Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

150 Thayer Gifts to the World: Part 1

150 inventions, companies, books, and innovations by faculty, students, and alumni over the last 150 years

Compiled by Lee Michaelides and Kimberly Swick Slover

NOS. 1–13: Faculty Inventions

NO. 1: Human Glycosylation of Yeast

Human Glycosylation of Yeast
Photograph courtesy of Tillman Gerngross.

Professor Tillman Gerngross achieved a biomedical feat that most experts said couldn’t be done: engineering yeast to produce fully human proteins. The ability to humanize the sugar structures—or glycosylation—of the yeast Pichia pastoris not only increases the capacity to produce therapeutic proteins, but also allows for precise control of protein structures, making drug production far more efficacious.

NO. 2: Center for Surgical Innovation

Center for Surgical Innovation
Photograph by Warren Jagger.

The nation’s first surgical facility dedicated to translational research, the Center for Surgical Innovation (CSI), located at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, features two operating rooms that share MRI and CT scanners for intraoperative imaging and have space for multiple researchers and equipment. Keith Paulsen Th’84 ’86, Thayer’s Robert A. Pritzker Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Dr. Sohail Mirza, chair of Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Department of Orthopaedics, codirect the CSI.

NO. 3: Miniature Medical Systems
Professor John Zhang is developing miniature medical systems to improve global health through innovations in bio-inspired nanomaterials, lab-on-chip design, advanced nanofabrication technologies for probing complex biological networks critical to human development and disease, and multi-scale modeling of the underlining fundamental force, flow, and energy processes. He received the Wallace Coulter Foundation Early Career Award for developing handheld microphotonic imaging scanners and microsystems for early oral cancer detection.

NO. 4: Frameless Stereotactic Operating Microscope

Frameless Stereotactic Operating Microscope
Photograph courtesy of Thayer School Archives.

Ever since early humans drilled holes into patients’ heads in Paleolithic neurosurgery, doctors have longed for a way to navigate the brain and pinpoint lesions. In the 1970s computerized tomography (CT) produced amazing two-dimensional images of the brain, but the only way to use the scans as navigational guides during surgery was via a cumbersome metal frame that ringed the patient’s head, got in the surgeon’s way, and had to be screwed directly into the skull. In the early 1980s Dartmouth-Hitchcock neurosurgeon David Roberts DMS’75 and Thayer Professor John Strohbehn created an instrument to map CT data onto the visual field of a microscope to produce a precise three-dimensional (aka stereotactic) view of the brain. They tested their prototype in the operating room in 1983 and patented the invention three years later. The frameless stereotactic operating microscope was a hit. Not only was it more comfortable for the patient, it was the beginning of image-guided surgery.

NO. 5: Advancing Medical Imaging
Thayer researchers led by Professors Keith Paulsen Th’84 ’86 and Brian Pogue are developing new imaging technologies to model breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, brain glioblastoma multiforme, soft tissue sarcoma, and certain types of bone cancer. They are also using non-invasive photo-activated drugs to target tumors and using imaging techniques to assess radiation dosage and efficacy.

NO. 6 Microwave Thermokeratoplasty
Professor Stuart Trembly developed a less invasive alternative to laser eye surgery: reshaping corneas with microwave thermokeratoplasty (MTK). Microwave energy, applied around the pupil outside the field of vision, causes collagen fibers in the cornea to shrink, flattening the optical surface in the center of the eye. The procedure is fast, requires no cutting, and uses less expensive equipment than laser surgery. Trembly advanced MTK therapy with two patented devices. One is an improved applicator with embedded sensors to measure temperature or mechanical strain of the cornea during the procedure; the other is a feedback system that analyzes the signals to determine when the myopia is corrected.

NO. 7: Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump

Intra-Aortic Pump
Photograph by Ralph Morse/Time Life Pictures.

Professor Arthur Kantrowitz and his brother, Adrian Kantrowitz, MD, spent a lifetime inventing medical devices. As kids they built an electrocardiograph machine out of old radio parts. As adults they paved the way for open-heart surgery with their early version of a heart-lung machine. They developed a left ventricular assist device, introduced electrical stimulation of paralyzed muscles, pioneered the implantable pacemaker, and invented the intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP), a small balloon that fits in the aorta and counter-pulsates with the heart. The IABP is credited with saving hundreds of thousands of lives. The device was used on Arthur himself in 2008 to ease the effects of heart failure during his final hours.

NO. 8: Breathprints

Photograph courtesy of the Jane Hill Lab.

