Publications and Presentations

J-WAFS Publications and Presentations

J-WAFS: How smart investment is forging answers to one of mankind’s biggest challenges

In a Spring 2017 article in Opening Doors, the online magazine of Abdul Latif Jameel, J-WAFS’ director John Lienhard outlines the challenges in food and water security posed by population growth and climate change in the coming years. The article focuses specifically on how the Middle East could be impacted, and calls for energy efficient and sustainable regionally-specific solutions. Leinhard highlights ways that J-WAFS is contributing to this work, featuring recent Seed and Solutions grant projects; an expert workshop on desalination, and a new Research Affiliate agreement with a global water technology company with operations in more than 150 countries. Click here to read the article...

Hands washing in water

The State of Hydropower Projects Today: Lessons from the past for the course ahead

On May 6th, 2016, MIT's Displacement Research and Action Network (DRAN) hosted a one-day workshop, co-sponsored by J-WAFS, titled, ‘The State of Hydropower Projects Today: Lessons from the Past for the Course Ahead’. This workshop brought international scholars and practitioners together to share insights and concerns about the state of contemporary hydropower and its impact on vulnerable communities and environments. This report, developed by DRAN, is an account of the proceedings of that day and a contribution to broader efforts by scholars and practitioners around the globe to renew research and increase attention to the social and environmental impacts of large hydropower infrastructure projects. Click here to read the report...

Publication cover

Low Carbon Desalination: Status and Research, Development, and Demonstration Needs

J-WAFS, in collaboration with the Global Clean Water Desalination Alliance, hosted a two-day invitation-only expert workshop at MIT focused on low carbon Desalination on October 17-18, 2016. The event was organized at the request of the Global Clean Water Desalination Alliance, which was formed at COP21, and sponsored by J-WAFS. Joining together in discussion were academic, industry, and government experts from 11 nations to discuss issues and frame a concluding report, titled "Low Carbon Desalination: Status and Research, Development, and Demonstration Needs" which is intended as a guide for further research and development aimed at sustainable solutions for the world’s growing water challenges. This report was presented at the COP22 meetings in Marrakech, Morocco during November 2016.

desalination plant

Davos IdeasLab 2015 panel led by J-WAFS Director John Lienhard

J-WAFS Director John Lienhard, along with MIT faculty colleagues, traveled to Davos, Switzerland in January for the 2015 World Economic Forum (WEF). The four-day meeting, which traditionally hosts a variety of world leaders in business, policy and academia, has featured a panel of MIT representatives for the past several years. This year, the theme was titled “Tackling Food and Water Challenges with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” John Lienhard’s presentation along with those of the other faculty members can be found here.
Photo: MIT faculty members Alan Berger, Karen Gleason, Colette Heald, and John Lienhard at Davos IdeasLab 2015

IdeasLab 2015 panel

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Workshop Report

On November 13-14, 2014, J-WAFS convened a workshop of the international, non-partisan Eastern Nile Working Group to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and its implications for regional cooperation and economic development in the Nile basin. On the basis of these discussions, the group prepared an Amicus Brief to the three riparian governments, which was shared with them in early February 2015. The brief, titled The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: An Opportunity for Collaboration and Shared Benefits in the Eastern Nile Basin, highlights opportunities and also several issues of technical concern which are of relevance to policy makers in the region.


Ethiopian dam map

Publications by J-WAFS Principal Investigators

Saving energy with an optimized two-stage reverse osmosis system

In this paper published in July 2017 in the Journal Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, J-WAFS director John Lienhard and a research team from his lab analyze two-stage reverse osmosis processes and show ways that a two-stage process, if correctly configured, can reduce the energy required for water desalination. Click here to learn more about the desalination work of Prof. Lienhard and his lab.

Reverse Osmosis schematic

Asymmetric Faradaic systems for selective electrochemical separations

In this paper published in May 2017 in the Journal Energy and Environmental Science, Prof. Alan Hatton's group describes a new method for removing extremely low levels of unwanted compounds from water. The new method, supported by a J-WAFS Solutions grant, relies on an electrochemical process to selectively remove organic contaminants such as pesticides, chemical waste products, and pharmaceuticals. Click here to learn more about this J-WAFS Solutions project..

Schematic of anion and carbon-selective electrodes

Janus Emulsions for the Detection of Bacteria

In this paper published on March 23rd in the journal ACS Central Science, Prof. Tim Swager's group details a new way to perform food safety sensing that uses a new form of liquid droplet that can bind to bacterial proteins. This interaction, which can be detected by either the naked eye or a smartphone, could offer a much faster and cheaper alternative to existing food safety tests. The lead author of this paper is Qifan Zhang, a graduate student in Swager’s lab. Co-authors are Suchol Savagatrup, an MIT postdoc; Peter Seeberger, director of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Germany; Paulina Kaplonek, a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute, and Prof. Swager.  To learn more about this J-WAFS Solutions project, click here.

