Inside Rensselaer
* Benjamin Clough

Benjamin Clough, “Terahertz Enhanced Acoustics”
Photo by Kris Qua

Sevan Goenezen

Sevan Goenezen, “Breast Cancer Diagnosis with Nonlinear Elasticity Imaging”
Photo by Kris Qua

Tristan Lawry

Tristan Lawry, “A High-Performance System for Wireless Transmission of Power and Data Through Solid Metallic Enclosures”
Photo by Kris Qua

Lemelson Finalists Named; Winner
To Be Announced on March 9

Student innovations in remote terahertz detection, breast cancer diagnosis, and wireless data and power transmission through metallic walls are facing off to claim this year’s Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize.

The winner will be announced during a 7 p.m. ceremony on Wednesday, March 9, in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Auditorium. The event is open to the campus community.

The $30,000 Lemelson-MIT 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 celebrates outstanding innovators 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.

Read more about this year’s finalists:
Benjamin Clough, a student in electrical, computer, and systems engineering, has developed a novel method for eavesdropping on terahertz information hidden in invisible plasma acoustic bursts. The doctoral student has demonstrated a promising technique that employs sound waves to boost the distance from which researchers can use powerful terahertz technology to remotely detect hidden explosives, chemicals, and other dangerous materials.

A key practical limitation of terahertz technology is that it only works over short distances. Naturally occurring moisture in air absorbs terahertz waves, weakening the signal and sensing capabilities. This distance limitation is not ideal for applications in bomb or hazardous material detection, where the human operator wants to be as far away as possible from the potential threat. Clough’s patent-pending solution to this problem is a new method for using sound waves to remotely “listen” to terahertz signals from a distance.

Recent research by mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering doctoral student Sevan Goenezen holds the promise of becoming a powerful new weapon in the fight against breast cancer. His complex computational research has led to a fast, inexpensive new method for using ultrasound and advanced algorithms to differentiate between benign and malignant tumors with a high degree of accuracy.

Early detection is crucial for combating cancer, and beginning at age 40 women are urged to undergo yearly mammograms, which cannot reliably distinguish between benign and malignant tumors. If a tumor is found, a biopsy is required before the physician can make a final diagnosis. Goenezen’s research offers the hope of dramatically reducing the need for invasive, uncomfortable, and stress-inducing biopsies, and perhaps even replacing mammograms. It uses a new technique to analyze images captured with a noninvasive, radiation-free ultrasound device, locate tumors, and determine if the tumor is malignant.

Steel walls are no match for electrical, computer, and systems engineering student Tristan Lawry. The doctoral student has developed and demonstrated an innovative new system that uses ultrasound to simultaneously transmit large quantities of data and power wirelessly through thick metal walls, like the hulls of ships and submarines.

Presently, to install critical safety sensors on the exterior of ships and submarines, the U.S. Navy is forced to drill holes in the hull through which cables for data and power transmission are run. Each hole increases the risk of potentially serious issues, including leaks and structural failure. Additionally, installing these sensors on commissioned vessels requires the use of a drydock or cofferdam, which can take months and cost millions of dollars.

Lawry’s invention solves this problem. His patent-pending system uses ultrasound to easily propagate signals through thick metals and other solids.

Visit for more information on this year’s ceremony and finalists.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 4, March 4, 2011
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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