If two heads are better than one for solving tough problems, it stands to reason two nations are better still when those problems span the globe. MIT’s signature no-boundaries approach extends far beyond disciplinary borders into numerous international collaborations. One of MIT’s largest such partnerships, the MIT & Masdar Institute Cooperative Program (MIT&MICP), brings together teams from MIT and the Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to design solutions with massive global implications: advanced desalination systems, biomass to biofuel conversion, solar energy storage technologies, robust and resilient power grid designs, and more.

“Researchers at the Masdar Institute are focused on developing alternative energy solutions, sustainability, and advanced environmental technologies,” says Duane Boning, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of the MIT&MICP. “Our mutual focus on these challenges makes for a powerful partnership and builds on MIT’s eight plus-year engagement with Masdar.”

MIT helped establish and develop the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology—the world’s first graduate-level research university dedicated to alternative energy. Today, the Cooperative Program oversees a number of research projects, including nine large-scale multi-investigator projects—comprised of MIT and Masdar Institute faculty and graduate students—who focus their projects on climate, energy, health, food, and clean water.

The desalination project underway, led by MIT’s John Lienhard, the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Food, along with Masdar Institute professor Hassan Arafat, benefits from input from the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation. Grants funded by the MIT&MICP and administered by the Deshpande Center support MIT and Masdar Institute faculty and students in efforts to move their ideas into the marketplace. The team is looking at potential markets for portable desalination systems for use on small-scale projects. “Our partners are now learning how to do translational research and are building their own version of the innovative and highly successful Deshpande program,” Boning says.

Alexie Kolpak, MIT’s Rockwell International Career Development Professor of Mechanical Engineering, is now working with one team that’s using solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and later using the hydrogen as fuel.

“One reason I was drawn to MIT was the chance to join an international collaboration,” she says. “Interacting with different cultures provides different perspectives, and together we see how science and technology move forward.”


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