Dr. Angela Belcher, a materials chemist and one of the world’s leading scientists in nanotechnology was announced today as the recipient of the 2013 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. Belcher has designed novel, hybrid organic-inorganic materials that have been used to create environmentally-friendly batteries and clean transportation fuel, among other inventions with both commercial and social value. The Lemelson-MIT Prize, which honors an outstanding mid-career inventor dedicated to improving our world through technological invention, has been awarded annually since 1995.
The current W.M. Keck Professor of Energy in Materials Science and Biological Engineering at MIT and David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research faculty member was initially motivated by the abalone shell during her time spent by the ocean as an undergraduate at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). The abalone shell was created by the abalone sea snail throughout millions of years of evolution and is comprised of 98 percent calcium carbonate – an inorganic compound – and two percent organic protein. The combination makes the shell 3,000 times tougher than its geological counterpart. The shell motivated Belcher to question how biology could be engineered to make new materials for human use. Today Belcher’s work is focused on convincing biology to work with elements in the periodic table to create new, advanced and environmentally-safe materials.
Belcher will accept the award and present her accomplishments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) during the Lemelson-MIT Program’s seventh-annual EurekaFest, a multi-day celebration of the inventive spirit, June 20 – 22.