year the PowerFoot One, the world’s most advanced robotic ankle and foot. Iwalk is a startup funded by General Catalyst Partners and WFD Ventures. Iwalk has raised $10.2 million from investors.

Dr. Hugh Herr with the Iwalk PowerFoot

Dr. Hugh Herr with the Iwalk PowerFoot



The Iwalk PowerFoot is the only foot and ankle in the word that doesn’t depend on its wearer’s energy. With a system of passive springs and a half-pound rechargeable lithium iron phosphate battery, the foot – made of aluminum, titanium, plastic and carbon fiber – provides the same 20-joule push off the ground that human muscles and tendons do. It automatically adjusts the power to the walker’s speed, but users can also dial that power up or down with a Bluetooth-enabled phone, and with a forthcoming iPhone application.

Most prosthetic feet are fixed at a clumsy 90 degrees. The Iwalk PowerFoot, equipped with three internal microprocessors and twelve force, inertia and position sensors, automatically adjusts its angle, stiffness and damping 500 times a second. Employing the same sort of sensory feedback loops that the human nervous system uses, plus a library of known patterns, the PowerFoot adjusts for slopes, dips its toe naturally when walking down the stairs, even hangs casually when the user crosses his or her legs.

Potential customers include the Department of Defense, looking for prostheses for the nearly 1,000 soldiers who have lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Veterans Administration and the Army are among the investors in Dr. Herr’s research.

Herr has a reputation as an obsessive student, earning a master’s in mechanical enginerring at MIT and a Ph.D. in biophysics at Harvard. He sat on a panel of scientists that confirmed that South African Oscar Pistorius, a sprinter with no legs below the knee, should be allowed to compete in the Olympics.


Want to know more?

You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies,software developmentAgile project managementmanaging software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projectsecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurshipecommercetelecommunications andsoftware development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.


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Structuring Venture Capital Deals: M.I.T. Enterprise Forum Panel Discussion (Video) December 1, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Conferences, events, Management, Startups, Venture Capital.
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Structuring Venture Capital Deals: M.I.T. Enterprise Forum Panel Discussion (2-Hr Video)

With Joseph Hadzima, Jr., Moderator. Jorge Contreras, Jr., Stanley Fung, Gregory Moore, Paul Severino

Hosted by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum

20 January, 2000
MIT’s Kresge Auditorium, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Although this presentation was given at a different era and time in the Boston venture capital ecosystem life cycle, nonetheless the august panel does a superb job of presenting the material concisely and throughly, to the point of making this video a must-watch not only for the methodical outlining of the step-by step preparations an entrepreneur must make before approaching venture capitalists for equity funding for their companies, but also for the exhaustive definitions of venture capital deal terms and deal points given and the illuminating perspectives offered by the various parties involved in a venture capital deal for a venture capital funded company.

This video lasts approximately two hours. I was in attendance at the conference, and if you look very closely, you can see me in the audience in one of the audience questions shots, during the questions-and-answers period after the primary discussions (I’m in a suit and tie).

Please leave comments as to how you think things may have changed in the time since this presentation, how things may have remained the same, and how perspectives and deal flows and volumes may have changed or stayed the same.

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Want to know more?

You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. I have been working in the software engineering and ecommerce industries for over fifteen years. My interests include computers, electronics, robotics and programmable microcontrollers, and I am an avid outdoorsman and guitar player. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Quora, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m a Technical PMO Director, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of several ecommerce and web-based software startups, the latest of which are Twitterminers.com and Tshirtnow.net.

MIT Venture Capital Conference: December 4th, 8am-6pm Copley Place Hotel, Boston November 27, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Conferences, events, Venture Capital.
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The MIT Venture Capital & Private Equity Club presents the 12th annual MIT Venture Capital Conference. From the conference website: “Against the background of a quickly changing economic environment, the 2009 conference will illuminate the critical trends and opportunities available in this ‘Brave New World.’ How have dramatic shifts in the political and financial worlds changed the venture capital and entrepreneurial landscape? If this is the time to start or fund a venture, where are the best opportunities in healthcare, energy, digital media, internet and mobile? How are venture capital funds adapting given the challenges in exit markets and LP relationships? Can the VC model work in emerging and social markets?” Keynote speakers include Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and Greycroft managing director Alan Patricof. Full agenda and registration information here.

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