Inside Rensselaer
Lemelson Finalists Named; Winner To Be Announced on March 3
Student innovations in composites manufacturing, graphene-based hydrogen storage, and more efficient LEDs are facing off to claim this year’s Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize.

The winner will be announced during a 3 p.m. ceremony on Wednesday, March 3, in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Auditorium. The event is open to the campus community.

This year’s finalists are:
Casey Hoffman

Casey Hoffman

Casey Hoffman, Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering
“Specialized Elastomeric Tooling for Advanced Thermoset Composites”

With an eye to cutting production costs and driving industrial efficiency, Hoffman has developed an entirely new method for curing advanced composites commonly used in the aerospace and biomedical industries. His patent-pending Specialized Elastometic Tooling (SET) process replaces the need for autoclaves — inefficient machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars — in composites manufacturing.

Hoffman’s SET process involves curing composite laminate by pressing the material between heated, rubber-lined molds. It’s a cheaper, smarter, energy-sipping, and simpler alternative to autoclaves. Advanced composites, which are now almost prohibitively expensive to manufacture, could one day see wider use in more varied applications — including construction vehicles, transportation vehicles, and energy devices — because of Hoffman’s SET process.
Kayvan J. Rafiee

Kayvan J. Rafiee

Kayvan J. Rafiee, Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering
“Graphene — A Revolutionary Material for Hydrogen Storage”
Hydrogen storage has proven to be a significant bottleneck to the advancement and proliferation of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies in vehicles and other applications. Rafiee has developed a new method for manufacturing and using graphene, an atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged like a nanoscale chain-link fence, to store hydrogen.

Rafiee used a combination of mechanical grinding, plasma treatment, and annealing to engineer the atomic structure of graphene to maximize its hydrogen storage capacity. This new graphene has exhibited a hydrogen storage capacity of 14 percent by weight at room temperature — far exceeding any other known material. Rafiee’s new graphene material holds the promise of opening the door to better, more affordable hydrogen-powered cars and trucks.

Jiuru Xu

Jiuru Xu, Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy
“My Inventiveness at Rensselaer — The Cure of the Efficiency Droop”

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) will one day replace common light bulbs and illuminate the world, but this progress continues to be slowed by the “efficiency droop” that plagues most LEDs. Still not fully understood, the droop causes LEDs to lose efficiency as they receive higher electrical currents. Xu, however, has developed a new method for defeating the droop once and for all.

Xu demonstrated a new type of LED, called the polarization-matched LED, for reducing the efficiency droop. Xu’s new LEDs feature a polarization-matched active region, which puts a stop to the electron leakage and reduces the effects of the droop. This work could be a key step toward the wider use of greener, longer-lived LEDs.
The $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize is funded through a partnership with the Lemelson-MIT Program, which has awarded the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize to outstanding student inventors at MIT since 1995. The program recognizes outstanding inventors, encourages sustainable new solutions to real-world problems, and enables and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention. Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife, Dorothy, founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994.

Visit www.rpi.edu/lemelson for more information on this year’s ceremony and finalists.
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Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 3, February 19, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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