SoCal Inventors Recognized By Popular Mechanics

A number of Southern California inventors and companies have been recognized today by magazine Popular Mechanics, for their work on what the magazine says are "world changing" innovations. The magazine, which announced its 2010 Breakthrough Rewards today, recognized Armand Tanguay of the University of Southern California, Yu-Chong Tai of the California Insitute of Technology, and Robert J. Greenberg of Sylmar's Second Sight Medical Products, along with other team members for their efforts on developing a digital sight system for the blind; Harry Atwater, Michael Kelzenberg, and Nathan Lewis of Caltech for their ultra-efficient, thin-film solar cells; Aydogan Ozcan, University of California, Los Angeles for the invention of a cell phone microscope; plus Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor for cell phones.

The team behind the artificial retina project, backed by the U.S. Department of Energy, is developing a retinal implant which is designed to restore vision to people who are blind, by linking an external video camera to an array implanted in the eye; that technology is being commercialized by Second Sight, which is based in Sylmar.

The Ultra-Efficient Thin-Film Solar Cells team at Caltech is developing solar cells which solve the problem of current photovoltaic panels, where there is a lot of loss of material due to trimming of silicon wafers. The team at Caltech, lead by Harry Atwater, has developed silicon microwire technology which uses only 1 percent of the silicon as standard PV, while absorbing 90 percent of the light that hits them, which promises to create much more efficient, and cheaper solar cells.

The last university team recognized by Popular Mechanics comes out of UCLA. Aydogan Ozcan developed a device which can create digital holograms of samples, using hacked cellphone software, instead of expensive microscope lenses. The technology is apparently being applied to diagnose diseases such as malaria, screen for parasites, and other uses.