John A. Rogers wins American Ingenuity Award from Smithsonian Magazine

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — John A. Rogers, a Swanlund Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been given a 2013 American Ingenuity Award by Smithsonian Magazine, the publishing arm of the Smithsonian Institution.

A flexible, stretchable, biodegradable integrated circuit during dissolution in water. | Photo courtesy Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology and Tufts University
A flexible, stretchable, biodegradable integrated circuit during dissolution in water. | Photo courtesy Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology and Tufts University

The awards “recognize nine shining achievements from the past year or so that are having a revolutionary effect on how we perceive the world and how we live,” writes Michael Caruso, the editor-in-chief of Smithsonian.

One award is granted in each of nine categories. Rogers is the 2013 honoree in the physical sciences, thanks to the invention of ultra-thin silicon electronics that dissolve in the body or the environment, ushering in a new era of biodegradable medical implants and environmentally friendly electronic devices.

A professor of materials science and engineering and the director of the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory, Rogers is a pioneer of flexible, stretchable electronics. He combines soft, stretchable materials with micro-and nanoscale electronic components to create classes of devices with a wide range of practical applications.

In addition to transient electronics, recent devices to emerge from his lab include cameras with curved retinas to mimic the human eye or lens arrays to mimic a fly’s eye, electronic sensors that stick to the skin like a temporary tattoo, soft electronic sheets that wrap the contours of the brain or heart, tiny yet efficient flexible solar cells, and whisper-thin LED strips that can be implanted directly into the brain to illuminate neural pathways.

The son of a physicist and a poet, Rogers earned his doctorate in physical chemistry from MIT in 1995. Since joining the Illinois faculty in January 2003, he has distinguished himself as a mentor, encouraging his large group of students to collaborate, innovate and persevere. He is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and the departments of materials science and engineering, chemistry, mechanical science and engineering, bioengineering, and electrical and computer engineering.

Among his many honors, he has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, awarded a MacArthur fellowship and a Lemelson-MIT prize, and named a fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Physical Society, the Materials Research Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.