2015 Resonate Award Winners
Resonate Award recipient for engineering enhanced batteries and other sustainable energy related devices through innovations in nanotechnology.
Yi Cui is an Associate Professor in Materials Science at Stanford University. His Resonate Award winning work focuses on the design of nanomaterials for energy conversion and storage. He is a highly prolific materials scientist and has published over 290 research papers. His work has had a very large impact and he is among the top most cited scientists in the world. Cui is also an Associate Editor of Nano Letters and co-director of the Bay Area Photovoltaics Consortium, which is funded by the US Department of Energy. In 2008, He founded Amprius Inc., to commercialize high-energy battery technology that could potentially revolutionize portable electronics and transportation applications.
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.
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.
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.
Joel L. Dawson
Resonate Award recipient for innovations solving key power challenges in the cellular communications industry.
Joel L. Dawson is the CTO and co-founder of Eta Devices, Inc., a fabless semiconductor company in Cambridge, MA. Eta Devices spun out of Joel's research at MIT, where he was an Associate Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science until 2012. This work is the conduit for his Resonate Award winning work in mobile power architecture, which drastically reduces the energy inefficiencies laden in radio communications. Joel received his SB and MEng degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT and his PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford. Upon graduation, he co-founded Aspendos Communications, a fabless semiconductor company that was acquired by Beceem Communications. As a MIT faculty member, Joel received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2008 and was selected for the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2009.
Wireless (radio) communications require a significant amount of energy. Globally, mobile networks consume approximately 120 TWh (terawatt-hours) of electricity per year. Up to 80 percent of that power consumed by base station's (cell phone towers) power amplifiers, the large, heavy part of the radio that launches electrical signals out through the antenna. Today's technology for mobile networks is outdated and uses more power than what's needed to support the radio signal in base stations and mobile devices.
The challenge is not limited to large cellular base stations. In smartphones, power amplifiers for LTE and WiFi dominate the energy consumption during any sort of wireless communications. Inefficient power amplifiers are a primary reason that cell phones become warm to the touch and drain their battery life so quickly under heavy usage.
Eta Devices has developed a new transmitter technology called ETAdvanced. This technology has the proven capability to dramatically reduce power consumption in transmitters everywhere in the wireless ecosystem, from large macro base stations, to cellular handsets, to WLAN access points and mobile devices. The new architecture can be thought of as an ultrafast electronic gearbox—minimizing the wasted energy while still adhering to stringent performance standards. Eta Devices has leveraged the fundamental, physical advantage of the new technology into a complete set of microchips being released this year. The portfolio includes products for macro base stations, cellular handsets, and WiFi for mobile devices and access points.
When implemented around the world, Dawson's technology will slash green house gas emissions by about 36 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents annually. That's as much CO2 as is generated by 4.5 million American homes per year. Eta Devices' technology opens up a pathway for cellular companies to simultaneously save money and become more sustainable. The lower energy consumption also enables cellular base stations powered exclusively by renewable sources bringing additional benefits. It also introduces savings on secondary costs such as air-conditioning and back-up power systems. Eta Devices hopes to make a global impact in cellular networks particularly in the developing world, where diesel-powered generators are used to power base stations. They're also targeting the massive smartphone market, which will bring substantial carbon footprint reductions.
Resonate Award recipient for innovating enhanced materials for next-generation fuel cells.
Tsutomu Ioroi is a Japanese electrochemist. His Resonate Award winning work has improved the durability and efficiency of polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs). Ioroi pioneered titanium oxide-based corrosion-resistant electrocatalysts, giving rise to their global adoption and increasing the commercial viability for PEFC systems, which operate with near-zero emissions. Tsutomu received his master's degree from Kyoto University and doctor of Engineering from Kyoto University. He joined the Osaka National Research Institute, AIST, Japan in 1997 after finishing university. Ioroi is currently still at AIST, where he is partnered with the Japanese government and the fuel cell industry to advance PEFC research.
Fuel cells produce electricity through an electrochemical process and do not generate particulate pollutants, unburned hydrocarbons, or the gases that produce acid rain. They emit less carbon dioxide than other less efficient technologies, and their use with renewable fuels can make them carbon neutral. Degradation of the electrocatalyst in polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFC), that use hydrogen as their fuel source, contributes to significant losses in performance over time. This adds considerable expense making their adoption prohibitive. Improving performance and durability of these systems is a fundamental challenge that Dr. Ioroi has addressed via materials innovations.
Dr. Ioroi developed a stable catalyst material for PEFCs from oxygen-deficient titanium oxides, called "Magneli phase" titanium oxides. He demonstrated that Magneli phases exhibit better stability against corrosion while retaining high electronic conductivity needed for electrode materials compared to conventional carbon supported platinum electrodes in PEFCs. Dr. Ioroi has also contributed to the enhancement in the total efficiencies of a unitized regenerative fuel cell (URFC). A URFC combines the functions of a fuel cell with that of a water electrolyzer: the water electrolyzer splits water into H2 and O2 using electricity and the fuel cell consumes the H2 and 02 to produce electricity. By identifying materials and structures that are more active during both the fuel cell and water splitting reactions, he has helped to improve the round trip efficiencies of these devices.
Making fuel cell systems more durable and efficient is an important strategy aimed at reducing costs, which should increase adoption of this promising technology. Ioroi's PEFC breakthrough technology has received global attention and financial support from NEDO, fuel cell system developers. Additionally, his URFC work has given rise to a growing trend in their development.
Mika Järvinen w/ Arshe Said
Resonate Award recipient for pioneering a CO2 sequestration process that converts a low-value steel-manufacturing by-product into a valuable resource for industry.
