Giving New Life to Materials for Energy, the Environment and Medicine

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
7:00 PM
POB 2.302
Free and open to the public

Organisms have been making exquisite inorganic materials for over 500 million years.  These materials have many desired physical properties such as strength and regularity, which permit the organism to thrive in specific biological and physical environments. My lab seeks to expand the types of materials that living systems can utilize to make advanced technologies that are smarter and better adapted, using environmentally suitable techniques. One approach to designing future technologies which have some of the properties that living organisms use so well, is to evolve organisms to work with a more diverse set of building blocks.  New nanostructured materials can be grown and assembled for energy storage, solar, carbon capture and re-use, catalysis, oil recovery and medical imaging by using genetic control as well as biologically inspired synthesis. In the field of energy storage, biologically enhanced electrode designs improve specific capacity and cycling performance of lithium-oxygen batteries by utilizing high-efficiency nanocatalysts assembled by the M13 virus with earth-abundant elements. My lab uses rationally designed biological nanocomposites with high electron mobility to efficiently collect photo-generated electrons to improve the performance of photovoltaic devices. I will show work done in my lab on biological materials that have been engineered to increase light collection and enable light driven reactions.  Environmental applications include genetically modified yeast engineered to convert carbon dioxide into building materials and replacement of scarce materials. Medical applications include development of targeted probes in the second window near IR for detection and real-time surgical guidance of submillimeter ovarian tumors.

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Angela M Belcher

Angela M. Belcher

W.M. Keck Professor of Energy

Angela Belcher is a Biological and Materials Engineer with expertise in the fields of biomaterials, biomolecular materials, organic-inorganic interfaces and solid-state chemistry and devices. Her primary research focus is evolving new materials for energy, electronics, the environment, and medicine.  She received her B.S. in Creative Studies with an emphasis in biology from The University of California, Santa Barbara. She continued her education at UCSB and earned a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry with Professor Galen Stucky and Professor Dan Morse (1997). Following her postdoctoral research in electrical engineering at UCSB with Professor Evelyn Hu, she joined the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Chemistry in 1999.  She joined the faculty at MIT in 2002 and now holds the W.M. Keck Chair in Energy. She is faculty in the Department of Biological Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering and the Koch Institute of Integrative Cancer Research. She teaches undergraduate subjects in Material Sciences and Engineering and Biological Engineering.  She has mentored 39 PhD students and 100s of undergraduate students.  In 2002, she founded the company Cambrios Technologies, Inc., and in 2007 she founded Siluria Technologies, Inc.

Dr. Belcher won the 2013 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for her Inventions and was honored as the NEIC (New England Institute of Chemists) Distinguished Chemist in 2013.  In 2012, Dr. Belcher was also elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.  In 2010 she Belcher received the Eni Prize for Renewable and Non-conventional Energy.  In 2009, Rolling Stone Magazine listed her as one of the top 100 people changing the country. In 2007, Time Magazine named her a “Hero”- for her research related to Climate Change. In 2006, she was named Research Leader of the Year by Scientific American and was awarded a 2006 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough award. In 2005, she was named as one of 10 to watch by Fortune magazine for "how the world will work in the next 75 years.” Other awards include the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; a Four Star General Recognition Award (US Army), Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering (PECASE), Top 10 Innovators Under 40 (Fortune Magazine), 2002 World Technology Award (Materials), 2002 Popular Science Brilliant Ten, 2002 Technology Review Top 100 Inventors (TR100). She is a 2001 Packard Fellow, won the 2001 Wilson Prize in Chemistry at Harvard University, 2001 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, received the 2000 Beckman Young Investigator Award, received the 1999 DuPont and IBM Young Investigator Awards, and the 1999 Army Research Office Young Investigators Award. 

Her work has been published in many prestigious scientific journals including Science and Nature, and has been reported in the popular press including Time, Fortune, The Economist, Forbes, Discover, Scientific American, The Scientist, Technology Review, Rolling Stone, Elle Magazine, The New York Times, Washington Post, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, PBS, BBC, NPR, and NOVA. 

For information about her research, here’s a link to a recent TED video and from the NOVA series “Making Stuff”: