New research examines the fracture mechanisms of graphene

April 30th, 2021Research

Understanding how materials fracture and break is critical to the design of resilient nanomaterials. Molecular dynamics offers a way to study fractures but is computationally expensive with limitations of scalability. To explore an alternative method, Professor Markus Buehler’s Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics (LAMM) group uses a machine learning model to predict the fracture evolution of graphene, the strongest material in the world. The results of the ML model, published today in npj 2D Materials and Applications, quantitatively captures how graphene fractures, including predicting the path of breakage. The research led by graduate student, Andrew Lew, provides promise toward [...]

Understanding how materials fracture and break is critical to the design of resilient nanomaterials. Molecular dynamics offers a way to study fractures but is computationally expensive with limitations of scalability. To explore an alternative method, Professor Markus Buehler’s Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics (LAMM) group uses a machine learning model to predict the fracture evolution of graphene, the strongest material in the world. The results of the ML model, published today in npj 2D Materials and Applications, quantitatively captures how graphene fractures, including predicting the path of breakage. The research led by graduate student, Andrew Lew, provides promise toward the wider application of deep learning to materials design, opening the potential for other 2D materials. Read more about the ML model and research, “Deep learning model to predict fracture mechanisms of graphene” in npj 2D Materials and Applications.

 

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Desirée Plata and Justin Steil win Edgerton Faculty Award

April 21st, 2021News

CEE and DUSP faculty members recognized for excellence in leadership, service, and impactful work tackling environmental and social justice issues. MIT associate professors Desirée Plata and Justin Steil have been named recipients of the 2020-21 Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award. The award’s selection committee chose to recognize both faculty members for their excellence in service, mentorship, and research that impacts critical societal challenges in environmental sustainability and social justice. The annual Edgerton Faculty Award was established in 1982 as a tribute to Institute Professor Emeritus Harold E. Edgerton in recognition of his active support of junior faculty members. Each [...]


CEE and DUSP faculty members recognized for excellence in leadership, service, and impactful work tackling environmental and social justice issues.

MIT associate professors Desirée Plata and Justin Steil have been named recipients of the 2020-21 Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award. The award’s selection committee chose to recognize both faculty members for their excellence in service, mentorship, and research that impacts critical societal challenges in environmental sustainability and social justice.

The annual Edgerton Faculty Award was established in 1982 as a tribute to Institute Professor Emeritus Harold E. Edgerton in recognition of his active support of junior faculty members. Each year, a committee presents the award to one or more non-tenured faculty members to recognize exceptional contributions in research, teaching, and service.

Read the full story on MIT News

 

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Researchers develop Bluetooth powered “virtual virus” to track COVID-19’s spread

April 2nd, 2021Research

A virtual virus spread between smartphones could help track disease transmissions in real-time Throughout the country we have seen states lifting social-distancing measures and spring breakers crowding the beaches of Miami. What is the effect that this will have on the global pandemic? With current technologies we will have to wait until it’s too late to find out. To address this challenge, researchers developed a new scientific machine learning module that could provide real-time monitoring of COVID-19 transmission through a digital “virus” which spreads between smartphones via Bluetooth. Raj Dandekar, a PhD candidate in the MIT Department of Civil and [...]


A virtual virus spread between smartphones could help track disease transmissions in real-time

Throughout the country we have seen states lifting social-distancing measures and spring breakers crowding the beaches of Miami. What is the effect that this will have on the global pandemic? With current technologies we will have to wait until it’s too late to find out. To address this challenge, researchers developed a new scientific machine learning module that could provide real-time monitoring of COVID-19 transmission through a digital “virus” which spreads between smartphones via Bluetooth.

Raj Dandekar, a PhD candidate in the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Christopher Rackauckas, an instructor in the Department of Mathematics along with researchers from a number of universities are tackling the challenge of mitigating disease spread to save lives with their research project, called Safe Blues.

“Safe Blues, was developed to better understand how epidemics spread among the population, says Raj Dandekar, co-author in the research. “One of the biggest challenges in managing the coronavirus pandemic has been a lack of real-time data. The data of a patient being infected and recorded as positive can be one or two weeks.”

