Bio-sensor work gets MIT prize $500000

Bio-sensor work gets MIT prize Mark Baard THE BOSTON GLOBE June 12, 2011

ET Sensors embedded in consumer and med­ical devices can do much to measure a per­son’s health. Mon­itors strapped to the chest measure a heartbeat. GPS transponders gauge how far and fast an individual walks or runs. Accelerom­e­ters and gyro­scopes count footfalls, and can warn of the onset of disease by noting a change in gait. But getting sensors to work in­side the body is an­oth­er story. The rigid­ity and sharp edges of semicon­ductor wafers, for example, make them a poor match for soft tissues and organs. John Rogers, a ma­te­rials sci­entist and physicist at the Uni­versity of Illinois, is working with his col­leagues to devel­op thin, stretch­able, and flexible “biointegrated electron­ics,’’ which could line the walls of failing hearts or the bumpy surfaces of the brain.

Such technology could be used to build devices that conform tightly to organs, al­lowing doctors to better map, measure, and modify body functions, Rogers said. The idea is to mesh biointegrated electron­ics, which have layers of silicon 100 nanome­ters thick, with organs. “We eventually hope to blur the dis­tinction be­tween manmade circuits and devices and tissues of the body,’’ said Rogers, who this week will receive a $500,000 Lemel­son-MIT Prize for his work in biointegrated electron­ics and upPage 1 of 2down oth­er fields, such as solar power.

For example, Rogers and his collab­orators have cre­ated a cardiac ca­theter with an electron­ics-laced rub­ber balloon at the tip; it maps the in­side of a heart valve and can send a charge to the source of ir­reg­ular electrical signals. A surgeon us­ing the biointegrated electron­ics ca­theter would be able to do a “map and zap’’ procedure, identi­fying and ab­lating malfunction­ing heart tissue in five minutes, said Mar­vin Slepian, di­rector of inter­ventional cardiology at the Uni­versity of Arizona. He re­cently coau­thored (with Rogers and oth­ers) an article about the ca­theter for the journal Na­ture Ma­te­rials. It currently takes up to three hours to accomplish the same task us­ing two ca­theters — one to map, and one to zap — Slepian said.

Rogers hopes surgeons will be test­ing the ca­theter in humans with­in nine months. He is receiving the Lemel­son-MIT Prize partly for his ability to mar­ket the technolo­gies he is help­ing to devel­op, said Michael Cima, an MIT en­g­i­neering pro­fessor and fac­ulty di­rector for the Lemel­son-MIT program. In 2008, Rogers cofounded Cambridge-based MC10 Inc. to mar­ket so-called conformal electron­ics, which can re­side on flexible sub­strates. “He is responsible for a string of trans­lat­able ideas, which he’s tak­en from the benchtop to indus­try,’’ said Cima, who com­pared Rogers to Thomas Edi­son. Rogers, 43, will speak this week at Eurekafest, an annual cel­ebration students at­tend to be in­spired by inventors.

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Proving that technological entrepreneurship can have groundbreaking impact when inventive concepts stretch across disparate fields, renowned innovator, materials scientist and applied physicist Dr. John A. Rogers was announced today as recipient of the 2011 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. Rogers’ research has resulted in the creation of revolutionary products integral to human health, fiber optics, semiconductor manufacturing and solar power, with many currently in commercial use. Rogers will accept the prestigious prize and present his accomplishments to the public at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the Lemelson-MIT Program’s fifth-annual EurekaFest, a multi-day celebration of the inventive spirit, June 15 – 18.

Rogers’ interest in science and technology began during childhood, with a physicist father and an accomplished poet mother, both encouraging the importance of thinking imaginatively. His ongoing education and research further propelled this interdisciplinary path, with an approach to invention based on leveraging creative ideas, but pursuing them within the constraints of practical utility. His current work demonstrates expertise as an entrepreneurial innovator, bringing lab work to multi-industry marketplaces. He is Co-founder and Director of mc10, Inc. and Semprius, Inc., among various other companies.

