Dr. Yi Cui awarded 2021 Global Energy Prize

04 October 2021

Tess Weaver

In September 2021, LifeLabs Design co-founder Dr. Yi Cui won the 2021 Global Energy Prize for new energy applications, one of three Global Energy Prizes given annually. The director of Stanford's Precourt Institute for Energy was selected in the category of "New ways of energy application" for exceptional contributions in nanomaterials design, synthesis and characterization for energy and the environment, particularly for transformational innovations in battery science.

“This is a prestigious international prize, and I’m honored to be included in the list of previous winners who made such important contributions to building a more sustainable energy future,” said Cui, who is also a professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering in Stanford’s School of Engineering, as well as professor of photon science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. “This award recognizes the hard work and achievements of the many Stanford faculty members, students and staff scientists I’ve had the great fortune to work with,” Cui said.

Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Moscow, the international Global Energy Prize recognizes outstanding scientific research and technical developments in energy that promote greater efficiency and environmental security. The IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking & Excellence includes the Global Energy Prize on its list of the top 99 international academic awards. Previous winners include Nobel Prize laureates Zhorez Alferov of Russia, Shuji Nakamura of the United States, and Akira Yoshino of Japan, who won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions to the development of lithium-ion batteries.

The Global Energy Association, which manages the prize, received 94 nominations across its three categories, representing 36 countries. Five finalists in each category were announced in July.

“The Global Energy Prize sent out a strong message that scientific and technological innovations in the field of both conventional and non-conventional energy can lead us to a clean energy future,” said Rae Kwon Chung, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and head of the Global Energy Prize International Award Committee.

Stanford appointed Cui as the new director of the Precourt Institute at the start of this year. In 2008 he showed that silicon nanowires can significantly boost the performance of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. This triggered global interest in nanotechnology for energy storage and resulted in his founding of the startup Amprius, Inc. Cui and the large group of student scientists in his lab also research other means of storing electricity, solar power technologies, and clothing that efficiently warms in cold temperatures and cools in hot temperatures, among other nanoengineered applications.

Professor Yi was born in Guangxi, an autonomous region of China, in 1976, and earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Science & Technology of China. He completed his doctorate in physical chemistry at Harvard in 2002 and then became a Miller postdoctoral fellow at the University of California Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

With more than 500 research publications and 50 patent applications, Professor Cui’s research contribution has been recognized with numerous awards including the Lawrence Award (one of the highest awards given by US Department of Energy) and the Materials Research Society Medal, one of the highest awards in materials science.

From clean-energy storage to water purification, thermoregulation to air filtration, Professor Cui has supported sustainability through science for more than 15 years. But his latest venture, LifeLabs, promises a new level of sustainability, energy efficiency and long-lasting technology unlike any of his previous ventures. Obsessed with a lifelong mission to solve our energy crisis Dr Yi was awarded a grant from the Department of Energy ARPA-E, to uncover how we can use textiles to reduce energy usage.

LifeLabs Design is the first textile innovator making meaningful progress in combating the effects of climate change through thermally-efficient materials and first-of-its-kind apparel. LifeLabs believes that, as a collective community, we can influence climate change as we know it. By making intentional choices about how we live our lives, we can reduce our own personal energy usage.