This time delay in having real-time data hinders the ability of public health officials to monitor the current situation to predict future viral spread and governments from initiating regulatory measures to control outbreaks.

Population behavior is also changing rapidly due to pandemic fatigue and states lifting social distancing measures and mask mandates, all challenges that becomes harder for public health and government officials to observe, model, and predict where new infections might occur.

In the Safe Blues methodology, virus-like tokens are spread between mobile devices via Bluetooth, similarly to how a biological virus spreads between people. By studying how this virtual virus evolves, we can gain real-time insights into how COVID-19 is spreading through the population.

“This method could be potentially really useful because the virus moves through social networks, says Christopher Rackauckas, Applied Mathematics Instructor in the MIT Department of Mathematics. “The network connection through people’s phones is where you can start to understand the social network effects and then start to observe in real-time where people are interacting with one another and the potential clusters in certain regions.”

Safe Blues uses digital tokens (strands) that are passed between other mobile phones that come in proximity with the virtual virus only when certain data criteria are met, such as length of time and distance. “It mimics the behavior of how a biological virus spreads between people, but in a harmless and traceable way using a machine learning supported epidemiological model,” says Dandekar.

“Safe Blues is not about predicting who’s infected, it’s about predicting population statistics and when infections are going to rise to better predict what type of measures are going to be effective,” added Rackauckas.

The application has the potential to empower policy decision-making for future epidemics to save lives and minimize the economic and social effects around the world.

The researchers have developed Safe Blues into a prototype in the form of an app on Android devices, similar to existing contact tracing apps. They are in the initial stages of launching a campus wide experimental trial at the University of Auckland City Campus.

The research on the model framework is published in Patterns Cell Press journal. Safe Blues is in its early stages and being piloted for efficacy at the University of Auckland. More information about the novel approach is available on the Safe Blues website at safeblues.org

Safe Blues Bluetooth Technology

[Left] Safe Blues Concept Illustration shows individuals of the population with Safe Blues-enabled devices take part in spreading Safe Blues strands. SARS-CoV-2-infected individuals are in red and others are in green. The Safe Blues system operates independently of the health status of individuals. [Right] The Android App for the campus planned experiment

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Josephine Carstensen receives NSF CAREER award for outstanding research and education

March 25th, 2021News

The National Science Foundation (NSF) selected an MIT School of Engineering professor, who is developing new methods for sustainable design, to receive its most prestigious award for junior faculty members. Josephine Carstensen, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) received the 2021 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, which supports promising early career faculty members who exemplify and serve as academic role models in research and education. The award will allow her to investigate improved structural design methods that could shift the paradigm of design and manufacturing into a single unified process. A five-year, $560,000 [...]

The National Science Foundation (NSF) selected an MIT School of Engineering professor, who is developing new methods for sustainable design, to receive its most prestigious award for junior faculty members.

Josephine Carstensen, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) received the 2021 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, which supports promising early career faculty members who exemplify and serve as academic role models in research and education. The award will allow her to investigate improved structural design methods that could shift the paradigm of design and manufacturing into a single unified process.

A five-year, $560,000 grant will support her project “Integrated Design and Digital Fabrication using Topology Optimization and Material Extrusion 3D Printing.” Topology optimization is a design technique that generates new, high performing design solutions and considered a powerful design approach for Additive Manufacturing (AM). However, topology-optimized designs must be prepared by the design engineer to facilitate the production, a process that results in performance loss of the final product. Carstensen’s research aims to eliminate the pre-production process so designs are print ready. The integration of design and manufacture investigated in this project will ease the process used by design engineers and improve the performance of fabricated products.

“Carstensen’s work could have broad societal impact in many diverse fields from the sustainable design of civil structures, aerospace and automotive components, sports and other protective equipment to novel lightweight materials, and biomedical implants,” says Ali Jadbabaie, head of the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “I am delighted that the NSF has chosen her to receive this much-deserved CAREER Award, indicating the impact of her work at this early stage and its alignment with our department’s research on bold sustainable solutions across scales.”

Additionally, the grant will support an integrated educational program that will stimulate interest in the future of engineering design, especially among students who do not typically engage with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This includes the creation of K-12 STEM-based outreach initiatives for middle school art class through the MIT Edgerton Center, and courses and research engagements for undergraduate students of engineering, computer science and graduate engineering students.

