Some MIT professors are researching nuclear power plants that can float in the ocean. Others are testing atom-sized solar cells that can coat skyscraper windows or smartphone screens. And still others are looking at how to mix algae with sunlight to make a reliable, clean fuel.
Policy makers, scientists, and many others are banking on technological breakthroughs in the wake of an agreement last month by 195 nations to cut carbon emissions — a landmark effort to slow the rise of global temperatures.
But the Paris climate agreement has no enforcement method.
So researchers at colleges and universities across the country — including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — are looking at a range of ways to combat climate change and to reduce the costs of current energy sources.
“History says we can invent our way out of this, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Robert Armstrong, a professor of chemical engineering who is the director of the MIT Energy Initiative.
For example, Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering who serves as director of the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems at MIT, envisions a future for nuclear power — at sea.
The regulatory challenges may be too great in the United States, where the number of nuclear plants has declined in recent years, but he has been working on building a plant that could be moved around the world, depending on where market conditions were favorable.
His design for a nuclear plant that could be moored at sea, like an oil rig, would cost about one-third less than a conventional plant and take about half the time to build, he said.