Professor Jane Hill’s use of breathprints—exhaled breath—to reveal what’s happening inside a person’s lungs could revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic respiratory diseases, such as tuberculosis and chronic infections that affect people with cystic fibrosis. “The end goal is a point-of-care device that can collect the breath sample from the patient and rapidly generate a diagnosis,” says Hill.

NO. 9: Better Replacement Joints

Bone Joint
Photograph by Douglas Fraser.

John Collier ’72 Th’73 ’75 ’77, the Myron Tribus Professor of Engineering Innovation, cofounded the Dartmouth Biomedical Engineering Center (DBEC) in 1971 with Dr. Michael Mayor, emeritus professor of orthopedic surgery and adjunct professor of engineering, to learn how and why replacement joints fail. Since then DBEC has analyzed more than 15,000 artificial joints retrieved from patients and cadavers. Collier and Mayor pioneered the use of porous-coated metal instead of bone cement in joint replacements. Today DBEC, under the direction of Professor Douglas Van Citters ’99 Th’03 ’06, is working to further improve artificial joints with new materials and device designs.

NO. 10: Guiding Light for Cancer Surgeons

Cancer Tissue
Image courtesy of Keith Paulsen.

A Dartmouth team, including Keith Paulsen Th’84 ’86, Robert A. Pritzker Professor of Biomedical Engineering, is testing the fluorescent agent ABY-029 as a surgical guide. Binding to cancer cells, ABY-029 emits fluorescent light. Up to a dozen patients with recurrent glioma, a type of tumor that starts in the brain or spine, will undergo surgery at the Center for Surgical Innovation, codirected by Paulsen. “Our approach will dramatically accelerate the paradigm shift towards molecularly guided surgical oncology,” he says.

NO. 11: Heating Up Concentrated Solar Power
Professor Jifeng Liu’s group is developing an antioxidation coating for concentrated solar power (CSP) systems. The coating is stable at 750°C in air and converts solar power to heat at greater than 90-percent efficiency. Since their solar-heated working fluid—such as molten salt—can be stored and kept at high temperature for more than 10 hours, CSP systems offer an attractive solution to intermittency issues of solar energy, helping to bridge time gaps between peak solar energy production and peak energy usage. Liu is working with Norwich Technologies, co-led by Troy McBride Th’01, to push the thermal stability and scale up coating techniques. The team has a U.S. patent, has a second application pending, and has received support from the Department of Energy’s Sunshot Program.

NO. 12: Clean Radio Waves from Outer Space
While he was a professor at Thayer, Timothy Hankins ’62 Th’67 designed the signal processor installed in 1988 on the large radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. To study radiowave pulses from millisecond pulsars, wave distortion occurring during the 300-light-year journey to Earth had to be corrected. The processor did that and also helped measure subtle changes in the shape of the Earth. Hankins went on to work at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and teach astrophysics at New Mexico Tech.

NO. 13: The Amulet
“A fashionable, wearable, body-area network that essentially serves as a health management hub that collects data from various health monitors,” is how Forbes described the Amulet. The electronic bracelet/software device was invented by a team including Thayer Professor Ryan Halter Th’06, Dartmouth computer science Professor David Kotz ’86 and Clemson University colleagues. The Amulet can communicate with other health and fitness devices and send data to a wearer’s medical team or first responders.

NOS. 14–41: Companies Founded by Thayer Faculty

NO. 14: Adimab
Founders: Professor Tillman Gerngross, Dane Wittrup, Errik Anderson ’00 Th’06 Tu’07
What it does: Discovers antibody drugs using proprietary yeast-based technology

NO. 15: Arsanis
Founders: Professor Tillman Gerngross, Eszter Nagy, Errik Anderson ’00 Th’06 Tu’07
What it does: Discovers and develops monoclonal antibodies for infectious diseases

NO. 16: Avedro
Founder: Stuart Trembly Th’83
What it does: Develops and commercializes technology for correcting vision disorders

NO. 17: Avitide
Founders: Professor Tillman Gerngross, Kevin Isett Th’11, Warren Kett, Jonathan Sheller ’09
What it does: Purifies antibodies, vaccines, and other proteins for therapeutic purposes

NO. 18: Alector
Founders: Professor Tillman Gerngross, Arnon Rosenthal, Asa Abeliovich
What it does: Develops novel antibody-based treatments for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases

NO. 19: CairnSurgical
Founders: Professor Keith Paulsen Th’84 ’86, Rick Barth MD, Venkat Krishnaswamy
What it does: Developing “Breast Cancer Locator” for use in surgery

