MIT associate professor, Noelle Selin studies atmospheric chemistry to deduct how environmental treaties and regulations affect the transport of toxins.

New Materials Research Lab Encourages Research and Entrepreneurship

Nov. 17, 2017
The MRL’s mission statement, as listed on its website, is to “serve interdisciplinary groups of faculty researchers, spanning the spectrum of basic scientific discovery through engineering applications and entrepreneurship to ensure that research breakthroughs have an impact on society.”

The Materials Processing Center (MPC) and Center for Materials Science and Engineering (CMSE) at MIT will merge to become the Materials Research Laboratory (MRL). The facility will be used by interdisciplinary teams researching applied materials in energy conversion and storage, quantum materials, oxides and metals for electronics, spintronics, photonics, biogels, functional fibers, and other arenas.

Projects at the lab will be funded by the National Science Foundation's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center program (MRSEC). MRSEC has funded many projects that have led to spinout companies like American Superconductor, OmniGuide Surgical Surgical, QD Vision, and Luminus Devices.

For example, MRSEC-funded research at CMSE led to a “perfect mirror” in 1998 that has revolutionized fiber-optic surgery, and led to the founding of company at OmniGiude Surgical. The dielectric mirror reflects nearly 100% of electromagnetic waves in various spectra, and can even reflect transverse waves like sound with near zero distortion. The perfect mirror technology is also incorporated into the first germanium laser operating room to function at room temperature, which was built in 2012. It has also been studied for applications in solar technology.

In a fiber optic cable, which confines light to a narrow passage with a high refractive-index core, perfect-mirror boundary conditions can reflect nearly 100% of light as it propagates through it. Near-zero absorption and scattering at boundary conditions leads to lower attenuation for better transmission over long distances. 

The video below shows a summer scholar conducting research at MRL for materials in biotechnology. 

The recent merge between two facilities comes on the heels a new Industry Collegium made up of 7 companies looking to partner with MIT researchers. The center will also support the work of four faculty members in three Manufacturing Innovation Institutes. It will be guided by an external advisory board of member from industry, government, and academia, along with an internal advisory board of MIT faculty, and will collaborate with the new research facility being constructed at the heart of the MIT campus, MIT.nano, set to open in June 2018. Gregory Beach will serve as principal investigator for MRSEC.

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