Elsa A. Olivetti

Associate Dean of Engineering, Jerry McAfee (1940) Professor in Engineering, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, MacVicar Faculty Fellow

Primary Impact, Materials, Research Type

Contact Info

Office Phone: 617-253-0877
Email: elsao@mit.edu
Office: 8-201
Website/Lab: Olivetti Group


Assistant Name: Cory James
Assistant Email: cwjames@mit.edu
Assistant Phone: 617-253-6681


Professor Elsa Olivetti’s research focuses on improving the environmental and economic sustainability of materials. Specifically, she develops analytical and computational models to provide early-stage information on the cost and environmental impact of materials. Professor Olivetti and her research-group colleagues work toward improving sustainability through increased use of recycled and renewable materials, recycling-friendly material design, and intelligent waste disposition. The Olivetti Group also focuses on understanding the implications of substitution, dematerialization, and waste mining on materials markets. 


Professor Olivetti received a BS in engineering science from the University of Virginia in 2000, and a PhD in materials science and engineering from MIT in 2007. She spent her PhD program studying the electrochemistry of polymer and inorganic materials for electrodes in lithium-ion batteries. In 2014, she joined DMSE as an assistant professor. As an educator, Olivetti overhauled DMSE’s undergraduate curriculum and developed new courses, including one for the MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium Climate Scholars. She’s a member of the MIT Climate Nucleus and co-director of the MIT Climate & Sustainability Consortium.

Key Publications

A priori control of zeolite phase competition and intergrowth with high-throughput simulations

Discovered a better way of custom-designing zeolites, porous minerals that can trap unwanted molecules from gases or liquids.

Zeolites trap molecules—of carbon, for example, or hydrogen—using pores of the exact shape and size as the target. Customizing zeolites involves adding a “templating” molecule, which dictates the exact size and shape of the pores in the final product. Figuring out the template for specific kinds of pores has traditionally involved trial and error, which wastes time and evaluates only a small fraction of viable candidates.

Custom zeolites have a variety of potential uses, including decarbonization. Synthesizing zeolites reliably and cheaply will speed their adoption in such applications.

Awards & Honors

Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching
MacVicar Faculty Fellow
Early Career Faculty Fellowship, The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society
Faculty Early Career Development Award, National Science Foundation