Campus news in brief

Carnegie Mellon inventor awarded $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize

Earlier in September, Carnegie Mellon professor and practicing materials scientist Jay Whitacre was awarded the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Prize of $500,000. The award is given to inventors whose creations are designed to improve the world.

In Whitacre’s case, this invention is the Aqueous Hybrid ion battery, which is an “environmentally-benign and cost-efficient energy storage system,” according to a university press release.

The battery is intended for use in a combination of solar and wind energy systems, and was developed using sustainable resources. Whitacre’s company, Aquion Energy, has full manufacturing and marketing capability, which will allow for world-wide distribution. One of the greatest challenges Whitacre faced was creating a storage system that did not rely on the presence of wind or sunlight. What makes the battery groundbreaking is its ability to function as an energy source day-and-night.

This invention is far from Whitacre’s inaugural contribution to his field: he holds over 30 patents and pending patents, and has published more than 60 papers.

In addition to his contributions directly to the Carnegie Mellon Community, Whitacre has been highly active in the greater Pittsburgh area, through his company’s involvement in multiple programs aimed at developing student engineers.

With a portion of his prize money, Whitacre plans to support and encourage graduate students who have an interest in pioneering energy solutions.

Carnegie Mellon, City of Pittsburgh help create new network to address challenges

In an effort to confront local challenges, Carnegie Mellon University and the City of Pittsburgh have combined forces. Using a $1 million grant, the duo plans to create the “MetroLab Network” — a national union that includes 20 urban areas and their neighboring universities. The goal is to develop and distribute new technologies that will tackle vital problems in these areas.The $1 million grant, courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. Macarthur foundation, will be used toward the cost of hiring administrative personnel, including an executive director.

According to a university press release, University Provost Farnam Jahanian commented, “In the spirit of collaboration, Carnegie Mellon is excited to take a leading role in the founding of the MetroLab Network. This effort builds on decades of research supported by federal agencies, private foundations, and industry collaboration to create solutions that improve urban areas and provide real benefits to the public. We are eager to participate and work together with the other members of the network to develop and deploy technologies capable of creating a brighter future for our cities.”

The network will use data and various information technologies to understand how major cities work, and then apply this information to better them. The involved universities possess the technological knowledge to apply the research, while the urban areas will serve as real-life trial grounds.

The city will function as an “urban lab,” according to Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. The MetroLab Network is modeled off many prior successes, including multiple Carnegie Mellon contributions to the Pittsburgh area.