Akron, Ohio — A professor from the University of North Carolina who also is co-founder of a company specializing in 3D printing has been chosen to be the 2021 recipient of the Charles Goodyear Medal, the highest honor given by the American Chemistry Society Rubber Division.
Joseph DeSimone is the chancellor's eminent professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina and the William R. Kenan Jr. professor of chemical engineering at North Carolina State.
In addition, he serves as chairman of Carbon Inc. in Redwood City, Calif., which he co-founded in 2014. The firm's 3D manufacturing technology allows for production-grade parts to be made rapidly and continuously from a liquid media rather than having to be built layer by layer.
DeSimone has published more than 350 scientific articles and has nearly 200 issued patents, with more than 200 patents pending, according to the Rubber Division.
His inventions include an environmentally friendly manufacturing process that relies on supercritical carbon dioxide instead of solvents for the creation of fluoropolymers or high-performance plastics, such as Teflon.
He and his students in 2004 developed a roll-to-roll nanoparticle fabrication technology called PRINT, standing for Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates. That has enabled his research group to focus on engineering new approaches to vaccines and medicines, employing PRINT's precise control over such particle attributes as size, shape and chemical composition.
DeSimone co-founded RTP Liquidity Technologies based on PRINT in 2004, and in 2018 the company went public.
In 2005, the professor's research group's work led to the creation of the Carolina Center for Cancer Nanotechnology, a $40 million initiative based at UNC's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and funded by the National Cancer Institute.
The letter nominating DeSimone for the medal said he is "not satisfied with conventional applications for elastomers, catalyzing him to become one of the most accomplished entrepreneurs of our times in the polymer science and engineering community. A quick glance of his honors reveals his sustained impact, unbridled passion, and unique ability to integrate fundamental rubber science and engineering with rapidly emerging technologies."
He is one of fewer than 20 individuals who have been elected to all three branches of the U.S. National Academies: the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.
In May 2016, DeSimone was recognized by President Barack Obama with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor in the U.S. for achievement and leadership in advancing technological progress. Other major awards he has earned include the 2017 Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment, and the 2008 Lemelson-MIT Prize.
"DeSimone is a truly exceptional scientist with immense impact on elastomer design, physical property measurements, green polymer production technologies, engineered nanoparticles for drug delivery, and now, for the first time, additive manufacturing of next-generation elastomeric three-dimensional objects," according to his nomination letter.
The Rubber Division said the purpose of the award is to perpetuate the memory of Charles Goodyear as the discoverer of the vulcanization of rubber by honoring individuals for outstanding invention, innovation or development, which has resulted in a significant change or contribution to the nature of the rubber industry.
DeSimone and other 2021 winners of the division's Science & Technology Awards will be honored during a banquet at the 2021 International Elastomer Conference in Pittsburgh.
The 2020 Science & Technology Awards recipients will receive their awards at a banquet at next spring's Rubber Division technical meeting. They weren't able to be honored this past spring, because the meeting was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.