MIT faculty and researchers offer their thoughts on potentially life-altering
technologies that lie just around the corner.
Principal Research Engineer
Plasma Science and Fusion Center
At the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, our largest projects involve fusion energy research, which has great potential benefit for the long term, but not for the immediate future. However, other developing plasma technologies and spin-off technologies could have a more immediate benefit.
Imagine using garden, forest and household wastes to make energy. Using plasma to convert waste to fuel could make a substantial difference in our lives. The hydrocarbons from waste could be turned into hydrogen-rich gas, which could be passed through catalysts to create liquid fuel. Although the process could increase the cost of fuel, it is CO2-neutral and would provide energy security (i.e., independence from fuel provided by unstable governments). The question is: Can we make it small enough so that fuel can be generated in a distributed manner? And will the fuel be stable and have the characteristics necessary for use in internal combustion engines?
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 21, 2008 (download PDF).