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 that integrates the properties that living organisms use so well, is to select or 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 and biologically inspired synthesis. In the field of energy storage, we demonstrate that biological engineering can enhance electrode design to improve specific capacity and cycling performance of both lithium-oxygen and lithium-ion batteries using M13 viruses to grow and assemble high-efficiency nanocatalysts from earth-abundant elements. In addition, rationally designing virus-based nanocomposites with high electron mobility can produce hybrid devices that can efficiently collect photo-generated electrons and greatly improves the performance of photovoltaic devices. M13 viruses can be further engineered as a scaffold to increase light collection, exciton transport and enable light driven reactions. Other applications include engineering yeast to convert carbon dioxide into building materials and the development of targeted probes in the second window near IR for detection and real-time surgical guidance of submillimeter ovarian tumors will be explored.
Nature, 405, 665, 2000
Science, 324,1051, 2009
Nature Communications 4, Article number: 2756, 2013
Nature Nanotechnology 6, 377, 2011
Energy Environ. Sci., 6, 660, 2013
Nano Lett.12 (3), 1176, 2012
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 earned a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at UCSB in 1997. Following her postdoctoral research in electrical engineering at UCSB, 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. In 2002, she founded the company Cambrios Technologies, Inc., and in 2007 she founded Siluria Technologies, Inc. Some recent awards include the 2013 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for her Inventions, 2010 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. She was named Research Leader of the Year by Scientific American and is a MacArthur Fellow, a Packard Fellow, and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow.
For information about her research, here&’s a link to a recent TED video and from the NOVA series “Making Stuff”:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/making-more-stuff.html#making-stuff-wilder (Starting at ~43 minute mark)