Resnick Institute

2015 Resonate Award Winners

Yi Cui

Resonate Award recipient for engineering enhanced batteries and other sustainable energy related devices through innovations in nanotechnology.

The Challenge

One of the primary challenges in developing cost effective alternative energy conversion and storage devices (fuel cells, batteries, solar panels) is finding abundant materials with the desired properties that can scale up to be the active pieces of a terawatt scale clean energy network. Traditionally, the properties needed (optical, electrical and thermal behavior, as well as ability to catalyze chemical reactions) are defined by the elemental composition of the materials, and often the best materials are either not good enough of are too expensive, rare or toxic to be useful. Nanotechnology has emerged as a way to alter the properties of materials by changing their size, shape and/or surfaces, in addition to altering their compositions. Cui focuses on advanced research in nanotechnology materials development to drive innovation in sustainable energy applications.

The Response

Yi Cui has made original and innovative contributions to a broad area of energy technologies, including batteries, solar cells, transparent electrodes, electrocatalysis and topological insulators. He is especially well known for his battery innovations, where he has laid the foundation for a battery technology revolution by actualizing batteries with 3-5 times higher energy density and 3 times less cost. His nanostructured Si anodes with 10 times the capacity of graphite launched a new field of research in nanomaterials design for energy storage. His many innovations continue to advance energy storage for portable electronics, electric cars and grid applications.

The Future

Nanotechnological products, processes and applications have the potential to contribute to environmental sustainability and climate protection by saving raw materials, energy and water as well as by reducing greenhouse gases and hazardous wastes. There is no end to the improvements in materials and device design that might benefit from understanding and developing new nanostructured materials. From enhanced absorption and emission of light, increased energy storage capacity and conversion efficiency, and new routes to renewable fuels and synthetic chemicals, we look forward to the myriad future innovations in nanotechnology, especially those spurred by Cui’s groundbreaking research.