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

William A. (Bill) Peters (BSc, McGill; PhD, MIT; Post-doc, Yale) is an accomplished university research executive. He has been a leader in helping MIT develop, successfully market to external sponsors, and manage: research centers or other multi-PI research initiatives 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, an Army UARC); as well as 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 from biomass and coal; production of light metals from oxide ores in arc discharge plasmas; decontamination of hazardous substances including soils; 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 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.  Reporting to the MIT Vice President for Research, the ISN is an on-campus, MIT special laboratory focused on working with the Army, other U.S. Military Services and industry to enable innovative protection, survivability and other capabilities for the Soldier and other U.S. Warfighters, their platforms, and systems through fundamental S&T research and transitioning.

The ISN’s approach is discovery and preliminary maturation of innovative science and technology through fundamental research, followed by transitioning promising outcomes of that research to the Army, other U.S. Military Services, industrial companies and MIT Lincoln Laboratory. Dr. Peters is a member of the senior leadership team responsible for ISN strategic planning; engaging new faculty and research staff; development of new, externally-funded research initiatives; technology transfer; and external partnering.

Dr. Peters oversees ISN operations in Finance, Administration and Personnel; Outreach and Communications; ISN Research Facilities; ISN Professional Research Staff; and ISN liaison with the DoD FFRDC and UARC 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.  His external professional activities and service include identification, assessment and communication of S&T for energy, environmental, and U.S. defense applications.

Dr. Peters has contributed to war gaming and defense workshops and briefed numerous civilian and uniformed U.S. defense personnel and advisors, 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 Air Force Research Laboratory Workshop on Readiness and Performance Optimizing the 21st Century Warfighter; the Air Force Research Laboratory NanoScience and Technology Team, the Air Force Chief Scientist, and the Secretary of the Air Force. He 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 and co-chaired the Long-Range Options and Systems/Operations Task Group of the Naval Studies Board Committee on Shipboard Pollution Control.

Dr. Peters has two major research interests: (1) applied thermal sciences to enable new energy, environmental, and U.S. national security capabilities; and (2) pathways for timely discovery, innovation and transitioning of S&T to support perpetual and affordable U.S. defense modernization within and across all domains.  Examples are:

  • The importance of S&T basic research to U.S. defense modernization; 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 transport 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, thermal process, and metals extraction industries, e.g., scalable thermal-plasma processes to produce chemical feedstocks, clean fuels, and/or metals from biomass, coal, heavy oil, natural gas, ores; see Peters et al.U.S. Patent 7,494,637(2009);
  • Chemical and physical rate phenomena in condensed phase substrates under thermal duress;
  • Variance-agnostic, closed-form solutions for continuous distribution of activation energies kinetics models.