Health, environment and imaging are focus of this year’s Schmidt Transformative Technology Fund grants

April 28, 2022

New research endeavors with potential benefits for health, the environment, and molecular imaging have been awarded support from the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Transformative Technology Fund.

The fund spurs the exploration of bold new ideas that can accelerate progress on major challenges in science and engineering, pioneer new discoveries, and transform entire fields of inquiry. The projects were selected based on their capacity to lead to significant advances in the discovery or implementation of transformative technology.

“The Schmidt Transformative Technology Fund supports projects that have the power to lead to profound scientific discoveries and technological innovations,” said Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and professor of chemical and biological engineering. “This year’s projects address scientific, technical and societal challenges by developing key capabilities -- in genomic editing, sustainable construction materials and molecular imaging -- that possess substantial potential for impacting society at large.”

The fund was created through support from Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive officer of Google and former executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, and Wendy Schmidt, a businesswoman and philanthropist. Eric Schmidt earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Princeton in 1976 and served as a Princeton trustee from 2004 to 2008.

The funding supports the development of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, and provides for equipment, materials and supplies, and prototypes. Since its creation in 2009, the fund has supported 30 research projects at Princeton.

Controlling flooding by letting the water soak in

Three faculty members aim to reduce urban flooding by developing a new concrete-like material that absorbs rainwater and then releases it slowly back to the environment. According to the team — co-led by Reza Moini, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, Emily Davidson, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Sujit Datta, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering — the new material could be used in sidewalks, roads and other sections of the urban landscape.

The new material’s architecture will consist of large and small pores arranged to optimize both water uptake and mechanical robustness. The intended result will be a widely scalable concrete-like material that can benefit groundwater recharge, reduce flooding and potentially transform how urban landscapes are constructed.

Editor's note: This article was adapted from the original, which includes information on all of this year's Schmidt Fund awards.