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Energy Night is electric

On the evening of October 10, students, locals, and faculty lined up outside the MIT Museum, where they had time to admire a solar-powered car and another that runs on hydrogen. When the doors opened, the crowd flooded into the building to examine the displays tucked into every available corner by more than 40 MIT research groups and related startups. The fourth annual Energy Night had begun.

A cluster of people–plates of gourmet pizza and cups in hand–gathered around graduate student Chris Kempes, one of the leaders of the Generator, a student-­run group that encourages energy-related projects. As live jazz floated in the background, Kempes explained the purpose of the group: to gather members of the MIT community once a semester to share ideas for making the campus more sustainable. About 150 people attend the meetings, and Kempes says the effort has proved so successful that companies now contact the Generator, and the groups it brings together, to exchange ideas about new technologies.

Nearby, Jeremy Johnson, PhD ‘06, held forth on his company, Agrivida, which genetically modifies crops to produce enzymes that make them more biodegradable. Activated after food harvesting, the enzymes help break down the leaves and waste into sugar for use in biofuel. “The connection to MIT has been very valuable, and we want to give back and take advantage of the networking here,” said Johnson.

Unsurprisingly, Joshua E. Siegel ‘11 and graduate student Irene Berry, the presidents of the Electric Vehicle Team, drew one of the larger crowds. They were there to explain their contribution to environmentally friendly engineering: the transformation of a donated 1976 Porsche 914 into an electric vehicle.

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