Sustainability and Environment
Climate change is one of the great crises of our time and the transportation sector is a currently a major contributor of carbon emissions. MIT research has contributed to major advances in the design of mobility systems, vehicles and policies from a sustainability perspective. Research labs at MIT are working on such diverse problems as the design of sustainable neighborhoods, organizational culture change to reduce air travel and circular supply chains.
The research labs and faculty working in this area are shown below. You can see a full listing of the people and labs involved with the MIT Mobility Initiative by navigating to the people page and the labs page.
Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research
Since 1977, the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) has been a focal point for research on energy and environmental policy at MIT. CEEPR promotes rigorous, objective research for improved decision making in government and the private sector, and secures the relevance of its work through close cooperation with industry partners from around the globe. Drawing on the unparalleled resources available at MIT, affiliated faculty and research staff as well as international research associates contribute to the empirical study of a wide range of policy issues related to energy supply, energy demand, and the environment.
Center for Ocean Engineering
Today, MIT is at the forefront of ocean science and engineering, with significant efforts in fluid mechanics and hydrodynamics, acoustics, offshore mechanics, marine robotics and sensors, and ocean sensing and forecasting. In addition, the Naval Construction program provides advanced graduate education on the design of naval ships and vehicles. The Center is a focal point for interdepartmental collaborations, interactions with other MIT schools, as well as outside the Institute.
Center for Real Estate, and Sustainable Urbanization Lab
The goal of the Sustainable Urbanization Lab (SUL) is to establish behavioral foundations for urban and environmental planning and policies aimed at sustainable urbanization in the most rapidly urbanizing regions of the world.
The SUL will be defined by three ‘blocks’: two of which are inter-related research themes: Environmental Sustainability and Place-based Policies and Self-Sustaining Urban Growth; the third block, an educational program the China Future City Program, will continue to serve as the teaching and research center of China’s urbanization on MIT campus.
The Community Innovators Lab (CoLab) is a center for planning and development within the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP). CoLab facilitates the interchange of knowledge and resources between MIT and community organizations. CoLab works with MIT students, faculty,
and technical resources to build collaborations with communities. Together we implement strategies that harness existing community assets and capture value to promote inclusive economic development that is environmentally sustainable, socially just, and deeply democratic. CoLab brings multi-disciplinary
expertise from urban planning, municipal government, business, community media, civil rights advocacy, and community and labor organizing.
Electric Aircraft Initiative
The MIT Electric Aircraft Initiative draws together efforts across MIT aimed at long-term research on electric aircraft. Research spans fundamental propulsion technology development for small drones through to overall aircraft configuration assessment for all-electric commercial aircraft. The focus is on the very long term: technologies that could result in near-silent propulsion and low or no emissions. You can learn more about the overall research areas or read our publications.
MIT’s Energy at Scale Center seeks to address the massive scaling requirements necessary for low-carbon technologies to make a substantial contribution to future global energy needs, in collaboration with industry, government, and nonprofit members. We examine economic, technical, environmental, political, and public opinion barriers for deployment. We explore these risks using our Integrated Global System Modeling (IGSM) framework that combines the Economic Projection and Policy Analysis (EPPA) model, MIT Earth System Model (MESM), as well as a portfolio of impact assessment models that focus on life‑sustaining resources (e.g., managed water systems, crop production, ecosystem/forest services, wind/solar/hydropower, and air quality). These linked computer models allow us to analyze a wide range of development pathways in the global energy, agricultural, transportation, and other key sectors.
Engineering Systems Laboratory
A part of the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Engineering Systems Laboratory (ESL) studies the underlying principles and methods for designing complex socio-technical systems that involve a mix of architecture, technologies, organizations, policy issues and complex networked operations. Their focus is on aerospace and other systems critical to society such as product development, manufacturing and large scale infrastructures.
