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Meanwhile, Paul Morrow, who received his doctorate in physics, is responsible for innovations that could vastly improve magnetic data storage and sense extremely low-level magnetic fields in everything from ink on counterfeit currency to tissue in the human brain and heart. He first developed a new nanomaterial that consists of alternating layers of magnetic cobalt and non-magnetic copper. The three-dimensional arrangement creates a material that exhibits promising magnetic properties for data storage and magnetic field sensing at room temperature. Similar technology is currently in use in hard drives around the world, but they use a two-dimensional film design for the layers.

“A disk with increased data storage density would reduce the size, cost, and power consumption of any electronic device that uses a magnetic hard drive,” Morrow says. This same concept can be applied to other areas where magnetic sensors are used, such as industrial or medical applications.

Morrow also has developed a microscopic technique to measure the minute magnetic properties of his nanocolumns. No such method had existed that was fine-tuned enough to sense the magnetic properties of one or even a small number of freestanding nanostructures. “To date it has been extremely difficult to get an instrument to detect magnetic properties on such a small scale,” Morrow says.

Rensselaer innovators come from all disciplines. Inventions from Lally School graduate Chris Keenan and design, innovation, and society major Sarah DiNovo already are benefiting users.

Keenan devised his idea—a Web site titled CourseNotes.Org that helps students prepare for AP exams—as a 15-year-old high school student struggling to find online resources to aid in studying for his own exams. He created the Web site six years ago with one subject offering in U.S. history and it became an instant hit with his high school classmates and friends at Chicago’s Northside Prep.

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“In its first year of operation, the site reached the top 10 for any relevant search engine queries, received more than 6 million page views per month, and generated feedback from students all over the country,” says Keenan. Today, the site offers resources for 15 high school subjects, and Keenan says it has achieved successful “brand recognition” leading to more than $65,000 in advertising revenue.

Fellow graduate DiNovo, meanwhile, developed SmartBadge, a next-generation law enforcement badge that incorporates the bulky safety features that officers typically carry on their bodies and in their cars into a high-tech wearable network. The patent-pending device combines a camera, a global positioning system, a Bluetooth chip, and a police radio into a single unit. Coupled with facial recognition technology and a software interface that allows officers to scan driver’s licenses, the device is capable of facilitating an instant exchange of imagery and information between police officers and law enforcement databases.

“The closest products to our device are scanners and computers designed specifically for patrol cars, but they aren’t accessible to officers on foot or on bike,” says DiNovo. “The SmartBadge places everything officers need to do their job as safely and securely as possible directly on their bodies.”

DiNovo and business partner Louis Martinelli—who also graduated this year with a dual major in design, innovation, and society and mechanical engineering—are currently working with the Albany, N.Y., police department to optimize communication between SmartBadge and existing police station dispatcher systems. DiNovo envisions a range of additional applications, including firefighters, emergency medical service providers, and airport security officials.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.