Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor in Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, has received the 2015 Renewable Energy Prize, one of the prestigious Eni Awards, for his work capturing potential energy released by wasted heat.
Considered by some the "Nobel Prizes for energy," the Eni Awards aim to promote better use of energy sources and inspire new generations of researchers.
Kanatzidis' prize for renewable energy is one of five categories of the Eni Awards. Given by the Italian energy company Eni, the prize consists of a specially struck gold medal of the Italian State Mint and 200,000 euros. Eni Award recipients will be honored in Rome by the president of Italy later this year.
"There's always someone out there who seems to be better," Kanatzidis said. "This time, I couldn't believe it was me."
Kanatzidis is an international leader in inorganic and solid-state chemistry. His research focuses on the development of new solid-state semiconductors able to recover waste heat and convert it directly into electricity.
"A lot of heat is wasted when we are creating energy," Kanatzidis said. "If we can recover some of that and make the system more efficient, we can create more clean, renewable energy."
About two-thirds of the world's energy is lost to waste heat, such as the steam from a car's exhaust pipe. By harvesting waste heat, energy can be saved in many thermal processes, increasing overall efficiency in many energy-producing systems and reducing CO2 emissions.
Kanatzidis, who has taught at Northwestern since 2006, first started researching thermoelectric energy potential two decades ago. By creating materials that convert waste heat to electricity, he has helped transform the field and set the course for future breakthroughs in renewable energy.
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