Tuesday, Feb 26, 2019, 4:30pm at Building 550, the Atrium, Stanford
Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering and of Aeronautics and Astronautics, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Lecture Title: Searching for Technically and FinanciallyFeasible Pathway to Providing Clean Water Using Clean Energy to Meet the Needs of People of the Developing World
For nearly 45 years Professor Dubowsky, his colleagues and students in the MIT Field and Space Robotics Laboratory (The FSRL) has been addressing important engineering problems by combining control theory, system modeling, design algorithms, and experimental studies. The problems addressed at the FSRL has included such subjects as: micro-fuel cell power supplies, MRI diagnostic methods, the design and control of very large space telescopes, polymer actuators, and control and planning algorithms for robots to explore the caves and surfaces of Mars. Sponsors for this work has included government agencies and companies from the US and also abroad. The goals of these research projects were largely set in consultation with the sponsors. As with most university research projects, they gave the freedom for creative thinking and problem solving, funds for equipment and graduate students, and part of faculty salaries. The also enabled the education of PhD students and writing scholarly and professional publications.
About 10 years ago, an unconventional thing happened. A prospective sponsor came to MIT with substantial funds for 7-year program, but without any technical objective in mind. A group of faculty rose to the challenge and proposed to address the largely independent problems of clean energy and clean water. My group (the FSRL) took of the problem optimally designing, controlling and operating the highly nonlinear problems of water purification powered by photovoltaics in uncertain conditions and environments. In this talk the technical problem and its solutions will be briefly discussed.
An adventure started when field trials of prototypes in the jungles in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico showed the technical and economic potential. Since it is beyond the scope of a university to produce systems for communities and people that needed them, the commercialization of the technology this seemed like a place for a startup. Also at this time, venture funds and investors were promulgating the notion of “impact investing”- investing in enterprises with both a financial promise and with important social impact. In response a startup, PV Pure Inc., was founded with the motto “Do Well by Doing Good.” The remainder of the talk will focus on this part of the adventure.
Professor Dubowsky spent the first 8 years of his career designing scientific instruments and optical systems in industry for the DOD while studying for his PhD from Columbia University. He then joined the faculty at UCLA for 10 years until he moved MIT with a joint appointment in the Mechanical Engineering and of Aeronautics and Astronautics departments for the last 34 years of his academic career where he was the Director of the MIT Field and Space Robotics Laboratory. Much of his teaching and research has focused on robotic systems and medical devices and systems. Professor Dubowsky authored, or co-authored, with his students, nearly 350 papers. His research contributions have included; the adaptive and optimal control of robots, modeling of flexible manipulators, autonomous control of high speed vehicle in rough terrain, fuel cell power for field robotic systems, energy/clean water systems for challenging field environments and medical robotic devices for the elderly, as surgery in closed bore MRIs, and for the treatment of Parkinson’s patents. Dr. Dubowsky has served as an advisor and consultant to the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Science/Engineering, the Department of Energy, the US Army, NASA, ESA and industry. He is a Life Fellow of both the ASME and IEEE. Since retiring from MIT in 2015, Dr. Dubowsky has focused his energy on co-founding, and being the Chief Technical Officer of a startup company, PV Pure Inc. in Cambridge, MA.