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October 09, 2015


Whitacre's Battery Lands Him $500K Lemelson-MIT Prize

By Tara Moore /

Jay WhitacreJay Whitacre is leading the charge for renewable energy.

His invention, the Aqueous Hybrid Ion (AHITM) battery, a reliable, eco-friendly, cost-efficient energy storage system that is often used with solar and wind energy systems has earned him this year’s $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize.

Whitacre’s battery can store significant amounts of energy at a low cost and allows for around-the-clock consumption.

The materials scientists and professor in the College of Engineering developed the battery using abundant and inexpensive resources including water, sodium and carbon, which can help reduce dependence on fossil fuels and make sustainable energy a viable alternative.

His company, Aquion Energy, has fully scaled manufacturing and commercialized the battery with global distribution channels and installations in many locations including Australia, California, Germany, Hawaii, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The Lemelson-MIT Prize honors outstanding mid-career inventors improving the world through technological invention and demonstrating a commitment to mentorship in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Whitacre plans to contribute a significant portion of the money from the prize to create a fellowship that will support graduate students and nurture interest in innovative energy solutions.

“We are proud to recognize Jay Whitacre as this year’s Lemelson-MIT Prize winner,” said Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. “Jay is passionate about sharing his experiences with young people, and is intent on inspiring them to cultivate an interest in STEM and invention. He personifies the mission of Lemelson-MIT through his commitment to mentorship, his desire to solve some of our world’s greatest problems and his ability to commercialize his technologies.”

Storing energy for use when the sun isn’t shining or a breeze isn’t blowing has remained an expensive hurdle, and is the greatest technical challenge associated with harnessing electricity from renewable sources. And energy storage batteries for stationary applications have historically been based on lead-acid chemistry that pollutes and is largely unreliable, or lithium-ion chemistry that has proven to be unsafe at times.

Whitacre’s goal in founding Aquion Energy was to bring to market a new class of aqueous sodium ion functional battery. The resulting Aquion battery systems help customers increase use of renewables, reduce reliance on diesel, control peak energy costs, provide power stability, bring access to electricity in under-electrified regions, and improve power reliability to areas with unstable grid infrastructure.

It is the industry’s first-ever Cradle to Cradle Certified™ battery while offering superior value when compared to other energy storage products on the market.

Whitacre is a prolific inventor, with 30 patents either in his possession or pending, and has had more than 60 peer-reviewed papers published or in press.