Innovating Dirt Cheap: What Sadoway Can Teach Us About The Future Of Clean Energy (Huffington Post)

Screenshot of video with tuxedo-clad professor at the front of lecture hall, holding up a glass of champagne.

Professor Donald Sadoway toasts the students at end of his class 3.091 Introduction to Solid State Chemistry.

Professor Donald Sadoway is the charismatic and insightful instructor of one of OCW’s most popular courses, 3.091SC Introduction to Solid State Chemistry. With legions of fans around the world, his video lectures reveal frequent pearls of general wisdom among the clear explanations of chemistry fundamentals and applications.

Sadoway’s research on grid-scale energy storage also has legions of fans. Louika Papadopoulos recently wrote on five favorite Sadoway quotes springing from his clean energy work.

When it comes to alternate power sources and batteries, Donald R. Sadoway, John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is the man to turn to. Voted one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2012, Sadoway is not only known for his packed classes, despite being one of the largest in the history of the institute, but for the pieces of wisdom he imparts when simply speaking about batteries. Here are a few of my favorite Sadoway quotes and what I believe they can teach us about the future of clean energy.

My personal favorites are these two:

2. “The liquid metal battery story is more than an account of inventing technology. It’s a blueprint for inventing inventors.”
This is an often overlooked and yet ubiquitous truth. Whenever dealing with innovation it is important to remember it’s not just about the technology, it is about nurturing a culture of innovation. It’s about investing in people who can maximize any technology’s potential, adapt it efficiently to current circumstances and ensure its appropriate future development. It’s about creating inventors of technology who can use what they have learned to tackle new problems and develop new technologies. The bottom line is: more energy inventors moulded, more energy inventions made…

4. “If you want to make something dirt cheap, make it out of dirt. Preferably dirt that’s locally sourced.”
If we want innovation in energy to truly benefit humanity we have to make sure it is available to all. What better way to do that than to make it cheap and locally sourced? This quote is also the inspiration for the title of this piece as it also represents a key element of Sadoway’s work. Instead of trying to invent a product and then struggle to make it economically viable, Sadoway opted instead to develop a battery that would meet the pricing point of the electricity market upon creation. This is the reason why he looked only at earth-abundant materials that would work well with cheap manufacturing techniques. Dirt-cheap innovation indeed!

Read the complete story.

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