Finalists

Discover Magazine Innovation Awards

By Joseph D'Agnese|Sunday, July 01, 2001


AEROSPACE

Northrop Grumman Corporation engineer Allen Arata created an aircraft wing edge that controls lift, roll, and pitch safely and efficiently with a single, continuous rigid surface rather than multiple surfaces.

Robert Hoyt of Tethers Unlimited designed a tethering system that relies on Earth's magnetic field instead of fuel to boost spacecraft into orbit or to pull dead satellites into the upper atmosphere for a quick burn.

A team led by retired AeroVironment vice president Ray Morgan designed Helios, an unmanned solar-powered aircraft that can remain aloft for months in the stratosphere to monitor pollution and weather and to act as a telecommunications relay.

Leik Myrabo at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute turned science fiction into reality by demonstrating that a light sail could be propelled by photons emitted by a laser in a vacuum, which may lead to rapid interstellar travel.


COMMUNICATIONS

A team led by Jaron Lanier at Advanced Network and Services transformed video conferencing with tele-immersion, a form of virtual reality that allows people in separate cities to communicate as if they were in the same room.

A team of computer scientists led by Wim Sweldens at Lucent Technologies and Peter Schröder at the California Institute of Technology developed a compression algorithm that makes it practical to send 3-D images over the Internet and to work with them on personal computers and handhelds.


ELECTRONICS

At Alien Technology Corporation, Jeffrey Jacobsen's team has developed Fluidic Self-Assembly, a versatile electronic manufacturing technology that can be used to increase efficiency in factories, build cheaper fighter planes, and make cereal boxes that talk.

Chemical engineer Brian Korgel of the University of Texas at Austin used gold clusters to weave silicon nano-wires that will speed up memory chips.

Electrical engineers Joseph Lyding and Mark Hersam of the University of Illinois developed a technique for plucking single hydrogen atoms from a silicon sheet, which may lead to a millionfold increase in the number of transistors that can be packed onto a chip.

At the IBM Research Lab in Zurich, Peter Vettiger's nano-mechanics group invented Millipede, a device that will increase data storage capacity of cell phones and handhelds.


ENTERTAINMENT

At the MIT Media Lab, Bruce Blumberg developed Duncan the Highland Terrier, an autonomous animated dog that can be trained to do tricks on voice command and even herd virtual sheep.

Researcher Hideki Kakeya at Communications Research Laboratory has created the Autostereoscopic Workbench, a virtual reality environment that doesn't require stereoscopic glasses and lets viewers use their hands to interact with virtual objects.


ENVIRONMENT

Jason Caplan, president and chief executive officer of EnSolve Biosystems, and his team invented the PetroLiminator, the first biomechanical oily-water separator approved by the U.S. Coast Guard and the International Maritime Organization. The system uses bacteria to feed on bilgewater, converting it into harmless end products.

PlasmaSol Corporation researcher Erich Kunhardt invented the PLASMASOL Remediation System, employing a nonthermal plasma to drive a process called cold combustion, which neutralizes pollutants in the air, including gas exhaust.

University of Michigan materials science professor Richard Laine devised a green recipe to make silicon-based polymers and ceramics from rice-hull ash, a by-product of white rice production, and recycled antifreeze.

Environmental microbiologist Ann Wilkie at the University of Florida created a dairy farm air freshener— a tank filled with bacteria that feed on cow dung to reduce odor by 90 percent and produce methane to use as an alternative energy source.


HEALTH

David Melvin at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center invented the CardioClasp, which can help restore proper function to a failing heart by reshaping the left ventricle and reducing the need for blood pressure medication.

Washington University chemist Karen L. Wooley created Knedels, synthetic nanometric cagelike polymer structures that mimic viruses and could be developed into a safer delivery system for gene therapy.

MIT's Shuguang Zhang biochemically engineered protein fragments so they self-assemble into nano-fibers to form a scaffold that fosters the growth of mammalian neurons, making it easier to study nerve cell functions.


TRANSPORTATION

Electrical engineer Matthew Barth and colleagues at the University of California at Riverside developed an electric vehicle system that allows 300 people to share 25 cars on campus.

Per Gilbrand designed Saab's Variable Compression engine to lower fuel consumption and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Jin Wang at Argonne National Laboratory used X-ray imaging of fuel sprays and combustion processes inside a car engine to help design cleaner, cheaper engines.


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