For the past 18 years, MIT Technology Review has celebrated innovators under 35 who use their unique discoveries to become entrepreneurs, pioneers and humanitarians. This year, for the first time, the list includes more women than men and represents more nations than ever before.
We want to highlight five of our favorites whose work will inspire and inform the cutting-edge products and applications of the future. Let them inspire you on your product development journey.
Shreya Dave – Via Separations
Invented graphene oxide filter medium to save money, increase efficiency and reduce waste
Our modern world relies on many industrial processes to refine, purify, sort and separate the raw materials we use every day. Yet industrial-scale filtration consumes 12% of the total energy production in America. To date, most filtration is done either through boiling or via physical filters made from ceramics or various polymers. These have inherent limitations in pore size and the kinds of environments they can withstand.
Shreya Dave and her team at Via Separations have created a new class of membranes made from graphene oxide. They are robust and inert, scalable, and can be carefully tailored to suit many chemical types. Implementing this solution could potentially save 90% of current energy usage for such processes while providing superior results.
Sheng Xu – UC San Diego
Innovative architecture to link microelectronics in flexible membranes for medical wearables
Medical wearables are poised to become a huge growth industry, but so far there’s been a problem when combining rigid electrical devices with the inherent flexibility of the human body. Flexible circuitry does exist, but its use is limited by a lack of flexible components to go with it.
Sheng Xu, professor of nanoengineering at the University of California in San Diego, created a way to place existing small, discrete components into flexible fluid membranes or bubbles, and then join those bubbles with accordion-style conducting wire. This allows them to move and stretch as needed to fit the body. One such application is being used as a medical-grade monitoring patch called BioStamp, marketed by MC10.
Niki Bayat – AesculaTech
Invented new type of smart materials for medical applications
One of the most promising young scientists in Iran, Ms. Bayat had a formative experience in watching her father go blind from glaucoma. Now a chemical engineer with the University of Southern California, she has created a type of synthetic polymer called a hydrogel that can provide revolutionary emergency care for many types of injuries, but especially eyes.
Her hydrogel is a biocompatible polymer than can be injected directly into an injured eye, where body heat renders it into a semi-solid, sealing the wound. In the future, such hydrogels will be infused with medicines to provide automatic dosages for sustained release over a period of months – no intervention required. Herultimate goal? Curing glaucoma.
Menno Veldhorst – QuTech Laboratories
Applying quantum logic to silicon chip architecture
Quantum computing will offer unimaginable improvements in speed and power, but it’s still enormously difficult to create and stabilize quantum particles, which are impossible to make using old-fashioned silicon.
Or so it was thought. Dr. Menno Veldhorst of Delft University in the Netherlands found a way to encode qbit data onto a conventional silicon transistor and demonstrate quantum effects between silicon devices. This astonishing discovery is not yet a computer in itself, but it provides a fast, cheap and easy way to create quantum components that can be used to build new computers. Intel is making chips based on this principle, while Dr. Veldhorst continues to revolutionize computer architecture at QuTech Laboratories in Delft.
Natalya Bailey – Accion Systems
Ultra-high-efficiency ion propulsion system for CubeSats and other space applications
There are approximately 3,000 satellites orbiting the Earth, most of them CubeSats. Used for a variety of monitoring and experimental purposes, a large part of the expense and complexity of many satellites comes from their drive systems. Traditional chemical rockets require fuel tanks, valves, catalyzers and other mechanical devices along with the toxic, explosive fuel itself, all of which is heavy, dangerous and inefficient.
Natalya Bailey improved upon a concept from the 1950’s, electrospray propulsion. In this system, non-toxic, ionized liquid is injected past an electrified grid where the ions become supercharged and provide thrust. They are small, reliable, scalable, efficient and easy and safe to transport. Her firm, Accion Systems, is working with the U.S. government and private space companies to find new applications for this technology on spacecraft of the future.
What Can You Learn From This?
Membrane filters, quantum computing, flexible electronics and more. These are just some of the innovations that will create new product categories in the very near future. Learn more about the product development journey in our case studies, and find out more about the services we offer for rapid prototyping and low-volume manufacturing.