“I am honored and grateful to receive the NSF CAREER award,” says Carstensen. “I’m excited for the opportunity to further integrate manufacturing and design into becoming one process and to inspire and train the next generation of design engineers to creatively approach design problems while considering manufacturing aspects of design.”

Carstensen’s laboratory top + ad is developing new rigorous methods and algorithms that can improve structural design. The group leverages new manufacturing possibilities to make structures lighter, faster, safer and is re-examining the traditional approach to structural design on scales ranging from high-rise buildings to small porous materials.

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Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory Spring 2021 Seminars Fridays 12 -1 pm, Zoom

Environmental Science Seminar Series Feb 12 – Ludmila Aristilde, Northwestern University. Host: Plata Molecular insights on organic carbon cycling dynamics in bacterial cells, soil pores, and river processes Feb 26 – Amy Hrdina, MIT. Host: Kroll The Parallel Fate and Transformation of Toxins in the Body and in the Atmosphere Mar 5 – Ramunas Stepanauskas, Bigelow Laboratory. Host: Chisholm Group With trillions of microbes out there, which one do you choose? Mar 12 – Anthony Walker, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Host: Des Marais Quantitative cat herding: Integrating the evidence for a terrestrial carbon sink caused by increasing atmospheric CO2 Mar [...]

Environmental Science Seminar Series

Feb 12 – Ludmila Aristilde, Northwestern University. Host: Plata
Molecular insights on organic carbon cycling dynamics in bacterial cells, soil pores, and river processes

Feb 26 – Amy Hrdina, MIT. Host: Kroll
The Parallel Fate and Transformation of Toxins in the Body and in the Atmosphere

Mar 5 – Ramunas Stepanauskas, Bigelow Laboratory. Host: Chisholm Group
With trillions of microbes out there, which one do you choose?

Mar 12 – Anthony Walker, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Host: Des Marais
Quantitative cat herding: Integrating the evidence for a terrestrial carbon sink caused by increasing atmospheric CO2

Mar 19 – Seppe Kuehn, The University of Chicago. Host: Cordero
The structure-function problem in denitrifying bacterial communities

Mar 26 – Holly Michael, University of Delaware. Host: Harvey
Is offshore fresh groundwater a resource for the future? Exploring hydrogeologic connections through the continental shelf

Apr 2 – Amy Mueller, Northeastern University. Host: Hemond
Role of multisensors and data science in optimizing operation of environmental infrastructure

Apr 9 – Maureen Coleman, The University of Chicago. Hosts: Des Marais & Chisholm
Not just bigger: the Laurentian Great Lakes as a unique microbial ecosystem

Apr 16 – Naomi Levine, University of Southern California. Host: Chisholm
Small but mighty – marine microbial dynamics and the impact on global carbon cycling

Apr 23 – Rachel O’Brien, The College of William & Mary. Host: Kroll
Photolysis of chromophores in atmospheric organic compounds: chemical transformations and photo bleaching

Apr 30 – Adam Subhas, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Host: Plata
The Marine CaCO3 Cycle and its Role in CO2 Neutralization

Organized by David Des Marais and Desiree Plata. Contact  lumidi@mit.edu

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3Q with Lydia Bourouiba: How has our knowledge of the coronavirus changed since last spring

Lydia Bourouiba is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, where she directs The Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory. Her research and contributions in 2020 led to a newer understanding of respiratory emission dynamics and had implications for mask and respiratory design, social distancing recommendations, and other public health interventions during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Bourouiba sat down to share insights gained from her research over the past year. Q. How has our knowledge of the virus changed since last spring and what has that meant for your work? A. Many [...]


Lydia Bourouiba is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, where she directs The Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory. Her research and contributions in 2020 led to a newer understanding of respiratory emission dynamics and had implications for mask and respiratory design, social distancing recommendations, and other public health interventions during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Bourouiba sat down to share insights gained from her research over the past year.

