In this weekly feature at some of the exciting research being done at Ohio State that has the potential to have a major impact on our world. Of course cutting edge research that makes a big impact is nothing new for Ohio State; Buckeyes have been making world changing discoveries pretty much ever since the university was founded. This long history of cutting edge research has helped lead to Ohio State being ranked as one of the top research universities in the world and cemented a reputation that continues to attract top level faculty and students who are making new discoveries today. Thus it is only fitting that a series dedicated to looking at the exciting research being done at OSU take a moment to look back at some of the major discoveries in the past that helped the university gain its reputation. OSU made this task of looking back easy as the main university webpage features an excellent timeline of some of the major discoveries made by OSU researchers and alumni over the years.
I knew about some of the discoveries featured on the OSU list but there were also some surprises. Refrigerators first began to appear in American homes in 1913 and while these early units revolutionized the home storage of food, they had serious drawbacks compared to current models. These early refrigerators used either sulfur dioxide or methyl formate as the refrigeration medium; unfortunately both of these chemicals were extremely hazardous and could damage the eyes, skin, and even cause death if inhaled or ingested. The invention of Freon in the 1920s revolutionized the home refrigerator as it provided a safe, non-toxic refrigeration medium. OSU chemistry professor A.L. Henne performed studies on Freon which helped lead to its worldwide adoption in refrigerators and air conditioners.
Whether it be from movies such as The Best Years of Our Lives, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, or others, or from personally knowing someone or even just watching the news, most Americans are at least somewhat familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While PTSD was first brought to the public’s attention by war veterans returning home from combat, it can effect anyone and can be triggered by things such as being a victim of a crime, car accident, natural disaster, etc… In 2009, the National Institute for Health estimated that around 7.7 million American adults suffer from PTSD. Due to the nature of combat, PTSD is more common in the military and in 2009 the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that 31% of Vietnam Veterans, 10% of Desert Storm veterans, 11% of veterans of the war in Afghanistan, and 20% of Iraqi war veterans suffer from PTSD.
With so many Americans impacted by PTSD, it isn’t surprising that a lot of research has been done on the disease and while progress has been made, we still have a long way to go in order to understand what causes PTSD and how to treat and cure it. Fortunately researchers at Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research and the Department of Neuroscience are on the case and have made important progress in understand what may trigger some PTSD behavior.
Most everyone probably remembers the news that came out during the Christmas shopping season about the massive data breach at Target that resulted in the theft of credit card data of hundreds of thousands of people. This data breach resulted in renewed calls to do something to make credit cards and the information they contain more secure. This is a major, far reaching problem that potentially impacts everyone in the US and beyond but fortunately researchers in the Ohio State Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are on the case.
The major problem with credit cards in the United States is that the vast majority of them rely on magnetic strips to store the credit card data. While this is an easy means of storing and transmitting the data to the terminal at the checkout, all you have to do is swipe your card, it isn’t very secure as the data on the magnetic strip is static and unencrypted. All a thief needs is a means to get the data that the terminal reads in and they have everything they need to use your credit card.
The need to find a more secure means of storing data on a credit card has been known for a while and most of the rest of the world has taken steps in this direction by moving to a ‘chip and pin’ system. Instead of storing the credit card data on a magnetic strip, the data is stored on a silicon chip that is on the credit card. To make a purchase you insert the card into the terminal which reads the encrypted data that is stored on the chip, you then enter a pin number in the terminal’s key pad to authorize and complete the transaction. Because the ‘chip and pin’ system allows for the credit card data to be encrypted, even if thieves steal the information from the terminal, the information is useless to them unless they have the means to break the encryption which is a much more difficult and resource intensive task.