The Best Ideas from Duke University: A Foldable iPad and a Cancer Flashlight

More

We asked Duke University to reveal its most exciting new innovations. Here are two ideas the school shared with us.

615 PerkinsLibrary.jpg

A Flashlight That Diagnoses Cancer

The problem: Many cancer diagnoses are invasive and even dangerous. Biopsies that require tissue samples can be disfiguring and life-altering.

Where great ideas really come from. A special report

The idea: Imagine a wand that shines light onto cells to see if they are not cancerous, but pre-cancerous. Instead of cutting out the cells and having them sent to the lab to be checked, Duke's magic wand uses short bursts of light to illuminate the core of a cell. The cell nuclei, if they are pre-cancerous, are misshapen and larger than healthy cell nuclei. The wand can detect that different shape without using tissue-removal, dyes or contrast agents.

The potential: Four out of five cancers start in the epithelium, the cells that line our organs and glands. Fiber-optic probes that act as "cancer flashlights" could provide biopsy-type information to help physicians spot suspicious sites. "This approach could be the future of diagnosing [cancers] of the colon," said Dr. Christopher Mantyh, a surgeon at Duke University Medical Center and member of the research team.

An iPad That Bends, Folds, and Never Breaks

The problem: The screens of smartphones, tablets and other electronics are made with a brittle material that easily shatters.

duke bend.pngThe idea: Replace the brittle metals in our electronic screens with another metal that's cheap, abundant and flexible. Like copper.

The latest flat screens are made with indium, which is transparent and conductive (a rare and necessary combination) but also brittle. Indium is also a rare earth element, making it scarce and expensive. Using copper nanowires instead of indium could reduce the manufacturing cost of cell phones. Because copper is less brittle than the indium composite, the wires could one day lead to flexible electronics, like a foldable iPad or an unbreakable cell phone screen.

The potential: Foldable iPads, of course! Duke Professor Benjamin Wiley co-founded a company called NanoForge Corp to build copper nanowires for the next generation of displays and solar cells.

__________________

Want to share your company's best idea -- or your own! -- for our Best Ideas series? Leave a paragraph description and a photo if possible in the comment section or email me a description and a photograph at dthompson@theatlantic.com.

>

Jump to comments
Presented by
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The U.S. is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In