November 25, 2008: The National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation today announced the winners of its 2008 Collegiate Inventors Competition. The award for top graduate student invention went to Paul Podsiadlo of The University of Michigan for his ultrastrong and stiff, optically transparent plastic nanocomposite. Podsiadlo received a $15,000 prize from the competition, which is sponsored by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Abbott Fund, the philanthropic foundation of the global health care company Abbott.
Podsiadlo, 30, was born in a small village in Poland and came to the United States at age 17. After receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemical engineering, he was awarded his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan earlier this year. For his invention, Podsiadlo wanted to create inexpensive, high performance and lightweight materials by using nanotechnology. To create his “plastic steel,” Podsiadlo uses clay nanoparticles that are individually very strong. Then, using a layer-by-layer assembly technique, he is able to achieve a macroscale end product that retains the nanoscale mechanical properties. Podsiadlo looks forward to the broad impact his innovation could have, especially in the military, aviation, medical, and energy sectors, used for anything from body armor to biomedical coatings. His advisor, Nicholas Kotov, receives a $2500 prize.
“This year’s winning inventions and their potential applications are ideal examples of the importance that science and technology play in our society,” said Jeffrey Dollinger, president of Invent Now Inc., a subsidiary of the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation. “The Collegiate Inventors Competition is a testament to the innovative work that college students are performing all across the country.”
Each entry to the competition was judged on the originality of the idea, process, or technology, as well as its potential value and usefulness to society. Twelve finalist teams were announced on October 22, and on November 18 each team presented their inventions to a final panel of nine judges, including seven inductees from the National Inventors Hall of Fame and representatives from the USPTO and Abbott.
“At Abbott our entire business is focused on advancing science, and we know first-hand the importance of inspiring the next generation of innovators,” said Jeff Pan, senior project leader, scientific informatics & automation, from Abbott. “We are excited to see the inventions from the winning students and all the finalists and hope their work will make a lasting impact on improving people’s lives.”
“The winners of this year’s competition are truly impressive,” added USPTO director Jon Dudas. “The ingenuity of their work will help sustain America’s role as the world’s leader in technology and innovation.”