Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering Seminar


Engineering Global Development: Using Emerging Markets' Constraints to Drive the Innovation of High-Performance, Low-Cost, Global Technologies


Dr. Amos Winter


Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Monday, November 13, 2017 at 11:00:00 AM


MRDC Building, Room 4211


Dr. Kate Fu
(404) 385-3810


This presentation will demonstrate how the Global Engineering and Research (GEAR) Lab at MIT characterizes the unique technical and socioeconomic constraints of emerging markets, then uses these insights with engineering science and product design to create high-performance, low-cost, globally-relevant technologies. The talk will focus on three areas of GEAR Lab's research: high-performance, low-cost prosthetic feet; low-pressure, low-power drip irrigation, and solar-powered desalination. We have created a novel method of connecting the mechanical design of a foot to its biomechanical performance, which allows the stiffness and geometry to be optimized to induce able-bodied walking kinematics and kinetics. This theory has resulted in a single-part foot architecture that can be made of nylon to hit a $10 price point for developing countries, and which will be ruggedized and customizable for the US military/veteran population. By characterizing the coupled fluid/solid mechanics within drip irrigation emitters, we have designed new drippers that operate at 1/7th the pressure of existing products. This technology can cut the overall pressure, pumping power, and energy usage of drip irrigation systems by approximately 50%, and lower the capital cost of off-grid systems by up to 40%. GEAR Lab elucidated a disruptive market opportunity in arid countries for photovoltaic-powered electrodialysis (PV-ED) desalination, which requires half the energy and reduces water wastage from 60% to <10% compared to reverse osmosis. These market insights have led to new ED architectures, which substantially reduce capital cost, as well as co-optimized PV and ED systems that are 40% less expensive than current technology. The three projects that will be presented demonstrate how rigorous engineering theory combined with insights on emerging market constraints can yield high-value solutions relevant to poor and rich countries alike.


Dr. Amos Winter is the Ratan N. Tata Career Development Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. His research focuses on machine and product design for developing and emerging markets. Prof. Winter earned a BS from Tufts University (2003) and an MS (2005) and PhD (2011) from MIT, all in mechanical engineering. He received the 2010 Tufts University Young Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award, the 2012 ASME/Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal, was named one of the MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 (TR35) for 2013, and received the MIT Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award and an NSF CAREER award in 2017. Prof. Winter is also the principal inventor of the Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC) developing world wheelchair, which was a winner of a 2010 R&D 100 award, was named one of the Wall Street Journal's top innovations in 2011, received a Patents for Humanity award from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2015, and was the subject of 'Engineering Reverse Innovations', winner of the 2015 McKinsey Award for the best article of the year in Harvard Business Review.