Mika Järvinen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Energy Technology at Aalto University and an Academy of Finland Research Fellow. His team's Resonate Award winning process sequesters CO2 by mineral carbonation using steel slag (a by-product of steelmaking) as raw material. Järvinen's Doctoral student Arshe Said (pictured above right) worked as the main researcher on this project. Using waste slag and CO2 flue gas as resources, the team's process yields high valued precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC), which is useful to many industries. Järvinen is a graduate of the Department of Energy Technology at Lappeenranta University of Technology. Prior to his postdoctoral studies in the Aalto University, he worked at the Ahlstrom Machinery Corporation as a research engineer. In addition to carbon capture and storage by mineral carbonization, Järvinen's group researches biomass combustion, circulating fluidized bed gasification of waste, and advanced modeling of industrial processes, mainly for energy and metallurgical applications.
Steel production is a significant material and energy intensive industry. Nearly 1500 million tons (Mt) of steel is manufactured globally every year resulting in 2700 Mt of CO2, about 7% of global emissions. Steel production also yields 500 Mt of a by-product called slag, which contains 20 to 40% calcium. While slag is used in the production of cement and in road construction, a significant amount is still land filled. Simultaneous to this, 12-14 Mt of precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC or CaCO3) is produced annually from virgin materials around the world for use as fillers in paper, plastics and pharmaceutical products. The challenge of this project is to sequester waste CO2 from the steel industry, while at the same time using its slag waste to produce useful, revenue generating, PCC.
Järvinen's group has developed the first Slag-to-PCC (Slag2PCC) pilot plant utilizing steel slag and CO2 from steel mill flue gases to produce highly valued precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC). The process begins by selectively dissolving calcium from the slag using ammonium chloride. CO2 is then bubbled through the solution and calcium carbonate is formed. If all the calcium in steel slag could be recovered this way, approximately 13 Mt of PCC could be produced annually, which meets its global demand. Additionally, 6 Mt of CO2 per year would be sequestered plus the 3 Mt CO2 annually produced by traditional PCC production. By creating a highly valuable product from a material that would have otherwise been landfilled, not only are the landfill related emissions eliminated, but so are those from the mining requirement of virgin limestone.
The pilot PCC plant was opened at the Otaniemi campus of Aalto University in January 2014. The method used in the pilot is based on the patent owned by the Aalto University Foundation, Åbo Akademi University and steel maker SSAB. The pilot plant is first of its kind and is currently actively used to study how this technology can effectively and most sustainably be brought to industrial scale. The team is looking for the best ways of achieving this as well as new partners to grow towards production on the commercial scale. The team is also working on the commercialization of the process and their objective is to have a bigger demonstration scale plant built next to a steel plant in Finland within the next 2-4 years.
Delia J. Milliron
Resonate Award recipient for leveraging nanomaterials to improve the carbon reduction capabilities of smart windows.
Delia Milliron is an Associate Professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and a fellow of the Henry Beckman Professorship. Her Resonate Award winning work explores how nanomaterials can enhance energy technologies and lower their costs. By embedding nanocrystals in electroresponsive glass, she was the first to demonstrate that smart window technology could be made that independently controls heat and light coming from the sun, which can save energy and optimize thermal comfort in buildings. Delia received her PhD in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and later worked for IBM's research division and for the Molecular Foundry, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where she served as the Director of the Inorganic Nanostructures Facility and later as the Deputy Director. In 2012, she co-founded Heliotrope Technologies, a start-up company developing smart window technology.Opening Comments
Buildings account for 40% of energy consumed in the U.S. and much of it is wasted due to poor management of day lighting and thermal losses because of inefficient windows. Each day this costs the U.S. economy about $100M and the energy wasted is equivalent to the output of over 400 coal-fired power plants. Windows capable of blocking sunlight in a dynamic fashion exist and can help mitigate the problem, however they primarily modulate only visible light and therefore cannot control the large thermal loads arising from solar infrared (heat). Therefore a major challenge in buildings has been to design a dynamic smart window material that can adapt to changing weather by managing transmission of both visible and infrared energy, and do it all at an affordable price.
Delia's group has designed dynamic smart windows that allow building occupants to have better control over the amount of heat and the brightness of light that enters their structures; saving heating, cooling, and lighting costs. To do this, they've created transparent window coatings that incorporate infrared-blocking nanocrystals. The coatings can be applied using inexpensive techniques similar to spray-painting a car. Windows with these coatings, along with a simple control system, have the potential to dramatically enhance energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption throughout the commercial and residential building sectors, while making building occupants more comfortable.
The combination of controlling infrared and visible light transmission on demand, plus lower manufacturing cost paves the way for commercial success and a substantial reduction in energy impact. Recognizing the potential of this technology, private and public funds exceeding $6M has been committed to it. If successful, the low-cost window coatings will yield a 5-fold reduction in the cost of "smart window" production, enabling more consumers to adopt the technology and drive down building energy consumption. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings reduces pressure on the electrical grid, improving its stability and also reducing the nation's dependence on imported oil for heating. Better building efficiency also limits electricity and fuel consumption; saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Watch the Discussion: "Will Tech Save the Planet?"
The 2015 Resonate Awards were presented in Aspen and the winners participated in a panel discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Overview: The primary paradigm of our time is that high-tech solutions will eventually solve all of our environmental, social, and economic woes. Can modern technology alone save us in the presence of continued economic growth, population expansion, and climate change? Do we even have a choice anymore? Caltech's 2015 Resonate Award winners — all world leaders in advancing sustainable solutions to global environmental challenges — discuss the issue. They examine what technologies are most needed to address today's challenges, shedding light on the barriers technologists face and what is most needed to accelerate technological solutions in both the short and long term. Learn what future technologies could be game-changers and what other factors technologists think must be considered if technology is indeed to save us.