Humanizing Electronics for Healthcare

Bridging the gap between biology and electronics, Rogers and colleagues launched mc10 in 2008 to address a fundamental challenge in the use of traditional silicon wafer-based electronics for surgical procedures – the devices are rigid, flat and therefore cannot match the soft contours of the human body. Rogers devised a way to transform these systems into soft, flexible devices with tissue-like characteristics that can be used in cardiology and neurology to make surgical diagnosis and treatment easier. Thin, silicon-based electronics and sensors laminate onto the surfaces of internal organs and fuse with their complex surfaces, providing a window into their operation. Doctors can leverage this type of high-resolution, high-performance technology to map vital organs, such as the heart or brain, leading to more effective identification and treatment of conditions such as cardiac arrhythmias and epilepsy.
The ‘stretchable’ technology’s broad use can also be applied to consumer health and fitness products. In 2010, mc10 announced its collaboration with Reebok Int. Ltd. to create an advanced line of athletic apparel and equipment currently under development.

Renowned innovator, chemical engineer and applied physicist Dr. John Rogers is winner of the prestigious 2011 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. Rogers’ research has led to innovations in sustainable solar power and flexible electronics for surgical procedures. These innovations are in commercial use by Semprius and MC10, companies co-founded by Rogers. Credit: Video courtesy of the Lemelson-MIT Program.

Rogers has also applied his creative thinking and expertise in flexible electronics to build the first cameras similar in size and shape to the human eye. Using silicon light-detection electronics, his ‘electric eye’ cameras achieve excellent imaging characteristics even with the most basic, lowest cost types of lenses. The curvature in the detector – or ‘artificial retina’ – sharpens the focus of an entire image, compared to typical cameras that require sophisticated lenses to avoid distortion at the edges, and can be placed in locations where cameras have never been possible before.

Creating Economically Viable and Sustainable Solar Power

Recognizing sustainable energy as another dominant societal challenge, Rogers delved into photovoltaics, the direct conversion of light into electricity. To commercialize his technology, which makes solar power more economically viable in sunny, dry climates, Rogers co-founded Semprius in 2006. The company launched a partnership with Siemens to facilitate large scale deployment of Rogers’ system, built from high-performance semiconductors in the form of tiny solar cells ‘printed’ onto low cost, thin plates of glass for substrates. Modules formed in this way are less expensive than any other current or projected technology for common fixed installations in utility-scale power generation. A first commercial system was delivered to Tuscon Electric Power Company in 2010. Independent estimates suggest that this solar technology can be cost competitive with coal in four to five years. The same approaches can be used to build solar modules on plastic rolls, clothing, transparent windows and many other surfaces, for additional application opportunities.

Colleague Ilesanmi Adesida, Dean and Willett Professor of Engineering at University of Illinois, described Rogers’ ability to span across incongruent fields of work and position himself as a leading entrepreneur. “Rogers can move effortlessly from science to technology and to practical applications with a unique vision for the translation of science to products. His work exemplifies how to effectively bolster sciences and technology so the United States can successfully compete and prosper in the global community of the 21st century.”

Leading the Way in Mentorship

Rogers’ manages a large, interdisciplinary group of students at University of Illinois whose recent inventions range from implantable light emitting diode ‘tattoos’ to carbon nanotube radios. Many of these projects have resulted in startups of their own. In his role as a mentor, Rogers encourages future inventors to think ingeniously, find outstanding collaborators and be persistent and relentless in the pursuit of solutions to grand challenges for society.

“John Rogers takes the cross-section of scientific and technological development for practical application to a new level; the work is striking in its novelty and marketability,” states Michael J. Cima, faculty director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. “His management of a team of young researchers focused on inventive work additionally establishes his ability to thrive as a role model, evidenced in the fact that every student to study in his group has gone on to pursue a creative technical career. This game-changing and inspiring type of inventor defines who we look to honor.”

With more than 300 published papers, 80 patents or applications (50 of which are licensed or in active use) and a MacArthur Fellowship in 2009, Rogers is hailed as one of the most accomplished mid-career inventors in the country. He is currently Director of the National Science Foundation Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center as well as the Lee J. Flory-Founder Chair in Engineering Innovation at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also holds joint appointments in the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry, Mechanical Science and Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“When he established this prize, my husband Jerome’s vision was to celebrate visionaries working to improve the world through invention and innovation,” said Dorothy Lemelson, chair of The Lemelson Foundation. “This year, we are proud to honor Dr. Rogers whose discoveries combine brilliance and practical applications to benefit humanity.”

Provided by Lemelson-MIT Program

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