International Center for Air Transportation
The mission of the MIT International Center for Air Transportation is to undertake research and educational programs which discover and disseminate the knowledge and tools underlying a global air transportation industry driven by new technologies. Airline management, airport security, air transportation economics, fleet scheduling, traffic flow management and airport facilities development represent areas of great interest to the MIT faculty and are of vital importance to international air transportation. ICAT is a physical and intellectual home for these activities. The ICAT, and its predecessors, the Aeronautical Systems Laboratory (ASL) and Flight Transportation Laboratory (FTL), have pioneered several concepts in air traffic management and flight deck automation and displays that are now in common use.
JTL Urban Mobility Lab
The JTL Urban Mobility Lab at MIT brings behavioral science and transportation technology together to shape travel behavior, design mobility systems, and improve transportation policies. They apply this framework to managing automobile ownership and usage, optimizing public transit planning and operation, promoting active modes of walking and cycling, governing autonomous vehicles and shared mobility services, and designing multimodal urban transportation systems.
Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change
The MIT Joint Program combines scientific research with risk and policy analyses to project the impacts of, and evaluate possible responses to, the many interwoven challenges of global socioeconomic, technological and environmental change. The program also cultivates and educates the next generation of interdisciplinary researchers with the skills to tackle ongoing and emerging complex global challenges.
Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment
The Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment is a research lab in the MIT Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics. The team is interdisciplinary, covering expertise in Aeronautical, Mechanical and Chemical Engineering, Atmospheric Science and Economics.
Lincoln Laboratory - Transportation
The Transportation mission area at Lincoln Lab develops technology to enhance transportation safety and efficiency, supporting government sponsors in several domains, including flight safety and collision avoidance, unmanned aircraft systems, advanced air mobility, air transportation simulation, air traffic control and air traffic management, environmental impact of air traffic, weather sensing for air traffic control, aviation cyber security, and military logistics.
MIT Sustainable Supply Chains
The MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics launched Sustainable Supply Chains in 2018 as an umbrella program that brings together our sustainability research, education, and outreach. Our goal is to connect research outcomes to practical settings, enabling companies and stakeholders to leverage supply chains as a beneficial force to reaching global sustainable development goals. We seek to improve visibility of supply chain impacts and develop strategies to help reduce them, so companies can better address consumer, political, and shareholder concerns. The lab has a wide portfolio of research projects including supply chain transparency, sustainable logistics, sustainable procurement, consumer purchasing behavior, and on. The research is inclusive of issues across the supply chain and spans social, environmental, and economic impact areas.
Mobility Systems Center
The Mobility Systems Center, an MIT Energy Initiative Low-Carbon Energy Center, brings together MIT's extensive expertise in mobility research to understand current and future trends in global passenger and freight mobility. Approaching mobility from a socio-technical perspective, we identify key challenges, understand potential trends, and analyze the societal and environmental impact of new mobility solutions. Through developing, maintaining, and applying a set of state-of-the-art scientific tools for the mobility sector, the Center aims to assess future mobility transformations from a technological, economic, environmental, and socio-political perspective. Executive Director: Randall Field
Resilient Infrastructure Systems Lab
The Resilient Infrastructure Systems Lab seeks to improve the robustness and security of critical infrastructure systems by developing tools to detect and respond to incidents, both random and adversarial and by designing incentive mechanisms for efficient infrastructure management. They are working on the problems of cyber-physical security, failure diagnostics and incident response, network monitoring and control, and demand management in real-world infrastructures. They mainly focus on cyber-physical infrastructure systems for electric power, transportation, and urban water and natural gas networks.
Senseable City Lab
The real-time city is real! As layers of networks and digital information blanket urban space, new approaches to the study of the built environment are emerging. The way we describe and understand cities is being radically transformed, as are the tools we use to design them. The mission of the Senseable City Laboratory, a research initiative at MIT, is to anticipate these changes and study them from a critical point of view.
Planning and Design of Airport Systems
Focuses on current practice, developing trends, and advanced concepts in airport design and planning. Considers economic, environmental, and other trade-offs related to airport location, as well as the impacts of emphasizing "green" measures. Includes an analysis of the effect of airline operations on airports. Topics include demand prediction, determination of airfield capacity, and estimation of levels of congestion; terminal design; the role of airports in the aviation and transportation system; access problems; optimal configuration of air transport networks and implications for airport development; and economics, financing, and institutional aspects. Special attention to international practice and developments.
