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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Daniel Branagan, 33

Materials

Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory

When most people speak of advanced materials, they mean semiconductors or biopolymers. But Daniel Branagan means steel. The materials scientist is transforming metals industries with his new “superhard steel.” His novel process rapidly cools molten steel into a glasslike solid, then heats the solid to form a unique nano structure. The result is a coating that outperforms the hardest metal coatings, even tungsten carbide, at one-third the price. Superhard steel is cheap and easy enough to manufacture that applications could range from rock crushers to kitchen knives. More than 500 companies have expressed interest in using Branagan’s material to make tougher, lighter, longer-lasting products. Branagan may license the patent from the U.S. Department of Energy—which oversees his lab—to create a spinoff company. The Michigan native launched his career 12 years ago by developing tougher rare-earth magnets for computer hard drives. But while other metallurgists tout Branagan’s innovations as feats of nanoscale engineering, to this ranch owner outdoorsman they’re “just fancy steels.”

2002 TR35 Winners

Andrew Barrows

Transportation

Elisabeth M. Belding-Royer

Telecommunications

Vincent Berger

Telecommunications

Eric Bonabeau

Software

Daniel Branagan

Materials

Arnaud Brignon

Hardware

Howie Choset

Hardware

Michelle Effros

Telecommunications

Alexander Fay

Transportation

Claire Gmachl

Telecommunications

Michael Hansen

Hardware

Tom Hyongsok Soh

Telecommunications

Matt Keyser

Energy

Kara Kockelman

Transportation

Paul Krajewski

Transportation

Der-Horng Lee

Transportation

Ihor Lys

Hardware

Larry Mianzo

Transportation

Chahab Nastar

Software

Bill Nguyen

Telecommunications

Rajesh Reddy

Telecommunications

Vincent Rijmen

Software

Jonathan Rosenberg

Telecommunications

Steven Shaw

Energy

Anna Stefanopoulou

Transportation

Lisa Su

Hardware

Vahid Tarokh

Telecommunications

Steve Tuecke

Software

Les Welch

Transportation

Sean Willems

Software

Neil Young

Entertainment

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