Q. How has our knowledge of the virus changed since last spring and what has that meant for your work?

A. Many things changed, and some didn’t. Most of the changes we have seen in terms of our knowledge are, in part, related to the pathology and the reaction of the immune system — how the virus interacts with the body is one of the keys for patient treatment.  Another aspect is the ability to develop vaccines currently being deployed. Compared to historical precedent, this was done in a very short timescale of one year. Even with the massive effort it took to do that, we’re not really going to see the level of deployment that we would want to see for probably another year. The last important piece we have learned relates to knowledge about transmission; we now know that SARS-CoV-2 is definitely not just transmitted via large drops over short distances as was originally claimed. There is a very important component of transmission that occurs through inhalation of what remains in the air after a cough or sneeze and there are a number of questions remaining about that and the environmental conditions that promote or inhibit such routes of transmission and how much certain locations or indoor spaces enhance such routes of transmission versus others. We know that the airborne route definitely contributes significantly to transmission, but we still need more information to understand precisely how and what biophysical mechanisms are at play. So, we learned a lot but there is a lot that we still need to learn if we are serious about improving future prevention and mitigation of the spread of this pathogen.

Q. People are now being vaccinated but it will be some time before society is safe enough to return to normal. With the winter months still ahead, how can people avoid spreading coronavirus in indoor spaces with poor ventilation?

A. We still have a long road ahead of us before the vaccine covers the percentage of the population that we need in order to prevent further spread and stop the pandemic. In the meantime, indoor spaces that are poorly ventilated are a major issue and improving those situations should be of the highest priority. This could require making full infrastructure upgrades if the means are sufficient to do so, but if not, there are low-cost ways to improve natural ventilation and localized filtration systems that are more affordable. Steps should also be taken to minimize the number of individuals that occupy such indoor spaces, making sure that those who are vulnerable are not in contact with others that are highly and actively connected and interacting with many others regularly. So, essentially applying high standards of control and mitigation with respect to occupancy, face covering, air and surface hygiene, and distancing remain critical. Wearing high-grade masks is also an option for individuals that are at particularly high risk. Finally, it will be important to enable full and sufficiently homogeneous air changes in rooms with poor ventilation by opening the windows and ensuring adequate patterns of air circulation at regular intervals, even in the winter.

Q. Is there anything we can learn from this experience to avoid future outbreaks causing such global problems?

A. First, we shouldn’t repeat the pattern of past epidemics or pandemics in which within a year a resolution of the COVID-19 crisis we would see a return to completely ignoring the issue of infectious diseases and risks of epidemics and pandemics of respiratory infectious diseases in particular. We must ensure that there is more investment in monitoring and prevention in addition to massive efforts in developing vaccines. We need to think more holistically. It’s not just about vaccine development because as you can see, even with a historic level of resources, coordination, and some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies of the world coming together, we still need at least two years in the best-case scenario before an emerging pathogen that causes a serious pandemic can be tackled with a vaccine. In one sense, we were lucky with SARS-CoV-2 because another virus could have transmitted just as easily but with a much higher death rate. We are currently experiencing a bad-case scenario, but it’s not the worst-case scenario and we know that these pathogens will keep emerging. We need a strong mobilization system for early detection information-sharing worldwide so that the very early cases for such new emerging pathogens are identified and information is centralized and can be used quickly. But we also need a chain connected to that, ensuring proper investment in prevention before we even know what the pathogen can really do and to ensure that a system is in place to minimize the risk of worst-case scenarios triggered by high-frequency transmission settings that we know can occur. That’s something that I think we really need to think about from a societal standpoint, and which would have a big impact in terms of not having entire areas of the economy shut down before a vaccine is deployed, if it becomes available. Such holistic investments in early detection and prevention of transmission would have a big return on investment because the economy would simply be much more resilient, even when facing new pathogen threats.

One other piece that is really important to touch on is the need for fundamental research; often it is not obvious early on what will become important when a crisis hits. It is thus critical to fund research that sometimes does not necessarily look ready for immediate application. The type of research I do and have started years prior to this pandemic was not particularly popular in terms of funding but ultimately a lot of the insights we gained were helpful in guiding key policies and implementing mitigation strategies. So, the importance of investment in fundamental science and early vision, even when it’s not immediately applicable is critical to also keep in mind because when we face new challenges, it is often the insights from such research become or drive part of the solutions.

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