NO. 20: Clarisond
Founders: Professor Laura Ray, Chris Pearson Th’02, Caroline Cannon
What it does: Signal processing to improve medical ultrasound imaging

NO. 21: Creare
Founder: Professor Robert Dean Jr.
What it does: Engineering R&D that has produced 10 spin-off ventures

NO. 22: DoseOptics
Founders: Professors Scott Davis Th’08 and Brian Pogue
What it does: Develops cameras that image the radiation dose as it hits tissue during cancer treatment

NO. 23: Enchi
Founders: Professor Lee Lynd Th’84 ’87, Bill Bradley
What it does: Produces biofuel using thermophilic bacteria

NO. 24: FlowTraq
Founders: Professor George Cybenko, former Thayer lecturer Vincent Berk
What it does: Analyzes network data to identify and address threats and breaches

NO. 25: Gigajot Technology
Founders: Professor Eric Fossum, Saleh Masoodian Th’17, Jiaju Ma Th’17
What it does: Developing the Quantum Image Sensor for high-speed single-photon detection, opening new realms of image capture

NO. 26: GlycoFi (sold to Merck in 2006)
Founders: Professors Tillman Gerngross and Charles Hutchinson ’68A
What it does: engineers yeast to make fully human glycoproteins with defined glycosylation structures

NO. 27: Ice Engineering
Founder: Professor Victor Petrenko
What it does: Develops pulse electrothermal de-icing technologies for use on bridges, power lines, and other frozen surfaces

NO. 28: Imaging System Technologies
Founders: Professors Paul Meaney Th’95 and Keith Paulsen Th’84 ’86
What it does: Develops noninvasive breast cancer imaging system

NO. 29: Lodestone Biomedical
Founders: Professor Solomon Diamond ’97 Th’98, Lidia Valdés ’14 Th’15, Brad Ficko
What it does: Developing Iron-Wand, a non-invasive device for diagnosing iron deficiency in children

NO. 30: Mascoma Corp. (sold in 2014)
Founders: Professor Lee Lynd Th’84 ’87, former professor Charles Wyman, Bob Johnsen
What it does: Produces biofuels using recombinant yeast

NO. 31: Microwave Sound Innovations (acquired by Gentex Inc. in 2014)
Founders: Professors Laura Ray and Robert Collier, Christopher Pearson Tu’02
What it did: Developed noise-cancelling headsets

NO. 32: NanoComp Technologies
Founder: Professor Robert Dean Jr.
What it does: Produces advanced carbon-nanotube materials

NO. 33: NanoLite Systems
Founders: Professor John Zhang, Ting Shen
What it does: Performs point-of-care diagnostics through blood tests

NO. 34: Omeo Diagnostics
Founder: Professor Jane Hill
What it does: Developing diagnostics for infectious diseases

NO. 35: PatientRules
Founders: Professor Vikrant Vaze, Sujana Chalasani
What it does: Facilitates demand and capacity matching in health system operations

NO. 36: QVSense (acquired by Solar Semiconductor)
Cofounder: Professor Jason Stauth Th’00
What it did: Developed integrated and distributed circuit architectures for power management

NO. 37: RyTek Medical
Founder: Professor Ryan Halter Th’06
What it does: Developing bioimpedance sensing technologies coupled to surgical tools for enhanced guidance during surgery

NO. 38: Simbex
Founders: Professors Robert Dean Jr. and Richard Greenwald Th’88
What it does: Bio-inspired devices for injury prevention and rehab

NO. 39: Stealth Biologics
Founders: Professor Karl Griswold, computer science Professor Chris Bailey-Kellogg
What it does: Re-engineers therapeutic proteins to evade the human immune system

NO. 40: SustainX (merged with General Compression Inc. in 2015)
Founders: Professor Charles Hutchinson ’68A, Dax Kepshire Th’06 ’09, Ben Bollinger ’04 Th’04 ’08, Troy McBride Th’01
What it did: Isothermal energy storage

41: Synticos
Founders: Professor Robert Dean Jr., Erik Johnson ’06 Th’11
What it does: Developing abrasive slurry jet cutters

NOS. 42–51: Faculty Inventions

NO. 42: Understanding Airline Delays
Professor Vikrant Vaze studies the causes of flight delays, analyzing a complicated network in which even minor delays can cause a ripple effect of missed connections and further delays. Among his finding: Mondays and Saturdays have the fewest delays. June is the worst month for delays.

