Resnick Institute

2014 Resonate Award Winners

Jay Whitacre

Resonate Award recipient for research and development of scalable, environmentally benign, low cost grid-scale energy storage.

The Challenge

Energy storage is essential for grid flexibility and stability. Storage balances supply and demand and modulates the increased use of wind and solar power, as well as EVs and responsive demand. As such, storage can improve the management of distribution networks, reduce costs, accelerate the decarbonisation of the grid and improve efficiency. The main challenge for energy storage has been economic. There are multiple issues that must be overcome in energy storage ranging from fundamental materials issues such as finding stable, low-cost components to market adoption rate of a productized solution.


The Response

Jay has developed a novel sodium-based aqueous electrolyte battery technology based on low cost functional materials. His company, Aquion Energy, is in the process of launching the product for stationary energy storage in both on grid and off-grid applications. The Aquion storage solution utilizes earth-abundant, nontoxic materials: each unit has a manganese oxide cathode and carbon composite anode separated by a synthetic cotton barrier set in a sodium sulfate electrolyte. The units are modular and assemble as a kit of parts enhancing their scalability and keeping costs low.


The Future

Full-scale production and adoption of this new storage technology will result in a net decrease in greenhouse gas emissions via a more efficient grid. It will increase the use of renewable power sources and enable a highly distributed micro-grid based power system for regions with emerging economies and little to no existing grid structure.