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

Ralph Taylor-Smith, 34

Lucent Technologies' Bell Laboratories

One key to improving the speed and band-width of communications systems is coming up with new materials that have just the right combination of electronic and optical properties. It’s even better these days if the materials can be tailored on the nanoscale. But synthesizing "nanostructures" for different materials is an expensive, time-consuming process. Those who can find better ways to do this crucial job will be among the heroes of the Information Age.

One budding techno-hero is Ralph Taylor-Smith, who has devised an efficient way to produce nanocomposites of organic and inorganic components, a process he calls "application-specific materials design." The secret of the process is a generic template Taylor-Smith has assembled from organic polymers and inorganic materials. By substituting different components, he can custom-design nanomaterials for specific applications. Taylor-Smith has already invented a variety of new materials, including one suitable for optical-based information storage.

Taylor-Smith, a chemical engineer, has also won two Lucent Environmental Heroes Awards for efforts to reduce the environmental impact of manufactured products and manufacturing processes.

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