BOSTON (Reuters) - A University of Illinois professor whose research has found applications from cardiology to solar power to sportswear on Tuesday won the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Prize for outstanding inventor.
John Rogers, 43, professor of materials science and engineering, won the award, given annually by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Lemelson Foundation, and its $500,000 prize for his work across a number of fields.
Rogers is regarded as one of the most prolific inventors in the United States. He holds more than 80 patents, 52 of which are in active use.
The scientist credits his parents, a physicist and a poet, for encouraging his imaginative brand of thinking.
“The laws of nature aren’t simply a set of parameters that constrain the behavior of the natural world but a set of tools that allow you to predict the future and engineer the world for favorable outcomes,” he said.
Rogers in 2008 co-founded mc10 Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which confronts the challenge of using traditional silicon wafer-based electronics for surgical procedures.
The devices, typically rigid and flat, cannot match the soft contours of the human body. Rogers devised a way to create systems with tissue-like characteristics that are now used in cardiology and neurology to, for example, map vital organs.
Mc10 recently started a collaboration with Reebok International to create athletic apparel using flexible, stretchable electronics.
Another project of the Rogers lab is to develop tiny, low-cost digital cameras similar in size and shape to the human eye. Others are focused on viable solar power systems and even military applications.
“Rogers can move effortlessly from science to technology and to practical applications, with a unique vision for the translation of science to products,” said colleague Ilesanmi Adesida, dean of engineering at the University of Illinois.
Reporting by Ros Krasny. Edited by Peter Bohan