Larry Mianzo, 34
Few people consider the internal- combustion engine environmentally friendly. Larry Mianzo could help change that. Mianzo is a key player in the auto industry’s efforts to build cleaner, more efficient engines. His innovations could usher in something called “electromagnetic variable valve timing.” In an automobile engine, valves are opened and closed in a fixed pattern by rotating camshafts. Eliminating the cams and moving each valve with an electromagnetic actuator allows optimal control of valve timing, ending power losses and providing a more tightly controlled combustion temperature. The result: a 15 to 25 percent boost in fuel economy and dramatically lower emissions. Mianzo has been working on automobile controls for the past eight years—first for Ford Motor, now for its spinoff Visteon, in Dearborn, MI. He has 12 patents issued or pending, including one on a novel road simulation strategy for testing new vehicles that has helped save Ford Motor $1 million a year. Mianzo has accomplished all this while earning a PhD and hasn’t missed a day of work since 1992.