2019 @MIT Calls for Seed Proposals
List of Projects Approved Under this Call
In March 2019 the program awarded 12 seed project grants to proposals that will further enhance the academic collaborations among our four research areas.
Scientific Area: Earth Systems: Oceans to Near Space | Climate Science & Climate Change
Abstract: This proposal aimed to exponentially alter ocean exploration via novel platforms, people, technology, and approaches, with the ultimate goal of contributing to the larger MPP2030 vision of understanding planet Earth as a dynamic, complex system. Exploration of the Atlantic Ocean will also contribute to Climate Science & Climate Change research by creating a baseline dataset of observed oceanographic parameters in locations that have not yet been explored. This will allow us to contribute to climate models and begin to create baseline time series information in some of the most remote locations in the Atlantic Ocean. We proposed to undertake early-stage research on the creation, development, and deployment of a thriving model of low-cost, high-tech science and exploration for the Atlantic Ocean. We planned to hire a research scientist/student to consider the technical, logistical, and social challenges associated such a goal. This research was to be used to inform and host a 2-day Ocean Discovery Hackathon that will be proposed through the Flagship Call for Proposals. We anticipated that the Hackathon will be held at MIT in Q1/Q2 2020.
Katy Croff Bell – Research Scientist and Director Open Ocean Initiative – MIT Media Lab
Prof. Joseph Paradiso – MIT Media Lab
José Joaquín Hernández-Brito, CEO, and Frank Neumann, Project Developer – AIR Centre;
Artur Costa, Business Developer – Ceiia
Scientific Area: Sustainable Cities
Abstract: Coastal cities are experiencing more frequent natural hazards such as floods and maritime agitations as a result of global climate change. We propose a pathway to enhance the resilience of electricity systems in such cities against natural hazards and disasters by employing distributed energy resources (DERs) including roof-top solar panels and batteries. We will investigate the potential of establishing a city-wide emergency power supply system for densely populated coastal cities. We will first develop a data-driven algorithm for coordinating the DERs to be prepared against storms, floods, and other hazardous conditions during normal operating conditions, and control these resources to supply critical loads during emergencies. We will use the algorithm to assess how the emergency response of DERs can enhance their economic viability, and to propose support policies to encourage the adoption of DERs to enhance city resiliency and sustainability.
Audun Botterud – Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems
Dr. Ricardo Bessa – Center for Power and Energy Systems, INESC TEC Porto
Prof. Vladimiro Miranda – Universidade do Porto
Scientific Area: Climate Science & Climate Change | Earth Systems: Oceans to Near Space
Abstract: The element lead (Pb) has the most anthropogenically-altered earth surface cycle of any element – with a flux increase of >20x compared to pre-anthropogenic times. These emissions are the dominant source of Pb in the ocean. This anthropogenic Pb started in the mid-1800’s increasing into the 1920’s due to smelting and other high-temperature industrial processes. Our lab has been using corals, which incorporate Pb into their shells in proportion to the amount in the water they grow in, to document changes in the ocean before modern seawater Pb analyses developed. In this project, we have used a cold-water coral collection of Dr. Lélia Matos to develop Pb histories for the mid-depth (~1400m) ocean for the past ~200 years on the Iberian margin and western North Atlantic which document the penetration of anthropogenic Pb into the ocean interior.
Prof. Edward Boyle – Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Dr. Lélia Matos, Fátima Abrantes, Antje Voelker – IPMA Lisboa
Scientific Area: Earth Systems: Oceans to Near Space | Digital Transformation in Manufacturing
Abstract: Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) offer the ability to provide persistent and expanded ocean observations and measurements. The battery capacity of AUVs, however, currently limits the range and duration of missions. At the same time, ocean sensor payload and measurement resolution are limited by data storage space onboard AUVs. These limitations require that AUVs be frequently recovered to recharge and offload data, a process that often requires the assistance of a support vessel and crew, costing in excess of $30,000 per day. The Platform for Expanding AUV exploRation to Longer ranges (PEARL) technology, can extend the range and endurance of AUVs (e.g. from 8 hours to 240 hours), while reducing data latency and operating costs. As shown in Figure 1, PEARL is an integrated autonomous floating docking station which simultaneously provides AUV battery recharging and data uplink via the new generation of high-bandwidth low- Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations (OneWeb, Starlink, Iridium NEXT) . PEARL can ensure worldwide connectivity and control of AUVs, allowing for near-realtime underwater data from across the globe. By utilizing solar power paired with integrated battery modules, PEARL can harvest power during daytime hours, allowing reliable, on-demand recharging of vehicles and data transfer, effectively extending AUV endurance and return.
