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Google Science Fair finalists: 20 teens who'll change the world

Meet the top scientists of 2030. They have answers to some of the world's biggest problems, but most aren't old enough to drive yet.

Google announced the 20 finalists in its fifth annual Google Science Fair on Tuesday. The largest online competition for young scientists saw applications from thousands of kids aged 13 to 18 from 100 countries. The projects tackle issues from sustainable energy to disease detection and clean water. And of course, a hybrid photometric and spectral algorithm for the automated detection of gravitationally lensed quasars.

Sounds just like what you thought about when you were 15, right?

Here are just a few of the impressive proposals chosen to compete for a $50,000 scholarship and other prizes to be awarded at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., in September.

Clean Water from Corn Cobs

Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai, a 13-year-old from India, has come up with a simple method of using corn cobs to filter contaminants such as oxides of salts, detergents, suspended particles, dyes, oil and certain heavy metals out of water. "If the drain pipe of the household is connected to a chamber having different layers of corn cobs in partition layers or to an S-trap pipe having corn cobs, it will separate about more than 70-80 percent of contaminants including suspended particles from the waste water," she wrote in her proposal.

Air Batteries and Feather Fuel

Zhilin Wang, 18, from Singapore, hopes to replace expensive lithium-ion batteries with his rechargeable zinc air battery for storing renewable energy. "I discovered that an aerogel made of graphene and carbon nanotubes can improve activities of oxygen redox reactions, lowering energy loss and improving battery efficiency," he said. "Should this be produced commercially, I can't imagine how many more families will be able to afford lighting and how many more children learn to read!"

Anela Arifi, 18, and Ilda Ismaili, 17, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, found that chicken feathers can be used for fuel storage and biofuel production. They devised a two-reactor system that can create a hydrogen storage material and biodiesel from chicken feathers.

Detecting Disease

Several projects were aimed at faster, cheaper, more effective disease detection. American 16 year old Olivia Hallisey has come up with an Ebola test that cuts diagnosis time from 12 hours to 30 minutes and doesn't require constant refrigeration. Adriel Sumathipala, also 16 from the U.S., wants to identify cardiac disease risk on the spot. Two projects set their sights on diagnosing Alzheimer's.

A Satellite for Any Tinkerer

Matthew Reid, a 14-year-old from the U.K., wants to democratize low-Earth orbit. He has put together a plan for an open-source satellite that can be constructed with off-the-shelf components. He says he will release integrated circuit boards, software and instructions so anyone can make a satellite for such applications as: ultra-long range communications for disaster rescue and coordination; low cost, global Internet ("similar to 'Project Loon' but with a far greater range per node"); Earth and climate observation; communications for Google Lunar XPrize missions to the moon.

You can see the rest of the projects on the Google Science Fair site.

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