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

Claire Gmachl, 34

Telecommunications

Lucent Technologies Bell Labs

Beam mid-infrared light waves across a power plant’s smokestack and you can measure the flow of gaseous pollutants. Feed that data back to the plant and you can trim pollution and fuel consumption. It’s just one opportunity created by the quantum cascade laser. The laser, invented at Bell Labs in 1994, had promise as the heart of a smaller, less expensive, more efficient apparatus for monitoring smokestack emissions. But when Austrian physicist Claire Gmachl arrived at Bell Labs in 1996,the laser still had one fatal flaw: a messy, broad-spectrum beam. Within a year, Gmachl had the problem licked. She amplified one portion of the beam by sculpting the laser crystal into an echo chamber for photons. It was a major leap, and colleagues say the intense Gmachl has since delivered an average of two advances of similar importance each year. She’s also been experimenting with lasers tuned to identify telltale gases found in our breath that may indicate everything from asthma to heart disease. Now Gmachl is focused on carrying data in fiber optics, where rapid-pulse lasers could help sate our hunger for bandwidth.

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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