Next-Gen Scientists Honored for Evolving Medicine and Renewables [Slide Show]
Artificial antibodies, 3-D genome imaging, inexpensive prosthetics, a liner for hydrogen-car fuel tanks--winning ideas from the Lemelson-M.I.T. awards for students
Credits: © JONATHAN NABER
UNDER PRESSURE The challenges to making an automobile run on hydrogen are primarily those of hydrogen production, storage, distribution and energy conversion. From a technology perspective, storage is the most difficult of the four, Rafiee says. The fuel cells convert the energy, but the hydrogen they draw has to be stored in an onboard tank. There needs to be a binding energy between any material lining the fuel tank and the hydrogen molecules. Rafiee's process applies a one-atom-thick lining—a sheet of single-walled carbon nanotubes—by releasing powdered graphene inside the tank and using its internal pressure to disburse the nanoparticles and line its interior.
© JAVAD RAFIEE
HELPING HYDROGEN The automotive industry has begun the long and difficult transformation from being completely dependent on gas-burning internal combustion (ICB) engines to offering vehicles that will run on a number of different power sources, including ICB–electric motor hybrids, electric motors exclusively, and hydrogen. Rensselaer Polytech winner Kayvan Rafiee was recognized for developing a lining for hydrogen fuel tanks.
© RENSSELAER POLYTECH/KRIS QUA
HELPING HAND OR HOOK This image provides a closer look at Naber's prototype prosthetic hand attachments. The white hook on the left is a standard prehensile hook. The complex hand (the clear one in the foreground) is one of the original prototypes and an example of a high-tech hand replacement. The yellow hand is a cosmetic attachment; it can be screwed onto the recycled-material arm's soda bottle top–like terminal in place of the more rugged carabineer hook, which is the green hook on the right.
© JONATHAN NABER
NEW IDEA FOR RECYCLING Naber and his team made the transhumeral (from shoulder to elbow) replacement arm
[left] entirely from recycled and commonly available items for around $5. It is designed to act as an interim prosthetic arm for amputees in disaster situations, such as those in Haiti or Chile. The yellow hand attachment is a cosmetic attachment that can be screwed onto the end of the recycled arm's soda bottle top–like terminal in place of the more rugged carabineer hook, which is attached in this picture. The complex hand (the clear one) is one of the original models and an example of a high-tech hand replacement. The white prototype in the back is another prototype arm for a transradial (below the elbow) amputation featuring a standard prehensile hook and an aerated socket into which the residual limb fits. © JONATHAN NABER Advertisement
LOW-COST PROSTHETIC University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign junior Jonathan Naber won the prize for leading a team that developed a prototype arm for a transradial (below-the-elbow) amputation featuring a standard prehensile hook and an aerated socket into which the residual limb fits.
© JONATHAN NABER
GENETIC MAP Scientists see 3-D genome sequencing such as the kind Lieberman-Aiden developed as a major advance in solving the mystery of how the human genome's 3.4-billion-letter DNA chemical code—which if unraveled would be two meters long—fits into a microscopic cell's nucleus.
© LEONID A. MIRNY AND EREZ LIEBERMAN-AIDEN
HI-C 3-D Erez Lieberman-Aiden, a graduate student at the Harvard–M.I.T. Division of Health Science and Technology, has invented (among other things) the "Hi-C" method for three-dimensional genome sequencing. Developed together with University of Massachusetts Medical School postdoctoral student Nynke van Berkum and their advisors Eric Lander and Job Dekker, Hi-C makes it possible to create global, 3-D portraits of whole genomes as they fold.
© LEONID A. MIRNY AND MAXIM IMAKAEV
BIOMEDICINE Agnew's biomedicine work includes using multiparameter diagnostics—such as biomarkers—to define molecular "fingerprints" of a patient’s health status. This approach is designed to provide a higher level of sensitivity and specificity for diagnosing, staging and monitoring treatments over time as well as to predict the onset of future disease. This image portrays the same interaction as the previous image, but drawn a bit differently. Once again, the gray, spherical objects are the target proteins against which the researchers are developing a protein capture agent. The green objects with black dots are the azide-labeled peptides, whereas purple objects with black dots are the acetylene-labeled peptides. The acetylene and azide parts react with each other to form the whole protein capture agent after binding to the target protein. Again, the blue hemispherical background represents the surface of a 90-micron polymeric bead to which the azide-labeled peptides are tethered.
© HEATHER AGNEW Advertisement
PROTEIN CAPTURE AGENTS Lemelson–M.I.T. Caltech Student Prize winner Heather Agnew helped develop synthetic antibodies called "protein capture agents," which can identify, bind to and remove protein biomarkers that are indicators of disease and infection. In this image, the gray, spherical objects are the target proteins against which the researchers are developing a protein capture agent. The purple objects are azide-labeled peptides representing half of the structure of the resulting agent. The other half are the gold acetylene-labeled peptides. The acetylene and azide parts react with each other to form the whole protein capture agent after binding to the target protein. The blue hemispherical background represents the surface of a 90-micron polymeric bead to which the azide-labeled peptides are tethered.
© HEATHER AGNEW Advertisement