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2011 News Release



CEE researchers lead new collaborative program between France and MIT

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In late June, MIT announced a new collaborative program with the French national scientific research center, Le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), to be co-directed by CEE Professor Franz Ulm and Roland Pellenq, a senior research scientist in CEE.

The collaboration will create a joint laboratory housed at MIT and focused on multi-scale materials science for energy and the environment. MIT president Susan Hockfield announced the project in Paris during the France-MIT Forum on Energy.

“French research on energy is first-rate, and for MIT faculty and students to collaborate with labs in France is a great opportunity,” said Suzanne Berger, a professor of political science and director of the MIT-France Program.

“This joint research unit between MIT and CNRS is a true opportunity for MIT and CEE,” said Ulm, the George Macomber Professor, “Working with top-notch researchers from France in the vibrant environment of MIT will enable us to make big strives in energy- and environment-related materials research. At a time when the boundaries between science and engineering get increasingly blurred, CEE can play a key role in advancing this hot field of research into the realm of engineering.”

The unité mixte international, or UMI, will bring four to six French researchers to MIT and make connections with several French universities that will promote research collaboration and provide internships in France for MIT students.

“The research will look at multiscale materials, including concrete and cement, for environment and energy applications,” said Pellenq. “The UMI will also consider shale gas materials, solid nuclear fuels, soil and clays stability, and other topics.”

CNRS runs about 20 UMI around the world, including three in the U.S., but this new venture will be the first at MIT.

In proposing the joint lab, organizers cited recent international energy and environmental disasters — including Japan’s nuclear crisis in the wake of the tsunami and earthquake that hit the northern coast earlier this year and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — as proof of the need to return to science-based engineering and begin manufacturing materials with an eye toward sustainability, durability and waste management.

“The new lab that’s being created at MIT by Ulm and Pellenq is really a full-scale collaboration building on the seed-fund grants,” said Berger. “We see that as a model for new kinds of collaboration between MIT and some of the best research being done in laboratories around the world.”