Out of about 150 teams from across the country who competed in a national awards program for innovative energy technologies, MIT-connected teams took three of the five finalist positions, and ended up winning the top two prizes.
The first-place winner in the ConocoPhillips Energy Prize, awarded by ConocoPhillips and Penn State University, was Team STG, led by Matthew Orosz MNG ’03, SM ’06, a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering. The team, which won the IDEAS Competition in 2005, has been developing a solar-concentrating system that uses parabolic trough reflectors to provide heat, hot water and electricity for schools and clinics in the developing world. Its pilot installation, in the south African country of Lesotho, is undergoing construction and testing.
The team, which won $100,000 in this competition, also includes CEE doctoral student Amy Mueller ’02, MNG ’03 and MIT alums Elizabeth Wayman ’04, SM ’06 and Bryan Urban SM ’07.
The second prize of $50,000 went to MIT professor of chemical engineering Gregory Stephanopoulos, who is developing microbes engineered to produce biodiesel fuel from various carbohydrate feedstocks. The process has the potential to double the yield of biofuel from a given amount of feedstock. The process can also be used to make biofuels directly from carbon dioxide and pure hydrogen.
Also among the finalists was a team led by Pedro Santos MBA ’10. That team is developing a hybrid compressor/expander for storing energy in the form of compressed air. The storage system is designed to smooth out the intermittent production of power from sources such as wind and solar. The team also includes MIT Sloan School MBA student Emmanuel Magani and alumnus Jeremy Pitts MBA ’10.