On a mission to change the way the world uses energy, Jay Whitacre is the latest recipient of the prestigious $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, which honors remarkable mid-career inventors who have also demonstrated a commitment to mentorship in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Whitacre was recognized for inventing a low-cost, eco-friendly battery, called the Aqueous Hybrid Ion battery, which stores massive amounts of energy at a low cost per joule.
College Inventors Awarded For Leading The Future Of Tech
The rechargeable battery - made from water and inexpensive resources like sodium and carbon - stores excess energy generated by renewable sources such solar and wind systems, so that the energy can be used later when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing.
This kind of storage can make renewable energy more reliable and reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.
Whitacre is a materials scientist and professor at Carnegie Mellon University's College of Engineering. He is also the founder of Aquion Energy, a startup that manufactures and commercializes eco-friendly batteries.
Pop! Clack! Buzz! Science Fair Winners Invent
Whitacare plans to donate a significant portion of his Lemelson-MIT Prize money toward creating a fellowship to support graduate students interested in innovative energy solutions.
"Jay is passionate about sharing his experiences with young people, and is intent on inspiring them to cultivate an interest in STEM and invention," Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, said in a press release.
Whitacre will be honored in person on Nov. 2 at EmTech MIT, an annual conference on emerging technologies hosted by "Technology Review" at the MIT Media Lab.