FORT COLLINS – The White House today honored a Colorado State University chemistry professor with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for her work to develop new methods to create a battery that could revolutionize the hybrid/electric vehicle industry.
Prieto, an associate professor, will receive the award at the end of July in a White House ceremony. She is one of 96 scientists who will receive the award and the only one from Colorado State University in 2012. She was nominated by the National Science Foundation.
“Dr. Prieto and her team embody the spirit of enterprise and complex problem-solving at Colorado State University, with research focused on devising solutions on a global scale,” said President Tony Frank. “It’s particularly notable that her students have been a key piece to her discoveries, learning from one of today’s leading scholars while also gaining remarkable experience in research and creating spinoffs in renewable technologies.”
“We are proud of Amy and the faculty in the College of Natural Sciences whose innovations are making a difference in people’s lives,” said Jan Nerger, dean of the College of Natural Sciences at CSU.
“Discoveries in science and technology not only strengthen our economy, they inspire us as a people,” President Obama said in a White House statement. “The impressive accomplishments of today’s awardees so early in their careers promise even greater advances in the years ahead.”
In 2009, Prieto co-founded Prieto Battery Inc., a company expected to commercialize a non-toxic battery technology up to 1,000 times more powerful,10 times longer lasting and cheaper than traditional batteries. The development of this technology could revolutionize the transportation, communication and energy storage industries. Prieto co-founded the company with Cenergy, which is the commercialization arm of the university’s Clean Energy Supercluster.
The company aims to produce lithium ion batteries based on tiny or nanostructured materials on a mass scale. How it works: Using a process called electrodeposition, Prieto deposits or grows a novel anode material onto a high surface area copper foam or as nanowires. The anode is then used as an electrode for the electrodeposition of polymers, organic materials, that coat the anode and conduct lithium ions but keep the anode and cathode electrically separated. The separation is important for keeping the battery from shorting. The cathode material is added, and the result is a three-dimensional battery.
The nanowires that make up the anode cover a surface area that is 10,000 times greater than a traditional battery. By comparison, roughly 1,000 nanowires could fit in the width of a human hair.
Prieto also continues to focus her research on developing methods for making nanoscale materials that have applications in solar cells, lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen storage.
Prieto has won numerous awards for her scientific discoveries. In 2011, the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association honored her and three other CSU researchers as “Research Rockstars.” She also was named the 2011 American Chemical Society ExxonMobil Solid State Chemistry Faculty Fellow – a prestigious honor given to one scientist who is chosen each year out of a national field. She joined Colorado State in 2005.