NO. 43: Synclavier

The brainchild of Thayer Professor Sydney Alonso, student programmer Cameron Jones ’75 Th’77 and music Professor Jon Appleton, what began as a research project at the Thayer School became the world’s first digital synthesizer. Pioneering digital sampling, hard-disk recording, and professional sound editing, the Synclavier rapidly became the Rolls Royce of the music industry. Despite a starting price of $75,000 and topping out at $500,000, the Synclavier was the instrument of choice for Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, Sting, and Michael Jackson. Synclavier engineers developed a guitar interface with jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. Pianist Oscar Peterson’s wish for better response led to a touch-sensitive keyboard. Lucasfilm’s interest in the sound editor function resulted in software that made post-production editing as easy as music recording. “Being able to hear instantly what you’ve just composed is very seductive,’’ Zappa, told The New York Times in 1988 after he composed his Grammy Award-winning album Jazz From Hell on a Synclavier. At the onset, the Synclavier had the market to itself. But other people developed more compact and less expensive alternatives, and in 1993 New England Digital, the startup founded by Alonso and Jones ended production. But that isn’t the end of the story. The Synclavier now lives virtually. A company called Arturia partnered with Jones to reboot the Synclavier as a $200 app. “We even used part of the original code,” says a company press release. “It doesn’t get more authentic than that.”

NO. 44: Plasma Torch

Plasma torch
Photograph courtesy of Dartmouth College Archives.

Half a century ago Thayer Professor James Browning ’44 was nicknamed Hanover’s firebug for his study of flame stability and combustion. In the 1950s he created a plasma torch that produced flames twice as hot as the sun’s surface. Passing nitrogen or hydrogen through a high-intensity electric arc, the torch cut metal like butter. Browning and Thayer colleague Merle Thorpe founded Thermal Dynamics Corp. to manufacture the device. Within three years the start-up had sales of $1 million. A decade later, Thayer Professor Robert Dean Jr. and Richard Couch ’64 Th’65 formed Hypertherm Inc. to produce a water-injection plasma torch that was nine times hotter than the sun. Today the employee-owned company has employees in 25 countries.

NO. 45: Finding Unexploded Ordnance
For electromagnetic sensing technology that could help rid battle sites of unexploded ordnance (UXO), Professor Fridon Shubitidze received a Project-of-the-Year award in 2011 from the Department of Defense. UXO is an enormous problem worldwide. In this country, approximately 11,000,000 acres of land hold a potential UXO hazard. Near Verdun, France, an estimated 12 million unexploded shells remain in the ground, many in degraded condition and full of toxic materials. “Our approach has consistently performed better than that of other teams during live-site studies where we were the only group to correctly identify all UXO items,” said Shubitidze. “That success is due to the advanced forward models developed at Dartmouth over the last ten years which fully take into account the underlying physics of low-frequency electromagnetic sensing phenomena and are able to utilize all information provided by the sensors.”

NO. 46: Whistlers
In the early 1950s Professor Millett Morgan established a research program to use the newly discovered phenomena of naturally occurring audio-frequency radio waves produced by lightning and the aurora as a tool to study the properties of space plasma in the vicinity of Earth, a region now known as the upper ionosphere and the magnetosphere. These studies made it possible to gain insights about the properties of this region of near-Earth space in the years before spacecraft began to make direct observations. Morgan recorded the naturally occurring signals, referred to by descriptive names such as “whistlers” and “dawn chorus,” at a network of receiving stations and interpreted them to obtain some of the earliest measurements of the density of free electrons many thousands of kilometers above Earth. His work provided experimental foundations for early studies of how Earth and its magnetic field interact with the solar wind.

NO. 47: Understanding Supercooled Liquids
Professor George Colligan and research engineer Victor Surprenant studied the supercooling of liquids to temperatures below their equilibrium melting point. As Erland Schulson, Thayer’s George Austin Colligan Distinguished Professor explains: Highly supercooled liquids possess such a high thermodynamic driving force for solidification that the process occurs too rapidly for the microstructure of the solid that forms to coarsen. The result is a material with extremely tiny grains with very high strength. Colligan and Surprenant had to apply novel methods of observation, including high-speed photography and heat detection. Their studies of supercooled nickel, cobalt, iron and other metals  showed that the liquid-to-solid growth velocity increased with the degree of supercooling, scaling with the square of the suppression of the freezing temperature—helping to confirm theory. Previously, Colligan developed a cobalt alloy that a former student, Professor John Collier ’72 Th’73 ’75 ’77, uses in orthopedic implants.