Prof. Oliver de Weck – AeroAstro
Galactic Purpose Unipessoal Lda (Valispace)
Marco Witzmann, Louise Lindblad, Nelson Monteiro, João Gonçalves – Instituto de Sistemas e Robótica, Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisboa
Scientific Area: Climate Science & Climate Change
Abstract: In this study, we propose diagnosing the vulnerability of regions to climate change through assessing how close they are to the tipping point transition between water-limited and energy-limited evaporation regimes. Transitions between these two evaporation regimes have significant implications for how the water, energy and carbon cycles are linked at the surface and therefore how much these three cycles will be impacted by climate change. We use two space-borne Earth sensing data streams, available in Sub-Saharan Africa, of which the MIT and Portugal investigators are key project leads of the respective systems. Our goals are (1) to identify regions of Africa transitioning between water and energy limitation, (2) assess what impact this transitioning has on plant water uptake, and (3) whether this transitioning is indicative of climate vulnerability.
Prof. Dara Entekhabi – Civil and Environmental Engineering
Dra. Isabel Franco Trigo – IPMA Lisboa
Publications: Land‐Atmosphere Drivers of Landscape‐Scale Plant Water Content Loss
Scientific Areas: Climate Science & Climate Change | Earth Systems: Oceans to Near Space
Abstract: The ocean represents more than 99% of the Earth’s biosphere, yet we only currently measure less than 2% of it. We lack a clear and persistent picture of currents, marine life migrations, carbon capture and acidity levels, seismic activity, and many other measurable parameters because of we lack the robustness, longevity, and spatial coverage required of an engineering system to sensorize the ocean. Most attempts to capture ocean measurement are encompassed by remotely operated vehicles taking point measurements or sets of fixed mooring lines along a continental shelf. Underwater telecommunications cable repeaters offer nodes of power and data transmission across the ocean every ~60 km. From a systems perspective, we are operating in the very first stage of a project life cycle: the concept study. We tackle this problem by examining current resources, the stakeholders, past efforts, and three possible concepts of ocean network sensors attached to telecommunications repeaters. In-depth interviews of seismologists, sedimentologists, and oceanographers at university oceanography departments and oceanographic institutions, a representative from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, and an engineer operating in the offshore Oil & Gas industry were conducted. We discuss what parameters are important to measure and to who, based on those aforementioned interviews with stakeholders. We discuss information theory and sampling theory to flush out the tradeoff of resolution and cost, detecting boundaries, and the method by which we can determine the number of sensors across a spatial area and the sampling rate. We construct a general mechanical model of an array of sensors to ensure design for minimum deflection angle from possible transverse currents. Two concepts are proposed: 1) an electro-mechanical vertical array consisting of off-the-shelf sensors and 2) an optical fiber sensor package. The five tactical questions to be discussed are: How does it work? How much does it cost? What can we measure? How much is the power requirement? What is the data transmission requirement? The paper closes with a summary of current status of the ocean sensor networks with an emphasis on sampling strategy while proposing that optical sensors may provide a better long-term solution based on lower power requirements and data transmission scheme than current conventional sensor systems.
Prof. Douglas Hart – Mechanical Engineering
Sérgio Fernandes, CTO DSTelecom (Industry Partner)
Prof. Eduardo Pereira, Tiago Miranda, Marisa Pinheiro – Civil Eng., IB-S / ISISE – Universidade do Minho
Prof. Marcos Martins, Luís Gonçalves – Electronics Eng., CMEMS – Universidade do Minho
Prof. Joaquim Brito, João Moutinho – AIR Centre
Scientific Areas: Earth Systems: Oceans to Near Space | Climate Science & Climate Change
Abstract: ISR-Lisboa and SSL propose to continue their successful collaboration by furthering the research on algorithms for small satellite formation flight and introducing rendezvous and towing of unknown masses. The research will advance the controls needed for multi-satellite missions that will enhance Earth Observation and support the space environment. These algorithms directly relate to the enablement of autonomous operations for space observation of Earth’s subsystems from ocean to space, and to get us closer to address the environmental challenge of space debris. The team will continue to use the SPHERES facility with ground testing and aboard the International Space Station. Further, the team will migrate the research to the Astrobee facility for future microgravity research. The team plans two ISS test sessions, a visit by two ISR-Lisboa team members to MIT, and visits from both teams to NASA Ames for Astrobee experiments.
