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August 29th, 2007
Interview: Technology in a bottle
What are your current research interests?
We work in the area of molecular electronics - making perfect electronic circuits that are macromolecular in dimension. In addition, we can make superconductors and thermoelectrics. A thermoelectric converts a temperature difference into a voltage - like an engine with no moving parts or it does the reverse and acts as a coolant. It turns out that solid-state thermoelectrics have limited uses because they aren't very efficient. If you could make them efficient then the rewards are amazing. We have made materials from oxygen and silicon that are close to the world record for thermoelectrics. These could be used in energy recovery systems in computer chips so wasted energy could be recycled.
I also work with cancer. Our goal is to translate molecular network models of cancer that describe how the disease evolves into tools that can be used in the clinic. We want to be able to do 1000 measurements from a finger prick of blood and at a fraction of a penny per measurement. We have made devices that are used by clinicians but it will be a similar advance as for computer chips. Right now, we can take a finger prick of blood and in a few minutes we do about 20 measurements and we ought to be able to do 40 next year. Our devices have no moving parts, they are made of just glass and plastic, because we want them to be practically free.
These two projects aim to tackle at least pieces of major global problems - energy and world healthcare.
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