NO. 48: Advances in Power Electronics
Professors Charles Sullivan and Jason Stauth Th’00 are brightening the future of solar energy by improving power electronics. “Power electronics is the glue that holds together all the different parts of an energy system,” says Sullivan. “It’s what interfaces between the solar panel and the grid, between the grid and the device that uses energy.” Sullivan works on the inverters that convert DC to AC and drive power to and from the grid. “We want to make inverters as efficient as possible so that we don’t lose energy during that conversion process,” he says. Stauth develops solutions to the problem of current mismatch in strings of solar cells. A cofounder of the company QVSense (acquired by Solar Semiconductor), Stauth has developed a device that lets all the strings of cells operate independently.

NO. 49: New Math for a Smarter Grid
Professor Amro Farid, an expert on intelligent energy systems and the head of the Laboratory for Intelligent Integrated Networks Engineering Systems at Thayer, along with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the United Arab Emirates’ Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, have developed critical new formulas for the smooth integration of renewable energy into the electric grid. These formulas—useful to the energy industry and public policymakers—tell exactly how much reserve capacity the power grid should have.

NO. 50: Breakthrough Image Sensors

Breakthrough Image Sensors
Photograph by John Sherman.

Professor Eric Fossum invented the revolutionary complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) active pixel image sensor that is in virtually every digital image system from cell phones to movie cameras—while working for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory long before he joined the Thayer faculty. Dubbed the “Father of the Selfie,” Fossum has been honored with the world’s largest engineering award, the Queen Elizabeth Prize. But he isn’t resting on those mighty laurels. He is working on the next generation of image sensors: the Quanta Image Sensor, which is poised to revolutionize imaging in extreme low-light conditions.

NO. 51: Proving the Worth of the Modern Septic Tank

Hanover, New Hampshire's first reservoir
As a founding member of the Hanover Water Works, established in 1892, Professor Robert Fletcher oversaw construction of the town's first reservoir. Photograph courtesy of Dartmouth College Archives. 

Professor Robert Fletcher, Thayer dean from 1871 to 1918, conducted a series of experiments using vegetables, bread, and bodies of dead animals to prove the value of a septic tank over other less sanitary methods of sewerage disposal. Except for bones, everything he put in the tank decomposed. “This process would not go on in a stagnant cesspool, only in one allowing a free flow of liquid from the inset end to the outlet. This was proven by trial. It always develops heat, and some of the gases formed (marsh olefiant and olefiant gases) are very inflammable, so that on applying a lighted match close to the scum, when that is disturbed, a blue flame appears,” Fletcher wrote in a 1915 paper. The research was lauded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

NOS. 52–82: Books by Thayer Faculty

Photograph courtesy of iStock.

NO. 52: Antibody Fc: Linking Adaptive and Innate Immunity
By Professor Margaret Ackerman and Falk Nimmerjahn (Academic Press, 2013)

NO. 53: Platform Revolution
By Professor Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary (W.W. Norton & Company, 2016)

NO. 54: Operations Management for Dummies
By Professor Geoffrey Parker, Mary Ann Anderson, and Edward Anderson (Wiley, 2013)

NO. 55: The Neurolab Spacelab Mission: Neuroscience Research in Space
Edited by Adjunct Professor Jay Buckey Jr. and Jerry Homick (Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, 2003)

NO. 56: Space Physiology
By Adjunct Professor Jay Buckey Jr. (Oxford University Press, 2006)

NO. 57: Optimization
By Professor Al Converse (Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc., 1970)

NO. 58: Introduction to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
By Professor Benoit Cushman-Roisin (Prentice Hall, 1994)

NO. 59: Physical Oceanography of the Adriatic Sea: Past, Present, and Future
Edited by Professor Benoit Cushman-Roisin et al. (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001)

NO. 60: Introduction to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics: Physical and Numerical Aspects
By Professor Benoit Cushman-Roisin and Jean-Marie Beckers (Academic Press, 2011)

NO. 61: Mixed Models: Theory and Applications with R, 2nd Edition
By Adjunct Professor Eugene Demidenko (Wiley, 2013)

NO. 62: Axiomatic Design in Large Systems
Edited by Professor Amro Farid and Nam Suh (Springer, 2016)

NO. 63: Deformation-Mechanism Maps: The Plasticity and Creep of Metals and Ceramics
By Professor Harold Frost and Michael Ashby (Pergamon Press, 1982)

