CAMBRIDGE — A Massachusetts Institute of Technology materials chemist has been named winner of the annual $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize for mid-career inventors who develop products that improve the world.

Angela Belcher. Photo taken from Lemelson-MIT website.

Angela Belcher, a world leader in nanotechnology, says she takes inspiration from nature to create environmentally friendly materials for human use.

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Belcher’s processes have been used to create eco-friendly batteries and high-efficiency solar cells and are now being used to create clean fuel. Her latest work is focused on methods to use nanotechnology to image early stage cancers and improve outcomes following surgery.

She believes if organic and inorganic materials can combine in nature to produce exquisite structures, similar processes can be used to create useful products in the lab.

She’ll use a portion of the award to get others, especially youth, excited about science.