To promote innovative and potentially game-changing solutions to some of the hardest problems in alternative energy and the environment, Caltech’s Resnick Sustainability Institute has announced the winners of the 2014 Resonate Awards. The work being recognized is in several key areas: development of safe and cost effective energy storage; the most sophisticated mathematics for optimizing the smart electric grid; development of a key building block for alternative energy of the future; and a new model for funding global sustainability solutions.
“Our goal is to bring hope for the planet by shining a light on unheralded innovators who are on the cusp of big, important ideas,” said Dr. Harry Atwater, Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute and Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics at Caltech. “While many computer and health innovations get honored, those in sustainability are often overlooked because they are hard to explain and their impact has a very long time horizon. But without these, the future is at risk.”
This year’s Resonate Award winners are (in alphabetical order):
- Thomas Francisco Jaramillo, Assistant Professor, Stanford University School of Chemical Engineering: Resonate Award recipient for catalyzing chemical reactions for renewable energy production and storage. His work focuses on the creation of materials at the atomic scale that drive chemical reactions important for renewable energy production and storage. His endeavors have led to the discovery of stable, earth-abundant catalysts for renewable hydrogen production from water and for converting CO2 into fuels and chemicals in a sustainable manner.
- Sarah Kearney, Founder and Executive Director of PRIME Coalition; Resonate Award recipient for designing flexible impact-focused investment models to fund innovative ventures offering scalable solutions to global social problems. Kearney’s fundamental insight was that raising capital for complex sustainability problems requires a new investment model.
- Shinichi Komaba, Professor of Applied Chemistry at Tokyo University of Science and a Project Professor at Kyoto University; Resonate Award Recipient for developing materials for safe, efficient battery storage for EVs and the grid. Professor Komaba’s research in energy storage has developed safer lithium-ion batteries, and high energy sodium-ion batteries that can help grow the EV and grid-scale storage markets.
- Javad Lavaei, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University; Resonate Award recipient for building a computational backbone to transform the power grid into one that is flexible, smart and dynamic. His work focuses on solving hard computational challenges, like the optimal power flow problem, that provide a scalable framework for incorporating distributed solar, storage and other resources into the electricity grid in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
- Jay Whitacre, Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Founder and CTO of Aquion Energy; Resonate Award recipient for research and development of scalable, environmentally benign, low cost grid-scale energy storage. Aquion Energy is working to commercialize a breakthrough, cost-effective solution to store energy from intermittent renewables to make clean power.
The Resnick Sustainability Institute’s Resonate Awards focus on innovative, paradigm-shifting work from individuals whose ideas are worthy of significant, widespread recognition. This work can be from many fields including science, technology, economics, public policy, or others. The intent of the awards is to draw attention to the innovators making significant strides in some of the grand challenges facing humanity, within the context of achieving global sustainability. These include meeting the world’s energy needs sustainably, providing water and food for a growing world population, cleaning the environment, improving people’s access to the natural resources they need to live a productive life.
“The problems of sustainability demand provocative thinking from innovators who are able to look beyond the next few years to conquer the very long-term and hard problems,” said Atwater. “It is critical that business and industry support these thought leaders by bringing attention to and encouraging their work and careers. We are very proud of this group of winners and look forward to honoring high caliber work for years to come.”
Nominations came from came from around the world, with the selection process starting last summer. The advisory panel for Caltech’s Resnick Sustainability Institute 2014 Resonate Awards included executives from Google and Facebook, scientists from top universities and national labs, current and former members of the cabinets of Taiwan, Japan and the U.S., and leading business journalists. For more information about the awards, the winners and their work, see //resnick.caltech.edu/awards.php.