NO. 64: This Business of Television: The Standard Guide to the Television Industry
By Adjunct Professor Oliver Goodenough and Howard Blumenthal (Billboard Books, 2006)

NO. 65: Law and the Brain
Edited by Adjunct Professor Oliver Goodenough and Semir Zeki (Oxford University Press, 2006)

NO. 66: Law, Mind and Brain
Edited by Adjunct Professor Oliver Goodenough and Michael Freeman (Ashgate, 2009)

NO. 67: Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence
By Adjunct Professor Richard Granger and Gary Lynch (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)

NO. 68: Fourier Transforms: Principles and Applications
By Professor Eric Hansen (Wiley, 2014)

NO. 69: Long Shot: Vaccines for National Defense
By Adjunct Professor Kendall Hoyt (Harvard University Press, 2012)

NO. 70: Cellulosic Biofuels: Importance, Recalcitrance, and Pretreatment
By Professors Lee Lynd and Mark Laser and former Professor Charles Wyman (John Wiley & Sons, 2013)

NO. 71: Coastal and Estuarine Studies: Quantitative Skill Assessment for Coastal Ocean Models
Edited by Professor Daniel Lynch and Alan Davies (American Geophysical Union, 1995)

NO. 72: Numerical Partial Differential Equations for Environmental Scientists and Engineers: A First Practical Course
By Professor Daniel Lynch (Springer, 2004)

NO. 73: Sustainable Natural Resource Management for Scientists and Engineers
By Professor Daniel Lynch (Cambridge University Press, 2009)

NO. 74: Particles in the Coastal Ocean: Theory and Applications
By Professor Daniel Lynch, former visiting Professor Ata Bilgili, et al. (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

NO. 75: Alternative Breast Imaging: Four Model-Based Approaches
Edited by Professors Keith Paulsen and Paul Meaney with Larry Gilman (Springer, 2004)

NO. 76: Physics of Ice
By Professor Victor Petrenko and Robert Whitworth (Oxford University Press, 2002)

NO. 77: Identification and Control of Mechanical Systems
By Professor Minh Phan and Jer-Nan Juang (Cambridge University Press, 2006)

NO. 78: Handbook of Biomedical Fluorescence
Edited by Professor Brian Pogue and Mary-Ann Mycek (CRC Press, 2003)

NO. 79: Creep and Fracture of Ice
By Professor Erland Schulson and Paul Duval (Cambridge University Press, 2009)

NO. 80: Physics of the Magnetopause
Edited by Professor Bengt Sonnerup et al. (American Geophysical Union, 1995)

NO. 81: Ultra Low Power Bioelectronics: Fundamentals, Biomedical Applications, and Bio-inspired Systems
By Professor Rahul Sarpeshkar (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

NO. 82: The Next Production Revolution, Chapter 5: 3D Printing and its Environmental Implications
By Professor Jeremy Faludi  (OECD Publishing, 2017)

NOS. 83–98: Faculty Inventions

NO. 83: To Space and Back

Professor Arthur Kantrowitz’s Jupiter-C Nose Cone

Professor Arthur Kantrowitz’s Jupiter-C nose cone, built in the late 1950s, was crucial for getting early rockets back to earth without them burning up. The first such nose cone has been enshrined at the Smithsonian.

Cape Canaveral
Photograph courtesy of Henry Beck.

There’s also a Thayer connection with getting early spacecraft into orbit. The Henry C. Beck Company, headed by Henry C. Beck Jr. ’38 Th’39, built the first launch facility at Cape Canaveral for the Saturn rocket in 1961.

NO. 84: Cellulosic Ethanol Breakthroughs
Professor Lee Lynd Th’84 engineered a cellulose-dissolving bacterium and a single-step consolidated bioprocessing method that could lead to cheaper and more sustainable ethanol production. Hailed as an “alternative fuels pioneer,” Lynd received the first-ever Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability for “work that has the potential to improve global quality of life and protect the environment.” Lynd’s work centers on converting non-food biomass, such as grass, wood, straw, and corn stover, into ethanol—and on public policy issues surrounding energy. According to Nathanael Greene, a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Lee’s ground-breaking research has driven forward the public policy debate, the business world, and the fundamental science of bioenergy.”

NO. 85: Digital Models of Human Behavior
To Professor George Cybenko, the Internet is a vast storehouse of data about human behavior that can reveal everything from buying habits to hacker and other malicious activities—if you have the right kind of analytical tools. In 2007 he and colleagues developed a new approach—Process Query Systems (PQS)—to assess huge amounts of online information and data collected by acoustical, video, seismic, and other monitoring means. The method provides a way to watch for deviations from normal interaction or activities, which may indicate malevolent and other kinds of anomalous organizational and individual behavior. The goal, Cybenko explains, is to build quantitative digital models of human behavior.

