Overall Rating Expired
Overall Score Expired
Liaison Justin Mog
Submission Date Feb. 13, 2016
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

University of Louisville
IN-3: Innovation 3

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete Expired Andrew Marsh
Assistant Director of the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research
J.B. Speed School of Engineering
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Title or keywords related to the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
University of Louisville's Leigh Ann Conn Prize for Renewable Energy

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:

The University of Louisville created the Leigh Ann Conn Prize for Renewable Energy in 2012. This biannual award is intended to spur interest and innovation in renewable energy by acknowledging, publicizing and disseminating outstanding ideas and achievements in research related to the science, engineering, technology and commercialization of renewable energy. Nominations may address a wide range of topics involving renewable energy and energy efficiency with a demonstrated or clear potential global impact. The award is designed to recognize and reward the impact of specific ideas or achievements, rather than a lifetime of achievements in the field.

The Leigh Ann Conn Prize in Renewable Energy consists of the award of a medal and a cash prize of $50,000. The prize is awarded biannually on odd numbered years, with the winners invited to speak about their work at free public lectures on UofL's campus. The prize was established in 2012 by UofL alumnus Hank Conn and his wife Rebecca in memory of their daughter, Leigh Ann.

Ideas eligible for nomination may have an individual author or multiple authors; however, the total cash prize would be shared in the case of multiple authors. The competition does not limit the format in which the idea or achievement appears. Consideration is given to documentation appearing in printed books and monographs, articles published in scholarly journals, technological advances, software, research reports, conference presentations, patent documents or other widely and publicly disseminated forms. Consistent with the intent of prize benefactors, Hank and Rebecca Conn, the award is not given posthumously.

In November 2015, it was announced that world-renowned chemist Daniel Nocera, the Patterson Rookwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, had won the 2015 Leigh Ann Conn Prize for Renewable Energy from the University of Louisville, which recognizes outstanding renewable energy ideas and achievements with proven global impact.

Nocera is recognized for two energy storage creations. The first is his “Artificial Leaf,” a renewable energy device that synthetically duplicates the direct solar-to-fuel steps of photosynthesis, the process by which plants use sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen to create fuel for themselves. The Artificial Leaf was named Innovation of the Year for 2011 by Time magazine.

The second is a low cost, rechargeable “flow” battery for scalable centralized (grid) and distributed (microgrid) energy storage at the megawatt-hour (MWh) scale. Nocera’s innovations address the storage of energy until needed, the most critical challenge of widespread implementation of renewables.

In August 2014, Lockheed Martin purchased the assets of his company, Sun Catalytix, including the associated flow battery invention, and is fast-tracking this technology at the MWh scale under the new venture Lockheed Martin Advanced Energy Storage, LLC. The energy storage cost using Nocera’s flow battery is half that of traditionally used vanadium-based flow batteries.

In March 2016, Dr. Nocera will give a free public talk in Louisville about his winning work. He will receive the Conn Prize medal and $50,000 award at the formal Leigh Ann Conn Prize Laureate ceremony. UofL President James Ramsey, who will confer the award, said “Dr. Nocera is a world class scientist addressing the grand challenges of making energy conversion and storage more efficient and economically viable. The University of Louisville values his research, and we are proud that he is the 2015 winner of the Leigh Ann Conn Prize.”

The prize, managed by UofL’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, is named for the late daughter of Hank and Rebecca Conn, who are center supporters and the prize benefactors. “Dr. Nocera is an astute global thinker working to bring energy to the world, especially in developing nations,” Hank Conn said. “This battery technology shows vision arising from highly diverse, yet targeted expertise. His work parallels the initiatives and scientific endeavors at UofL’s Conn Center.”

The inaugural prize was won in 2013 by Swiss chemist Dr. Michael Graetzel, developer of a new solar cell that is easier and less costly to produce than silicon-based cells. Graetzel, professor and director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, is recognized for merging nanoscience with photoconversion by developing the dye-sensitized solar cell, known as the “Graetzel cell.” These cells convert sunlight into electricity using earth-abundant materials at efficiencies exceeding thin-film silicon-based cells; however, production costs are dramatically lower. Mass production began in 2009.

“Recognizing renewable energy innovations of such high caliber is a wonderful way to memorialize Leigh Ann,” Hank Conn said. “We are excited because the science is proven and it’s being translated into the world. The choice of Michael Graetzel mirrors the work conducted at the Conn Center and reinforces everything we’ve strived for these past five years. She would be proud.”


A brief description of any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation (if not reported above):
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A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise:
Which of the following STARS subcategories does the innovation most closely relate to? (Select all that apply up to a maximum of five):
Yes or No
Curriculum No
Research Yes
Campus Engagement Yes
Public Engagement Yes
Air & Climate No
Buildings No
Dining Services No
Energy Yes
Grounds No
Purchasing No
Transportation No
Waste No
Water No
Coordination, Planning & Governance No
Diversity & Affordability No
Health, Wellbeing & Work No
Investment No

Other topic(s) that the innovation relates to that are not listed above:
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The website URL where information about the innovation is available:

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