MIT Deshpande Center Announces Fall 2014 Research Grants

Fourteen Research Teams Receive $976,000 to Develop New Technological Innovations

October 7, 2014

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Sarah McDonnell
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT today announced it is awarding $976,000 in grants to fourteen MIT research teams currently working on early-stage technologies. These projects have the potential to make a significant impact on our quality of life in disease monitoring, cancer treatment, arthritis, medical imaging, water desalination, peptide synthesis, actuators, displays, carbon capture, electrode performance, solar cells, anti-counterfeiting, and data communications.

The Deshpande Center, acting as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship, awards grants that fund proof-of-concept explorations and validation for emerging technologies. Vladimir Bulovic, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Associate Dean for Innovation at MIT commented, "The Deshpande Center continues to propel our students and faculty as they translate their ideas into impact, building the track record of assisting in the launch of over twenty start-up companies. Impressively, the Center continues to attract and support transformational ideas from new photonic links and water desalination technologies to new medical diagnostics and technologies for carbon dioxide capture. Simply stated, the Deshpande Center magnifies the ability of MIT’s researchers to change the world through innovation."

The fall 2014 grant recipients are:
•    Broadband Omnidirectional Antireflection Coating for Silicon Solar Cells using Guaranteed Global Optimization of Thin Film Optical Coatings: Marc Baldo with Paul Azunre

The design of thin film optical interference coatings remains more art than science. This project is developing the first algorithm which can guarantee that a global solution to a design problem in this class has been found. To demonstrate the algorithm's potential, the most efficient broadband omnidirectional antireflection coating for silicon solar cells is designed and experimentally demonstrated.

•    Exceedingly Small Iron Oxide Nanoparticles as T1 MRI Contrast Agents: Moungi Bawendi with Oliver Bruns, Jose Cordero, and He Wei

This project aims to produce a contrast agent with similar properties to GBCA (gadolinium based contrast agents) but with less toxicity. These new contrast agents will allow patients with impaired kidney function, who are unable to use GBCA, to receive the diagnostic benefits of contrast enhanced MR imaging. Ultimately, this research could have a potentially large impact with regards to broadening the use of MR images in diagnostics.

•    Ultrasensitive Noninvasive Disease Monitoring Platform: Sangeeta Bhatia with Gabe Kwong

This project will leverage advances in nanotechnology to allow disease-specific enzymes to generate highly predictive ‘synthetic biomarkers’ that appear in the urine of patients for easy analysis. The approach dramatically broadens the number of diseases that could be detected and monitored by urinalysis and increases detection sensitivity and specificity (Renewal from Fall 2013 grant round).

•    Covert and Robust Micron-Scale Tags for Anti-Counterfeiting: Patrick Doyle with Paul Bisso

This project will develop new methods to covertly encode objects such as pharmaceutical packaging, currency and electronics using smartphone-readable encoded particles that have a combination of spectral and spatial codes and are able to withstand extreme environments. This would reduce the opportunity for counterfeiting.

•    Drug-eluting Platform Device to Locally Treat Pancreatic Cancer: Elazer Edelman with Laura Indolfi and David Ting

Pancreatic cancer is a devastating therapy-resistant disease. This project will focus on significantly improving patients’ quality of life using a drug eluting stent. By delivering the drug directly within the tumor mass, this stent will relieve the malignant obstructions, control local tumor progression, and reduce the need for frequent device replacement.

•    Nanoporous Thin Films for Water Desalination and Purification: Jeff Grossman with David Cohen-Tanugi, Shreya Dave, and Brendan Smith

The project focuses on the development of graphene nanoporous thin-film (NTFs), which promise significant value for the fields of water desalination and filtration. In this next phase of research, the team will develop a next generation filtration and desalination membrane and continue to identify and optimize specifications for commercial applications with a global impact (Renewal from Fall 2013 grant round).

•    Electrochemically-Mediated Carbon Dioxide Capture: T. Alan Hatton with Aly El-Tayeb

Current CO2 capture technology is energy intensive, expensive, and difficult to integrate with existing infrastructure. This project will develop a novel, plug&play and cost-effective electrochemically-controlled process for CO2 capture.

•    A Drug Delivery Platform for Sustained Treatment of Inflammatory Arthritis: Jeffrey Karp and Martha Gray with Tony Aliprantis, Omid Farokhzad, and Nitin Joshi

This project will create a delivery system for the treatment of inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis. The system would release a measured amount of drug in response to the level of inflammation. This would represent both increased and sustained comfort for patients and lower systemic toxicity than conventional treatments.

•    Fast flow peptides: Bradley Pentelute and Klavs Jensen with Andrea Adamo, Alex Mijalis, Dale Thomas, and Mark Simon

Peptides are an important and growing area of therapeutics. The development of peptide-based pharmaceuticals requires the synthesis of custom peptide sequences made on demand. With current batch systems these can take weeks to synthesize. This project is developing a flow system that greatly accelerates the rate of production and reduces overall synthesis time to minutes (Renewal from Fall 2013 grant round).