Transportation Policy, the Environment, and Livable Communities
Examines the economic and political conflict between transportation and the environment. Investigates the role of government regulation, green business and transportation policy as a facilitator of economic development and environmental sustainability. Analyzes a variety of international policy problems, including government-business relations, the role of interest groups, non-governmental organizations, and the public and media in the regulation of the automobile; sustainable development; global warming; politics of risk and siting of transport facilities; environmental justice; equity; as well as transportation and public health in the urban metropolis. Provides students with an opportunity to apply transportation and planning methods to develop policy alternatives in the context of environmental politics. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.
Global Energy: Politics, Markets, and Policy
Focuses on the ways economics and politics influence the fate of energy technologies, business models, and policies around the world. Extends fundamental concepts in the social sciences to case studies and simulations that illustrate how corporate, government, and individual decisions shape energy and environmental outcomes. In a final project, students apply the concepts in order to assess the prospects for an energy innovation to scale and advance sustainability goals in a particular regional market. Recommended prerequisite: 14.01. Meets with 15.219 when offered concurrently. Expectations and evaluation criteria differ for students taking graduate version; consult syllabus or instructor for specific details. Preference to juniors, seniors, and Energy Minors.
Decarbonizing Urban Mobility
This summer’s extreme weather and the just-released IPCC report have brought renewed attention to the urgent need to drive global carbon dioxide emissions to zero by 2050. Transportation is the single largest source of those emissions in the United States, and a major source globally. What combination of policy, technology, behavior change, and investment is best positioned to accelerate the decarbonization of urban mobility? A new course from MIT Mobility Initiative and DUSP Prof. Jinhua Zhao and transportation & climate change professional Andrew Salzberg will grapple with this question, drawing from the latest research and industry trends.
Economics of Energy, Innovation, and Sustainability
Covers energy and environmental market organization and regulation. Explores economic challenges and solutions to transforming energy markets to be more efficient, accessible, affordable, and sustainable. Applies core economic concepts - consumer choice, firm profit maximization, and strategic behavior - to understand when energy and environmental markets work well and when they fail. They also conduct data-driven economic analysis on the trade-offs of real and proposed policy interventions. Topics include renewable generation sources for electricity, energy access in emerging markets, efficiency programs and fuel efficiency standards, transitioning transportation to alternative fuels, measuring damages and adaptation to climate change, and the effect of energy and environmental policy on innovation.
Aerospace, Energy, and the Environment
Addresses energy and environmental challenges facing aerospace in the 21st century. Topics include: aircraft performance and energy requirements, propulsion technologies, jet fuels and alternative fuels, lifecycle assessment of fuels, combustion, emissions, climate change due to aviation, aircraft contrails, air pollution impacts of aviation, impacts of supersonic aircraft, and aviation noise. Includes an in-depth introduction to the relevant atmospheric and combustion physics and chemistry with no prior knowledge assumed. Discussion and analysis of near-term technological, fuel-based, regulatory and operational mitigation options for aviation, and longer-term technical possibilities.
Air Transportation Systems Architecting
Addresses the architecting of air transportation systems. Focuses on the conceptual phase of product definition including technical, economic, market, environmental, regulatory, legal, manufacturing, and societal factors. Centers on a realistic system case study and includes a number of lectures from industry and government. Past examples include the Very Large Transport Aircraft, a Supersonic Business Jet and a Next Generation Cargo System. Identifies the critical system level issues and analyzes them in depth via student team projects and individual assignments. Overall goal is to produce a business plan and a system specifications document that can be used to assess candidate systems.
Energy Systems and Climate Change Mitigation
Reviews the contributions of energy systems to global greenhouse gas emissions, and the levers for reducing those emissions. Lectures and projects focus on evaluating energy systems against climate policy goals, using performance metrics such as cost, carbon intensity, and others. Student projects explore pathways for realizing emissions reduction scenarios. Projects address the climate change mitigation potential of energy technologies, technological and behavioral change trajectories, and technology and policy portfolios.