Principal Research Scientist, Rebecca Masterson – MIT Aero/Astro
Prof. Rodrigo Ventura – Instituto de Sistemas e Robótica, Universidade de Lisboa (ISR-Lisboa)
Scientific Area: Climate Science & Climate Change | Digital Transformation in Manufacturing
Abstract: The goal of this work is to develop re-programmable color textures that enable objects to adapt their appearance based on data-driven environmental factors or user-driven needs. The key idea is to build onto photochromic inks that can switch their appearances from transparent to colored when exposed to light of a certain wavelength. By mixing cyan, magenta, and yellow photochromic dyes into a single solution and leveraging the different absorption spectra of each dye, we can control each color channel in the solution separately leading to a wide variety of colors with only a single material. Our approach can transform traditional single-material fabrication approaches, such as resin and filament 3D printing, coating and painting, as well as cloth coloring baths, into high-resolution re-programmable multi-color processes.
Assistant Prof. Stefanie Mueller – EECS department and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Scientific Area: Digital Transformation in Manufacturing
Abstract: Alloy design for Additive Manufacturing (AM) remains an exacting undertaking. The field has only early stage approaches to identify and verify promising AM alloys. AM is a sensitive process: small perturbations in ambient conditions or machine settings can have unexpected undesirable effects. The interactions between processing parameters and the effect they have on the mechanical properties of a fabricated part are not yet fully understood. Difficulties in process control further compounds the problem of alloy engineering as it can take substantial time and effort to establish the correct parameters to test a material with. Leveraging an existing platform developed for inorganic materials synthesis, this project will compile data from literature and develop data mining approaches for materials and process design in AM.
Associate Prof. Elsa Olivetti – Department of Materials Science & Engineering
Profs. António José Vilela Pontes and Álvaro Gramaxo Oliveira Sampaio – Universidade do Minho
Scientific Area: Digital Transformation in Manufacturing
Abstract: Link to website: https://workofthefuture.mit.edu/ This project will create a collaborative research network across Portugal, Brazil, and the United States to study how “Industry 4.0” digital technologies are co-evolving with work. The aim is to develop a rich understanding of how technology and work are changing in key segments of the manufacturing sector. Our focus will be on identifying what new training and skills are required for workers and firms to prosper in a context of digital transformation. The project will be part of the broader MIT Work of the Future Initiative (see: https://workofthefuture.mit.edu/) and will build upon ongoing research by the MIT IPC in Brazil. Given the uncertainty about the impact of digital technologies on jobs in each of these countries, we expect our findings and recommendations to be of interest to industry, government, and civil society stakeholders.
Elisabeth Beck Reynolds – Principal Research Scientist; Executive Director, MIT Industrial Performance Center; Lecturer, Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Prof. Joana Mendonça and Benjamin Meindl – Universidade de Lisboa
Helena Silva – General Manager at CEiiA
Scientific Area: Climate Science & Climate Change | Earth Systems: Oceans to Near Space
Abstract: Ocean waves represent a vast, inexhaustible and green energy resource which may be harvested for the generation of electricity and the Portuguese coastline is one of the most attractive areas due to its ample wave energy resources. The development of wave energy devices was initiated half a century ago, yet no device has yet emerged as the market standard like the horizontal axis three-bladed wind turbine widely deployed onshore and offshore on bottom mounted and floating foundations. The need exists for the development of robust control strategies of the PTO mechanism of the wave energy device, be it pneumatic, hydraulic, electromagnetic or elastomeric. This requires the tuning of the PTO kinematics to forecasts of the ambient wave elevation which requires the use of machine learning algorithms and feedforward optimal control strategies. These tasks will be the focus of the proposed collaborative research program in support of the goals of MPP2030.
Prof. Paul D. Sclavounos – MIT Mechanical Engineering
Profs. Susana Vieira, João Henriques and Duarte Valério – Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa
Scientific Area: Climate Science & Climate Change, Earth Systems: Oceans to Near Space, Sustainable Cities
This seed project will lay a foundation for research into how to minimize the costs and improve the reliability of clean energy systems, while enhancing quality of life and stimulating economic activity in ‘smart’ cities. The seed project will focus on the coastal city of Lisbon and will have two primary goals. First, we will develop the initial
versions of models to investigate options for jointly decarbonizing electricity and transportation using off- and on-shore renewable resources. These sub-models will be designed to feed into an overall smart city model that will uncover synergistic opportunities for decarbonizing electricity, transportation, and building energy use,
while improving productivity and human well-being. This overall model will be further developed through a larger, flagship project. Second, to prepare for the flagship project, we will build a collaborative network with colleagues at CEiiA, IST, and other Portuguese institutions, to prepare for a larger flagship project.
Associate Prof. Jessika Trancik – Institute for Data, Systems and Society
Prof. Paulo Ferrão – Instituto Superior Técnico
Dr. Frederico Custódio- CEiiA