•    Shape Memory Ceramic Actuators: Chris Schuh with Alan Lai

Shape memory materials are solid-state actuators that can produce both large forces and displacements, making them ideal materials for actuation applications in, e.g., robotics, electronics and haptics. The project is developing a new class of actuator materials (Renewal from Fall 2013 grant round).

•    Transparent Displays Enabled by Wavelength-Selective Light Scattering: Marin Soljacic with Chia Wei Hsu

This project explores a new type of transparent display based on the wavelength-selective scattering of light from nanostructures. The advantages of this approach include wide viewing-angle, low cost, scalable to large areas, compatible with existing commercial projectors, and ease of application to glass surfaces.

•    Fluorinated Non-Stick Coatings for High Performance Electrodes: Yogesh Surendranath with Sterling Chu

This project will develop a novel passivation method for high surface carbon electrodes using fluorocarbon film. The proposed coating can be applied during the late stages of device fabrication and reduces the likelihood of premature device failure.

•    Waterproof & Smart Fabrics Using Symmetry-Breaking Surfaces: Kripa Varanasi

The current solutions for waterproof textiles are based on hydrophobic membranes or modifiers and are environmentally unfriendly. This project addresses the significant and growing need for non-wetting and breathable fabrics with a novel approach to waterproofing and the development of smart fabrics.

•    Scalable Photonic Links for Ethernet Systems: Michael Watts with Michele Moresco

Network limitations can have an adverse affect on the performance of large-scale computing systems such as data centers. This project will integrate laser sources with silicon photonics to create versatile and scalable photonic links for Ethernet systems which will enable unprecedented performance and scalability (Renewal from Fall 2013 grant round).

This year, the MIT Deshpande Center has partnered with the Masdar Institute and is supporting four projects that are being run jointly by MIT and MI faculty. Please visit for additional details. The funding for these projects comes from the Masdar Institute and $400,000 of grant funding has been awarded to the following projects:

•    Low cost rapid algal bloom sensing device: Anurandha Agarwal and Prashanth Marpu with Zhaohong Han and Vivek Singh

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur when algae grow rapidly due to a combination of warm water temperatures, high nutrient levels such as phosphorus and nitrogen, and sunlight. HABs contain toxins that can foul coastlines, kill fish, and pose health risks to humans. Algal blooms also present a major problem for many desalination plants. This project uses novel low-cost on-chip sensing devices for continuous water monitoring enabling early warning of algal blooms.

•    Wastewater Treatment: integration of electro-technologies and Nanowire Filtration: Jing Kong and Shadi Hasan with Wenjing Fang and Sungmi Jung

This project will focus on the development of a novel wastewater treatment system which combines nanowire filtration and bio-electrochemical treatment for the removal of heavy metals, organic contents, and microbes in water.

•    Novel module configurations for high efficiency Membrane Distillation: John Lienhard and Hassan Arafat with Faisal Al Marzooqi, Muhammad Roil Bilad, Hyung Wong Chung, Jaichander Swaminathan, and David Warsinger

Focused on highly energy efficient water desalination, this project will develop a novel approach to Membrane Distillation (MD) capable of handling different quantities of feed waters and high salinity levels. The novel MD configuration will be a scalable and renewable energy driven technology.

•    GaN High Efficiency Transmitters for Wireless Communication: Tomas Palacios and Mihai Sanduleanu with Puneet Srivastava

The project proposes to push the state-of-the-art in RF electronics through a novel highly integrated GaN digital transmitter solution with a record combination of efficiency and linearity for wireless communications. The transmitter technology will demonstrate the flexibility of a digital solution by performing multi-standard operation with any type of modulation format. The chip will considerably reduce the footprint and power consumption in wireless radios.

The Deshpande Center’s mission is to move technologies from the laboratories at MIT to the marketplace. The Deshpande Center grants help recipients assess and reduce the technical and market risks associated with their innovations. In addition to financial support, the Deshpande Center’s network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and academic and legal experts helps recipients assess the commercial potential of their innovations and make decisions that accelerate progress toward the development of business plans or licensing strategies.

For more details on Deshpande Center research projects, visit:
The Deshpande Center has provided $14,000,000 in grants to more than 110 MIT research projects since 2002. Twenty-eight projects have spun out of the center as independent startups, having collectively raised over $500 million in outside financing from investors.
About the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation
The Deshpande Center is part of the MIT School of Engineering and was established through an initial gift from Desh and Jaishree Deshpande. It is sustained by the generosity of alumni, friends and corporations. The center serves as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting leading-edge research and bridging the gap between the laboratory and marketplace. Additional information on the Deshpande Center's grant program, research portfolio and other entrepreneurial resources can be found at


Topics: Deshpande Center, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Grants