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Michigan Engineering alum receives Lemelson-MIT Prize

U-M MSE alum, Jay Whitacre, is being recognized for his work inventing the Aqueous Hybrid Ion battery.| Short Read
EnlargePortrait of Jay Whitacre
IMAGE:  Jay Whitacre. Photo: MIT Technology Review

University of Michigan Materials Science Engineering alum Jay Whitacre (ME ’97, PhD ’99), has received the 2015 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for his work inventing the Aqueous Hybrid Ion battery, a durable, non-toxic battery often used to store energy electricity solar and wind energy systems.

Whitacre founded Aquion Energy in 2008 to commercialize the first-of-its-kind battery technology, which uses safe and abundant materials like salt, water and carbon. Now fully commercialized, the battery is manufactured in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania and distributed across the globe.

Whitacre said he plans to use a portion of the award to start a fellowship that will support graduate students and nurture interest in innovative energy solutions.

“We are proud to recognize Jay Whitacre as this year’s Lemelson-MIT Prize winner,” said Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program in an MIT news release. “Jay is passionate about sharing his experiences with young people, and is intent on inspiring them to cultivate an interest in STEM and invention.”

The Lemelson-MIT Prize honors outstanding mid-career inventors improving the world through technological invention and demonstrating a commitment to mentorship in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

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The electrons absorb laser light and set up “momentum combs” (the hills) spanning the energy valleys within the material (the red line). When the electrons have an energy allowed by the quantum mechanical structure of the material—and also touch the edge of the valley—they emit light. This is why some teeth of the combs are bright and some are dark. By measuring the emitted light and precisely locating its source, the research mapped out the energy valleys in a 2D crystal of tungsten diselenide. Credit: Markus Borsch, Quantum Science Theory Lab, University of Michigan.

Mapping quantum structures with light to unlock their capabilities

Rather than installing new “2D” semiconductors in devices to see what they can do, this new method puts them through their paces with lasers and light detectors. | Medium Read