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Physicist Wins 'Genius' Grant

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CHICAGO, Sept. 22, 2009 – Applied physicist John A. Rogers was among 24 recipients who received a phone call out of the blue last week informing them that they will receive $500,000 in “no strings attached” support over the next five years, courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Applied physicist and new MacArthur Fellow John Rogers holds one of the devices made in his lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Photo courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Since 1981, MacArthur Fellowships, also known as “genius” grants, have come without stipulations or reporting requirements – an unusual level of independence for a grant – and offer fellows unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create and explore. Nominations are accepted only from invited nominators who are chosen from many fields and challenged to identify people who demonstrate exceptional creativity and promise. The number of fellows selected each year is not fixed; it usually varies between 20 and 25.

Rogers, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), develops flexible electronic devices using organic substrates instead of silicon wafers. In announcing his award, the MacArthur Foundation said he is “building the foundation for a revolution in manufacture of industrial, consumer, and biocompatible electronics.” (Watch Rogers talk about his work here)

In an early line of research, he used microlithographic stamping technology to design high-density, complex circuits that could be fabricated on a flexible substrate similar to paper. He has raised the performance of such circuits substantially, to the point that they are finding their way into devices with modest speed requirements, such as commercial display technologies.

Because the capacity of known organic semiconductors to perform high-speed computations remains limited, Rogers is also developing flexible semiconducting films based on silicon or carbon nanotubes. Such devices can be placed in locations where standard silicon wafer technologies are impractical or impossible; potential applications include photovoltaic cells, adaptive optics, electronic textiles and implantable biomimetic circuits.

In this still taken from a video posted on the MacArthur Foundation Web site, Rogers demonstrates the flexibility of the electronics made in his lab.

“It provides a real validation of the work we’ve been doing over the years. The other thing is the financial component will help us to seed new research directions, and I find that incredibly exciting, and it’s really a fantastic opportunity. I’m really pleased with this award,” Rogers said in a video posted on the MacArthur Web site.

Rogers received BA and BS degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the Lee J. Flory-Founder Chair Professor of Engineering at UIUC, where he is also affiliated with the Beckman Institute and the Materials Research Laboratory, as well as the departments of electrical and computer engineering, mechanical science and engineering, and chemistry. He served previously as a technical staff member (1997-2000) and director (2000-02) of the condensed matter physics research department of Bell Laboratories.

Other 2009 fellows include an infectious disease physician, an ornithologist, a painter, a photojournalist, a bridge engineer, a climate scientist, an economist, a papermaker, a mental health lawyer and a poet. All were selected for their creativity, originality and potential to make important contributions in the future.

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Sep 2009
adaptive optics
Optical components or assemblies whose performance is monitored and controlled so as to compensate for aberrations, static or dynamic perturbations such as thermal, mechanical and acoustical disturbances, or to adapt to changing conditions, needs or missions. The most familiar example is the "rubber mirror,'' whose surface shape, and thus reflective qualities, can be controlled by electromechanical means. See also active optics; phase conjugation.
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
adaptive opticsBasic Sciencebiomimeticcircuitselectronic textilesEmploymentflexible electronicgenius grantindustrialJohn A. RogersJohn D. and Catherine T. MacArthur FoundationMacArthur fellowshipmicrolithographicNews & FeaturesphotonicsphotovoltaicResearch & TechnologysiliconstampingUIUC

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