NO. 86: Pulse Electrothermal De-icing

Pulse Electrothermal De-icing
Image courtesy of Victor Petrenko.

Professor Victor Petrenko pioneered the study of pulse electrothermal de-icing (PETD), a method of ice removal and prevention that uses short pulses of electricity applied directly to an ice-material interface. PETD uses a thin, electrically conductive film applied to the substrate. The film is then heated with a milliseconds-long pulse of electricity. Because only a micrometer-thin layer of ice is melted, PETD achieves nearly perfect efficiency even in extreme cold. Regular pulsing can keep surfaces consistently ice-free while maintaining low overall power consumption. Research is ongoing for the extensive applications of PETD, such as de-icing of airplanes, ships, refrigeration systems, windshields, power lines, bridges, buildings, roads, walkways, and windmill turbines.

NO. 87: First Medical X-Ray

First medical x-ray
On February 1, 1896, the world's first diagnostic x-ray of a schoolboy's broken wrist. Photograph courtesy Dartmouth College Archives.

Weeks after German scientist Wilhelm Roentgen announced in late 1895 the discovery of a “mysterious light” emitted from Crookes tubes, scientists and engineers from all over the world began experiments. One such person was Frank Austin, Class of 1895, a physics assistant at Dartmouth and later a professor at Thayer. Using equipment he built, Austin made a number of X-ray photographs, including one of his own hand in January 1896. On February 3, 1896, at Austin’s suggestion, Hanover physician Dr. Gilman Frost and his brother, physics professor Edwin Frost, took the world’s first diagnostic X-ray—of a schoolboy’s broken wrist.

NO. 88: Polar Robots

Yeti Robot
Professor Laura Ray's Yeti robot carries instruments to detect crevasses in Antarctica, using methodlogy develped by adjunct professor Steven Arcone Th’77. Photograph by Steven Arcone.

Professor Laura Ray did research in system dynamics and controls when then-Thayer colleague Mark Lessard brought her an idea for an autonomous rover for carrying scientific instruments over polar ice sheets. Adjunct Professor James Lever of the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory helped Ray design a solar-powered “Cool Robot,” which  has been deployed to Greenland and Antarctica to tow instruments that measure air quality and snow structure. A second robot, Yeti, designed and fabricated by two groups of BE students under the direction of Ray and Lever, has been deployed to Greenland or Antarctica ten times since 2008.

NO. 89: Dissecting Human Intelligence
Professor Eugene Santos is trying to understand the nature of human intelligence by unraveling the complex system of human behaviors. “I look at human behavior as: How do people make their decisions and take action. I want to explain the basis for why people do what they do.” Examining a wide range of factors that influence behavior, including beliefs and experiences, Santos uses the theory of probability to assess, quantify, and rank degrees of influence. “Our influences aren’t deterministic,” he says. “Just because I have a cultural experience, you can’t say this cultural experience will always produce a particular outcome. But influence can make an outcome more or less likely, so I try to capture those elements of what’s more likely and what’s less likely. That gives me a baseline. Then once I see an action, I can go back through the influence structure, including what they’ve told me about their beliefs, their demographics, their personal history, to see how they got from their background to their final action.” Sounds like reverse engineering —because it is. “At this point the only way to understand a complex system is to reverse engineer it. To understand the system is to dissect it,” says Santos.

NO. 90: Tracking Polar Conditions
Several Thayer faculty members are studying the health of polar regions. Professor Donald Perovich, a glaciologist, measures ice-albedo feedback in the Arctic to assess rates of climate change. Tracking how much area is covered by sea ice, month by month, year by year, he has documented an accelerating decline in sea ice. Professor Mary Albert, who directs the U.S. Ice Drilling Program, is assessing polar regions in another way: interpreting climate information preserved in ice cores.

NO. 91: Sound and the City
Professor Minh Phan is modeling how sound waves travel through a complicated environment, such as a city core. He uses system identification to simplify the process. “We run the supercomputer simulation once and collect data from that simulation, then process the data to arrive at a mathematical model that captures the physics of that specific environment. The model can be used to simulate the propagation of another sound source from that location. It is a simple model of a complicated model,” he says. “My research group was able to develop techniques that take data from one run of the supercomputer and quickly arrive at a high-fidelity reduced-order model that can run on a laptop in minutes.” The sound propagation model has military, security, and surveillance applications, such as tracing the source of gunshots or bomb blasts. “If we know the dynamics of the forward model, we can produce an inverse model to recover the source signal and its location,” says Phan.

