Jay Whitacre wins $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for his Invention of Aqueous Hybrid Ion (AHI) Battery

We have already seen the Innovative mind of Jay Whitacre at Aquion Energy which has been developing a long-lived, eco-friendly, and inexpensive battery out of nothing more than saltwater and other simple components.   

Jay Whitacre is the founder and CTO of Aquion Energy. Before his role at Aquion, Whitacre worked on energy storage for NASA’s Mars rover program. Aquion Energy manufactures clean and sustainable saltwater batteries that outlive and outperform traditional battery chemistries.  

As per the latest press release of MIT news on 15th Sep 15, Jay Whitacre, a materials scientist, and professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering is the recipient of the 2015 $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize.

Whitacre is the inventor of the Aqueous Hybrid Ion (AHI) battery, a reliable, environmentally benign, and cost-efficient energy storage system. This first-of-its-kind battery, often used in combination with solar and wind energy systems, stores significant amounts of energy at a low cost per joule and allows for around-the-clock consumption.   

Whitacre’s AHI battery, developed using abundant and inexpensive resources including water, sodium, and carbon, can help reduce dependence on fossil fuels and make sustainable energy a viable alternative.

The company that Whitacre founded, Aquion Energy, has fully scaled manufacturing and commercialized the battery with global distribution channels and installations in many locations including Australia, California, Germany, Hawaii, Malaysia, and the Philippines.  


Photo courtesy of the Lemelson-MIT Program.  

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). Whitacre plans to contribute a significant portion of the money from the Lemelson-MIT Prize to create a fellowship to support graduate students and nurture interest in innovative energy solution.

“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. “Jay is passionate about sharing his experiences with young people and is intent on inspiring them to cultivate an interest in STEM and invention. He personifies the mission of Lemelson-MIT through his commitment to mentorship, his desire to solve some of our world’s greatest problems, and his ability to commercialize his technologies.”  

The greatest technical challenge with harnessing electricity from renewable sources is its intermittency; storing energy for use when the sun isn’t shining or a breeze isn’t blowing has remained an expensive hurdle. Further, energy storage batteries for stationary applications have historically been based on lead-acid chemistry that pollutes and is largely unreliable or lithium-ion chemistry that has proven unsafe at times.  

Whitacre founded Aquion Energy (then known as “44 tech”) in 2008 with support from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, with the goal of bringing to market a new class of aqueous sodium-ion functional battery.

The resulting Aquion battery systems help customers increase the use of renewables, reduce reliance on diesel, control peak energy costs, provide power stability, bring access to electricity in under-electrified regions, and improve power reliability to areas with unstable grid infrastructure. It is the industry’s first-ever Cradle to Cradle Certified battery while offering superior value when compared with other energy storage products on the market.  

Explore further in MIT News


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