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Dr. Daniel Nocera

UofL’s renewable energy prize goes to Harvard chemist 

World-renowned chemist and professor Daniel Nocera, the Patterson Rookwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, has won the 2015 Leigh Ann Conn Prize for Renewable Energy from the University of Louisville, which recognizes outstanding renewable energy ideas and achievements with proven global impact.

Nocera is recognized for two energy storage creations. The first is his “Artificial Leaf,” a renewable energy device that synthetically duplicates the direct solar-to-fuel steps of photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen to create fuel for themselves. The Artificial Leaf was named Innovation of the Year for 2011 by Time magazine.

The second is a low cost, rechargeable “flow” battery for scalable centralized (grid) and distributed (microgrid) energy storage at the megawatt-hour (MWh) scale. Nocera’s innovations address the storage of energy until needed, the most critical challenge of widespread implementation of renewables.

In August 2014, Lockheed Martin purchased the assets of his company, Sun Catalytix, including the associated flow battery invention, and is fast-tracking this technology at the MWh scale under the new venture Lockheed Martin Advanced Energy Storage, LLC. The energy storage cost using Nocera’s flow battery is half that of traditionally used vanadium-based flow batteries.

In March 2016, Dr. Nocera will give a free public talk in Louisville about his winning work. He will receive the Conn Prize medal and $50,000 award at the formal Leigh Ann Conn Prize Laureate ceremony.

“Dr. Nocera is a world class scientist addressing the grand challenges of making energy conversion and storage more efficient and economically viable. The University of Louisville values his research, and we are proud that he is the 2015 winner of the Leigh Ann Conn Prize,” said UofL President James Ramsey, who will confer the award.

The prize, managed by UofL’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, is named for the late daughter of Hank and Rebecca Conn, who are center supporters and the prize benefactors. The inaugural prize was won in 2013 by Dr. Michael Graetzel, developer of the dye-sensitized solar cell.

“Dr. Nocera is an astute global thinker working to bring energy to the world, especially in developing nations,” Hank Conn said. “This battery technology shows vision arising from highly diverse, yet targeted expertise. His work parallels the initiatives and scientific endeavors at UofL’s Conn Center.”

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