NO. 92: Thermoblast Drill

Thermoblast Drill
Photographs courtesy of Charles R. Bentley/International Glaciological Society

In 1977 a new kind of drilling technology, dubbed “Thermoblast” by its inventor, Professor James Browning ’44, was successfully field tested on the polar ice. The high-temperature rocket drill pierced the 1,400-foot-thick ice shelf so scientists could study the ocean underneath. Drilling time: nine hours. After his success in Antarctica, he secured nearly $240,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation to develop a suspension core drill that would make it possible to use flame-jet technology for another tricky task: studying rock formations under ice caps and glaciers.

NO. 93: Cleaner Smelting

Photograph courtesy of Berzelius Stolberg GmbH.

In the world of smelting, Thayer Professor Paul Queneau is famous for getting the lead out. Queneau teamed with Purdue University Professor Reinhart Schuhmann Jr. and the German firm Lurgi to invent a cleaner, more efficient smelter. The Queneau-Scuhmann-Lurgi smelter emits half the greenhouse gasses of conventional smelters.

NO. 94: Uncovering Microplastics in the Arctic
Assistant Professor of Engineering Rachel Obbard and her colleagues discovered that ocean currents had carried micro-plastics—defined as polymer particles under 5 millimeters long—all the way to the Arctic, where they became trapped in sea ice. Her research, published in a 2014 paper titled “Global Warming Releases Microplastic Legacy Frozen in Arctic Sea Ice,” reported that plastic particles exist in the ice at higher concentrations than previously thought. “Our findings indicate that micro-plastics have accumulated far from population centers and that polar sea ice represents a major historic global sink of man-made particulates,” she writes. To keep the problem from growing, she advises: “Stop using toiletries and cleaning products containing polymer beads, including some toothpastes and facial scrubs. We can also clean the filters in our washing machines regularly, avoid flushing hygiene products, and reduce the number of plastic containers we buy.”

NO. 95: Magnetic Nanoparticles for hyperthermia
Materials scientist Ian Baker, Thayer’s Sherman Fairchild Professor of Engineering, is creating new biocompatible iron-oxide nanoparticles coated with dextran for use in hyperthermia treatment of cancer. “They heat better than those sold commercially,” says Baker, an expert in metal alloys. Producing particles that range in size from 8 to 100 nanometers, his group is characterizing the properties of the particles, including measuring how well they absorb electromagnetic power.

NO. 96: SuperDARN Arrays

Professor Simon Shepherd led the construction of a massive new SuperDARN radar array in Oregon
Photograph courtesy of Simon Shepherd.

Professor Simon Shepherd Th’98 led construction of two massive radar arrays in Oregon that form part of the global Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) studying the effects of solar disturbances and coronal mass elections on the ionosphere. He also assisted in constructing other SuperDARN arrays in Alaska and Kansas.

NO. 97: Ant House

Retired electrical engineering Professor Frank Austin, Class of 1895, was in dire need of money following the stock market crash of 1929. Austin, a member of the Dartmouth team that produced the first medical X-ray and the author of numerous papers and texts on electricity, went into his workshop and invented the Austin Ant House. His invention became a national success story. At the peak of production in the mid-1930s, 400 Austin Ant Houses a day left Hanover. Austin’s economic success trickled down to the local economy. He hired local handymen to build them and paid Hanover kids $4 a quart for the estimated 3.6 million ants he shipped to populate his ant communities.

NO. 98: World’s Fastest Track

World’s Fastest Track
Photograph courtesy of Dartmouth College Archives.

In 1938 legendary miler Glenn Cunningham came to Hanover for an exhibition race because Dartmouth track coach Howard Hillman believed that Dartmouth’s new indoor track was the fastest in the nation. The track was engineered by Thayer Professor Harold Lockwood, who didn’t know that tracks of the era were built of hardwood laid atop cement. Lockwood’s design called for spruce planks laid over cinders and two-foot banked curves. The College’s carpenters screwed up and built three-foot banked curves. The steeper banks and springier surface helped propel Cunningham to a record-braking 4:04.4 mile. “It’s the greatest track I’ve ever run on,” Cunningham told The Dartmouth.

See Nos. 99–150

Categories: Features

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