Developer of Versatile “G-gels” Wins Lemelson-Rensselaer Prize
The 2009 Lemelson-Rensselaer Prize winner Yuehua “Tony” Yu at the celebration with Dorothy Lemelson and President Jackson.
A student at Rensselaer has developed a new method for harnessing the enormous potential of nanoparticles, which could lead to a new generation of medical devices, drug delivery technologies, and other applications.
Yuehua “Tony” Yu, a doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, is the first researcher to create binary guanosine gels, or G-gels, with unique, highly tunable properties. The discovery, which could enable a practical, cost-effective, and scalable method for better exploiting the beneficial properties of many nanoparticles, earned Yu the $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize.
“Future global challenges will demand leaders who are not only skilled scientists and engineers, but also innovators adept at problem solving and out-of-the-box thinking. The Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize recognizes ingenuity and inventiveness, while inspiring students toward excellence,” says President Shirley Ann Jackson. “Yuehua Yu is a shining example of this innovative spirit. A keen thinker and passionate researcher, he enjoys a rich understanding of technology, as well as a sharply focused determination to use his abilities for the betterment of all.”
Yu is the third recipient of the $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize. The prize is awarded annually to a Rensselaer senior or graduate student who has created or improved a product or process, applied a technology in a new way, redesigned a system, or demonstrated remarkable inventiveness.
Breakthroughs in nanotechnology hold the promise of revolutionizing medicine, energy production and storage, water purification, electronics, and a host of other fields. A key challenge for researchers working with nanoparticles is simply getting the nanoscopic materials where they need to go. Using liquid to disperse nanoparticles seems like a natural fit, but most materials have a tendency to aggregate, or clump together, when placed in liquids. Current solutions for properly dispersing nanomaterials in liquid often impact the materials’ properties, cause irreversible damage, or result in concentrations too low to be effective.
To address this problem, Yu investigated guanosine gels, or “G-gels.” Yu was the first researcher to develop a G-gel comprised of more than one guanosine compound. He discovered that some of these new binary G-gels were liquid at low temperature, but formed firm gels when heated to room or body temperature.
In his time at Rensselaer, Yu has filed for two patents related to his G-gel research, co-authored two journal papers, and delivered 10 presentations.