Dr. William A. Peters
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Marlisha McDaniels
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Dr. William A. Peters

William A.
Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies
ISN Executive Director

Bill Peters (BSc, McGill; PhD, MIT; Post-doc, Yale) is an accomplished university research executive. He has been a leader in helping MIT develop, market to external sponsors, and manage: research centers on Health Effects of Fuels Utilization (NIEHS Center); Air Toxics (EPA Center); Chemical Demilitarization (ARO University Research Initiative); and Nanotechnology for Soldier Protection and Survivability (the ISN); and individual research projects in support of clean fuels production, combustion and extractive metallurgy (DOE; foundations; industry; NSF).  His research provides new scientific and engineering understanding of: thermal conversion of biomass, coal, natural gas, and pyrolysis liquids; production of light metals from oxide ores in arc discharge plasmas; thermal decontamination of soils and wastes; and latent heat transfer across nano- and micro-porous barriers.  He has co-authored over 60 refereed publications, 6 issued U.S. patents, and a major textbook on sustainable energy adopted at over 80 colleges and universities in the U.S. and other countries.

For over 25 years, Dr. Peters held increasingly responsible research and research management positions at MIT including Associate Director for Fuels and Environmental Research in the MIT Energy Laboratory. In 2002, MIT appointed Dr. Peters Executive Director (Chief Operating Officer) of a new U.S. Army-funded UARC (University Affiliated Research Center), the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies. The ISN is an on-campus mission-oriented MIT special laboratory focused on helping the Army, other U.S. Military Services and industry enable innovative protection, survivability and other mission capabilities for the Soldier and other U.S. Warfighters, their platforms and systems. Dual use applications to benefit commercial customers are also of great interest.  The ISN’s approach is discovery and preliminary maturation of innovative technologies through on-campus research that can include initial prototyping, followed by transitioning promising outcomes of that research to ISN partners, i.e. the Army, other U.S. Military Services and industrial companies.  Dr. Peters is a member of the senior leadership team responsible for ISN tactical and strategic planning; engaging new faculty; nucleation, scientific and programmatic integration, and marketing of new research initiatives; technology transfer; and external partnering.

Dr. Peters oversees ISN operations in Finance, Administration and Personnel; Outreach and Communications; ISN Research Facilities; an annual Engineering Design/Prototype Building Competition for MIT Students and USMA Cadets; ISN Headquarters; ISN Professional Research Staff; and ISN liaison with the DoD UARC and FFRDC communities, and with MIT Offices for Research Contracting, Corporate Relations, Human Resources, Intellectual Property and Technology Licensing.  Dr. Peters’ intramural service includes The MIT Committee to Evaluate the Innovation Deficit, The MIT DoD Engagement Group, and The MIT.nano Governance Committee.

Dr. Peters’ extramural service includes identification and assessment of S&T for energy, environmental, and U.S. defense needs. He has contributed to war gaming and defense workshops and has briefed numerous civilian and uniformed U.S. defense personnel, e.g. members of the Army Science Board, the Board on Army Science and Technology, the Army Chief of Staff Strategic Studies Group, the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Groups, the Naval Underwater Warfare Center, the Naval Research Advisory Committee: Lightening the Load – Summer Study 2007; the Air Force Research Laboratory Workshop on Readiness and Performance Optimizing the 21st Century Warfighter; the Air Force Research Laboratory NanoScience and Technology Team; and the Chief Scientist of the Air Force. He co-chaired the Long-Range Options and Systems/Operations Task Group of the Naval Studies Board Committee on Shipboard Pollution Control, and served on the Panel on Transform the Institutional Army at the 2000 AUSA Symposium on the Revolution in Military Logistics and Combat Service Support Transformation.

Dr. Peters’ primary research focus is applied thermal sciences to enable new technologies for energy, environmental and U.S. defense solutions.  His interests include:

  • Science and technology discovery, innovation and transitioning to continuously and affordably modernize U.S. defense capabilities; see Joannopoulos and Peters, “Defense Technology”, in M.A. Kastner et al., The Future Postponed Why Declining Investment in Basic Research Threatens a U.S. Innovation Deficit, A Report by the MIT Committee to Evaluate the Innovation Deficit, (2015).
  • Sustainable energy for commercial and U.S. defense applications; see Tester, Drake, Driscoll, Golay, Peters, Sustainable Energy Choosing Among Options, 870 pages, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (2005); Second Edition, 1049 pages, (2012);
  • Noise and length scale (micro, nano) effects on chemical, physical and stability phenomena in dynamic systems, e.g. latent heat transmission and water vapor diffusion across porous barriers; see Traum et al., J. Heat Transfer, 130, 042403-1 to 042403-11, (2008); Nanoscale and Microscale Thermophysical Engineering, 15, 123-131, (2011);
  • Technology to increase electrification of the fuels and thermal process industries, e.g. scalable plasma-thermal process chemistries to produce chemical feedstocks, clean fuels and light metals from biomass, coal, heavy oil, natural gas; see Peters et al., U.S. Patent 7,494,637, (2009);
  • Applied transport, kinetics, and thermodynamics for elevated temperature and complex systems
  • Variance-agnostic, closed-form solutions for continuously distributed activation energy kinetics models