White is finalist for Bepi Colombo Prize
White was considered for his pioneering work in developing self-healing polymers, materials that mimic the autonomic healing response natural to living systems. White’s research team reported their initial breakthrough in 2001 with an epoxy polymer containing a microencapsulated healing agent and a catalytic chemical trigger. Cracks in the polymer rupture the embedded microcapsules, releasing the healing agent into the crack, healing it. In subsequent research White’s team has developed a second generation of the polymers incorporating a vascular network akin to biological systems, so that the healing agent supply can be replenished indefinitely, extending the materials’ lifetime greatly.
The research has gained worldwide attention and has resulted in White founding a company, Autonomic Materials Incorporated, in the University of Illinois Research Park. Applications for the self-healing polymers are far-reaching, ranging from aerospace structures, to sporting goods, to microelectronics to coatings and paint.
Candidates for the biannual Bepi Colombo Prize must have produced research that has contributed to a meaningful advance in a field related to Prof. Colombo’s research activity, and/or has produced results that impact consumers’ daily lives.
Colombo built his career at the University of Padova, Italy, lecturing on mechanical vibrations and celestial mechanics, as well as space vehicles and rockets. He participated in research at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, then at Caltech and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Colombo is known for his discovery of the spin-orbital coupling of Mercury, the planning of multiple fly-by of Mercury in 1972-1973, the conceptual design of the Solar Probe mission, the promotion of the Skyhook concept applications, a new type of orbiting gravity gradiometer, and the interpretation of the azimuthal brightness variation of ring A of Saturn as a spiral structure. He studied new concepts concerning space transportation, large space structures and evolution of space technology for space sciences and applications. He also was one of the pioneers of many tethered satellite applications.