2017 LEIGH ANN CONN
Dr. Jay Whitacre
Carnegie Mellon University professor awarded UofL renewable energy prize
An international pioneer in sustainable energy technology who specializes in ultra-low-cost, water-based energy storage solutions has been awarded the 2017 Leigh Ann Conn Prize for Renewable Energy from the University of Louisville.
Jay Whitacre, PhD, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, will give a public talk at UofL and receive the Conn Prize medal and $50,000 award in March. The biannual award recognizes outstanding renewable energy ideas and achievements that have had a proven global impact.
Whitacre’s sodium-ion batteries, which use only water-based chemicals, are an economical way to incorporate renewable energy into the grid. The batteries use no organic solvents or heavy metals, and are inherently environmentally safe to manufacture and implement. Whitacre has received 16 United States patents and multiple international patents. The company he founded, Aquion Energy, is now rapidly growing after being acquired in the summer of 2017.
“Dr. Whitacre is a world-class scientist and entrepreneur dedicated to the viability of low-cost energy storage,” said Greg Postel, interim UofL president. “The University of Louisville celebrates his research and its positive influence. In a changing world of energy use, he is an outstanding winner of the Leigh Ann Conn Prize.”
The prize, which is administered 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 prize benefactors.
“This revolutionary battery technology and Jay’s resilient entrepreneurial spirit demonstrate a vitality that resonates. It’s what we all need,” Hank Conn said. “It is exciting to recognize his innovations and their translation into impactful technology.”
The inaugural Conn Prize was won in 2013 by Dr. Michael Graetzel, developer of the dye-sensitized solar cell. The 2015 prize was awarded to Dr. Dan Nocera for the development of the Artificial Leaf and large-scale flow battery.