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2011 Lemelson-M.I.T. Student Inventor Prizes Offer a Glimpse of the Future in Medical and Security Screening Tech [Slide Show]

Automatic gear shifting for safer and more efficient wheelchairs; a technique for harnessing terahertz spectroscopy; "humanized" lab mice; and cheaper, more accurate malaria testing--meet this year's crop of Lemelson-M.I.T. collegiate student prize winners

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SIGNATURE PLEASE:

"The plasma can be seen and heard as the laser field causes ionization, or breakdown, of the air," Clough says. "My project focuses on encoding terahertz pulses, used to perform material 'fingerprinting,' into the acoustic waves emitted from this laser-plasma." Terahertz waves are important for three reasons: their ability to determine chemical signatures; penetrate optically opaque materials; and safely scan potentially dangerous objects.....[ More ]

UNCHARTED TERRITORY:

This image shows the acoustic dish, which can be used from a distance to collect the acoustic pulses that convey the information from the terahertz electromagnetic pulse. "There are several really interesting things about terahertz that set it apart from other technology," Clough says.....[ More ]

TERAHERTZ DETECTIVE:

As part of his technique, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Benjamin Clough trains two laser beams into the air and creates small bursts of plasma, which in turn create terahertz pulses. A second pair of lasers aimed near the object being examined creates a second plasma filament for detecting the terahertz pulses after they have passed through the object.....[ More ]

ALL WEATHER GEAR:

Daigle is also developing caster skis that clip onto a manual wheelchair's wheels to help them move more easily through snow. Another idea is to create snap-on wheelchair snow chains for better traction in the winter months.....[ More ]

INTELLIGENT WHEELS:

The gearing system and wheels sense the user's movements and intelligently shift gears to adapt to any terrain. Each wheel weighs about 2.27 kilograms and can quick-release from a wheelchair for easy loading into a car.....[ More ]

UPWARDLY MOBILE:

The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign's Scott Daigle is co-creator of the IntelliWheels system, designed to help manual wheelchair users push farther, faster and up steeper hills.....[ More ]

HUMANIZED MOUSE:

Chen created humanized mice with tissue-engineered, humanlike livers that can metabolize compounds to human-specific products and predict toxic drug interactions, among other behaviors. In Chen's model, an artificial human liver is first engineered in vitro by combining human liver cells, supporting cells and a gel solution that solidifies when triggered by light.....[ More ]

ENTREPRENEUR:

Harvard–M.I.T.'s Alice Chen is a co-applicant on five patents and co-author of 14 technical publications or book chapters. She was recognized for her work developing a new way to implant human cells in lab mice to better test the efficacy of new drug candidates.....[ More ]

SMART APP:

Zheng recently received a research grant from Qualcomm to develop the smart-phone application of his on-chip microscope. He expects the app will be released this summer.....[ More ]

MINI MICROSCOPE:

Zheng adapted super-resolution image-processing technology to create an on-chip microscope—a sub-pixel resolving optofluidic microscope (SROFM)—made up of a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) sensor connected via a USB port to a computer loaded with image-enhancing software.....[ More ]

MICROFLUIDICS:

California Institute of Technology's Guoan Zheng has developed a device that uses microfluidics, micrometer-size molded tubing, and interconnects to deliver water or blood samples directly across a CMOS sensor, the same type of sensor found in some cameras and mobile phones.....[ More ]

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