Janus droplets in iphone image

Climate model uncertainty in impact assessments for agriculture: Amulti-ensemble case study on maize in sub-Saharan Africa

In March 2017, J-WAFS’ Seed Grantees Susan Solomon, in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and Department of Chemistry, Kenneth Strzepek from MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and others report that, if the world’s average temperatures rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, much of southern Africa and the Sahel region just south of the Sahara desert — regions that contribute a significant portion of Africa’s maize production — will experience increased aridity, which in turn is predicted to decrease maize crop yields in some nations by over 20 percent.  The researchers’ analysis shows that climate change’s impact shows great uncertainty especially for the most arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa including the semiarid regions that produce over 40 percent of sub-Saharan African maize. Click here to read the article...

Corn in parched soil

Formation of Nitrogenase NifDK Tetramers in the Mitochondria of Saccharomyces cerevisiae

In February, 2017, Prof. Christopher Voigt and his research team published this paper detailing gains in his J-WAFS funded research which aims to develop nitrogen-fixing cereal grains and, as a result, lower agricultural producers' reliance on chemical fertilizer. Their work, published in ACS Synthetic Biology, discusses the achievements of Voigt's lab involving use of genetic engineering to move a complete microbial nitrogen fixation pathway into a plant's chloroplast and mitochondria. This work represents a first step toward reaching functional nitrogen production by cereal grain organelles. Click here to read the article...

Schematic of gene clusters

Developments in the potential of anion-selective redox electrodes for electrochemically mediated separation

Alan Hatton and his team discuss exciting developments in their research on anion-selective redox electrodes, exploring the potential for redox species to assist in catalysis, energy storage, and molecular recognition. This paper claims that their organometallic redox electrodes are a promising platform for targeting aqueous and organic systems requiring high separation factors and fast throughput, such as in the recovery of value-added products from organic synthesis and isolation of dilute yet highly toxic organic contaminants.

This research is part of their larger J-WAFS funded project, seeking to develop and implement a new strategy for wastewater treatment using electrochemically-modulated separation processes (EMS). These processes would be cost-efficient and easily scalable, relying on very little electrical power or high pressure operations. To learn more about their J-WAFS funded project, click here.

IdeasLab 2015 panel

J-WAFS Videos

John Lienhard delivers convocation address at IIT Ropar

J-WAFS director, Professor John H. Lienhard V, attended the Indian Institute of Technology Ropar’s (IIT Ropar) seventh annual convocation in early December 2018. Professor Lienhard served as chief guest and convocation speaker. In his speech, which touched upon the universal needs of water and food, he noted that through collaborative work, we have built societies that allow us to specialize our interests and create innovations that improves the lives of humankind.

View the speech online...

J-WAFS: Securing Humankind's Vital Resources

The world is struggling to meet society’s current water and food needs, yet this pressure is on track to intensify as we face rising population, rising temperatures, increasing effects of climate change, and increasing urbanization. This short video captures the work that J-WAFS is producing, and the challenges that inspire us as we we fuel new research and innovation and deliver real world solutions that bring us closer to a sustainable future.

View the video online...

J-WAFS director John Lienhard's snapshot of J-WAFS' impact

Following a talk on February 15th at the Universidad de Alcalá (UAH), J-WAFS director John Lienhard spoke with iAgua, a media group in Spain focused on water sector news. This interview provides an introduction to MIT's unique approach to water and food research and J-WAFS' mission to catalyze research in these areas across the Institute to solve the world's most pressing global challenges.

View the interview online...

MIT contributions to food system futures at 2017 EAT Stockholm Food Forum

In a presentation at the 2017 EAT Stockholm Food Forum on June 12th, 2017, J-WAFS director, MIT's Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Food John Lienhard, spoke about how science and technology make contributions that are integral to building sustainable food systems, now and into the future. The speech included examples of J-WAFS funded research and innovation in food and agriculture.  

View the speech online...

J-WAFS executive director Renee Robins shares reflections on the 2016 Water Summit

J-WAFS executive director Renee Robins joined panelists Christopher Gasson, Publisher of Global Water Intelligence (GWI), and Tom Pankratz, Editor of GWI's Water Desalination Report, to share reflections on the 2016 Water Summit, an annual gathering of students and faculty from MIT and the greater Boston area as well as leaders from industry, finance, government, and academia organized by the MIT Water Club to explore current problems and potential solutions surrounding water resources.

View the panel online...

Desalination for Water Supply: Is energy consumption manageable?

MIT's Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab John Lienhard delivered the 2016 John R. Freeman lecture at Northeastern University on April 11th, 2016. In this hour-long lecture, Prof. Lienhard discusses research on the causes of energy inefficiency in various desalination processes and outlines efforts to adapt concepts from thermal engineering to improve the design of thermal and membrane desalination systems.

View the speech online...

Sharing MIT Advancements in Desalination Technologies at the World Economic Forum

Water scarcity is a growing problem across the world. At the 2015 World Economic Forum John Lienhard shares how he, MIT, and other J-WAFS researchers are trying to make to make renewable water supplies energy more efficient and affordable. Mechanical engineers and nanotechnologists are looking at different methods, including solar desalination.

View the speech online...