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05/19/2014 08:15:37

Resonate Awards Honor Global Champions of Sustainability

New awards granted by the Resnick Sustainability Institute recognize emerging global innovators in energy science and environmental policy.

On May 19, the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech announced five innovators in the fields of energy science and sustainability as the inaugural winners of the Resonate Awards.

As part of the Resnick Sustainability Institute's mission to advance research in renewable energy and sustainability science, the new award is meant to draw attention to important work in green innovation, which is often overlooked among other advances in technology. The Resonate Award recognizes early career researchers and emerging leaders in sustainability who have the potential to make a significant global impact but have not yet received widespread recognition.

With the award, the Resnick Sustainability Institute will honor those who have contributed to green solutions in a variety of fields including science, technology, economics, and public policy.

"We are committed to finding scalable long-term solutions to some of the biggest energy and environmental problems facing the world today," says Harry Atwater, the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science and director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute. "We started the Resonate Awards because we realized that there is an urgent need to recognize and promote the advances of sustainability innovators."

After receiving more than 50 candidate nominations last fall, an internal review panel narrowed the field to 12 finalists, from which the five 2014 Resonate Award winners were selected by a panel of judges from industry, academia, international governments, and journalism:

  • Thomas Francisco Jaramillo, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, received the Resonate Award "for catalyzing chemical reactions for renewable energy production and storage." Jaramillo's work has led to the discovery of stable earth-abundant catalysts that drive chemical reactions for renewable hydrogen production from water and the sustainable conversion of carbon dioxide into fuels and chemicals.
  • Sarah Kearney, the founder and executive director of PRIME Coalition, was honored "for designing flexible impact-focused investment models to fund innovative ventures offering scalable solutions to global social problems." At PRIME Coalition, a membership-based nonprofit, Kearney's work links philanthropists and investors to high-risk, high-reward startups addressing global environmental and social problems.
  • Shinichi Komaba, a professor of applied chemistry at Tokyo University of Science and project professor at Kyoto University, was selected "for developing materials for safe, efficient battery storage for electric vehicles and the grid." Komaba's research in the field of energy storage is aimed at making batteries safer and more efficient—an important step in the design of zero-emission vehicles.
  • Javad Lavaei (PhD '11), an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University, was chosen "for building a computational backbone to transform the power grid into one that is flexible, smart and dynamic." Lavaei's interdisciplinary work in math, control and optimization theory, economics, and computer science provides a computational framework for incorporating renewable energy into the electricity grid in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
  • Jay Whitacre, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University and founder and chief technology officer of Aquion Energy was awarded "for research and development of scalable, environmentally benign, low-cost grid-scale energy storage." Whitacre's contributions to finding safe, reliable, cost-effective, and sustainable energy storage solutions resulted in the development of a sodium-based electrolyte battery technology that can be made with low-cost materials.

"Each of these extraordinary sustainability champions has combined academic and professional excellence with imagination and boldness to not only envision but create solutions to the pressing challenges that face us today and tomorrow," Atwater says.

The awards will be presented at the Fortune magazine Brainstorm GREEN conference this week in Laguna Niguel, California. In addition to receiving their honors, the awardees will also give presentations at the conference.

For more information about the awards, please see the Resonate Awards webpage.

Written by Jessica Stoller-Conrad