Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Student Developer of Versatile “G-gels” Wins $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Prize

Yuehua “Tony” Yu, a doctoral student in Rensselaer’ 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.

A student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 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 Rensselaer’s 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,” said Rensselaer 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. We celebrate his achievement, and applaud all of the finalists for their dedication and effort. May they, and all of us, continue to foster a healthy scientific curiosity, and an unyielding drive for progress.”

Yu is the third recipient of the $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize. The prize, first given in 2007, 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 in other ways demonstrated remarkable inventiveness

For videos and photos of the winner and award finalists, as well as a Webcast of the announcement ceremony, please visit:

Helping hand for nanotech

Breakthroughs in nanotechnology hold the promise of touching and revolutionizing medicine, energy production and storage, water purification, electronics, and a host of other diverse fields. A key challenge for many researchers working with nanoparticles is simply getting the nanoscopic materials – some of which measure only a few billionths of a meter in length – 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. Further study showed that binary G-gels were highly tunable.

This ability to easily convert the G-gels from liquid to gel, and back again, was a natural fit for the reliable delivery of nanoparticles. Yu’s G-gels proved to be an inexpensive and scalable means to gently, nondestructively disperse single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and other nanoparticles at a high concentration. By simply controlling the temperature, Yu engineered G-gels that can selectively solubilize specific SWNTs, and then be easily removed from the site after the SWNTs are in place. The gels can be tuned to selectively solubilize SWNTs based on different properties, including conductivity and structure.

Another key application of G-gels is their ability to preserve, and even restore, enzyme activity. Because they begin as liquids and form gels at body temperature, the G-gels could be used to encapsulate live cells, enzymes, or other materials for delivery into the human body, with potential applications in drug and gene delivery, as well as implantable devices. Yu has also demonstrated the ability of G-gels to keep certain enzymes stable for months at room temperature, which has captured the attention of cosmetics and sunscreen companies.

Gifted scientist

Yu joined Rensselaer as a doctoral student in 2004, after earning his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and master’s degree in polymer science from Nankai University in China. In early 2005 he joined the research group of Rensselaer Professor Linda McGown, who heads the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

“Tony is one of the most brilliant and most creative students with whom I’ve ever worked. The elegance and simplicity of his inventions belie their novelty and ingenuity,” said McGown, who is also Yu’s academic adviser. “It’s been a privilege to work with such a gifted scientist.”

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. He received the prestigious Rensselaer 2008 Founders Award for of Excellence, as well as the 2008 Slezak Memorial Fellowship and Baruch ’60 Award for Excellence in Energy-Related Research from Rensselaer. He is also an active member and former coach of Rensselaer intramural soccer and basketball teams.

Yu hails from the scenic city of Jiujiang, China, near the foot of Lushan Mountain. He expects to earn his doctorate in analytical chemistry from Rensselaer this spring.

Yu’s wife, Yuexi Wang, is a graduate student in chemistry at Rensselaer. Their daughter, Grace, is 8 months old.

The Lemelson-MIT Program

Yu joins last year’s winner of the $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize, graduate student Martin Schubert, who invented the first polarized light emitting diodes (LED), an innovation that promises to improve the energy-efficiency and performance of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) for televisions, computers, cell phones, cameras, and other devices. In 2007, Rensselaer doctoral student Brian Schulkin won the first-ever $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize for developing the first portable terahertz sensing device, the “Mini-Z,” which has since been commercialized and brought to market.

The $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize is funded through a partnership with the Lemelson-MIT Program, which has awarded the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize to outstanding student inventors at MIT since 1995.

Geoffrey von Maltzahn, a graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, is the 2009 winner of the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize. Von Maltzahn’s inventions include a new class of therapeutics that provide more precision to cancer ablation, and a communicating system of nanoparticles to more efficiently deliver drugs to tumors -- enhancing the overall efficacy of cancer therapy. He is also the co-founder of two companies dedicated to this research and development. More information is available at

“The Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prize finalists and winners have the potential to be the technological and entrepreneurial leaders of tomorrow,” states Joshua Schuler, Executive Director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. “The winners were selected based on the potential societal impact of their inventions, their ability to act as role models, and their unwavering dedication to invention. These innovators are helping to close the gap between science and societal needs by making contributions that will foster cultural appreciation for invention’s role in strengthening the U.S. economy.”

The Lemelson-MIT Program recognizes outstanding inventors, encourages sustainable new solutions to real-world problems, and enables and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.

Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife, Dorothy, founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. It is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, a philanthropy that celebrates and supports inventors and entrepreneurs in order to strengthen social and economic life in the U.S. and developing countries. For more information, visit:

Michael Mullaney | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Awards Funding:

nachricht Changing the Energy Landscape: Affordable Electricity for All
20.10.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE

nachricht Emmy Noether junior research group investigates new magnetic structures for spintronics applications
11.10.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Awards Funding >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>