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MIT honors alumnus for innovations in drinking water, battery technologies

Cody Friesen won the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize for his panels that create potable water by pulling moisture out of the air, and a second project creating rechargeable batteries.Lemelson-MIT

The Lemelson-MIT Program announced Wednesday it had awarded its annual $500,000 prize to Arizona State University professor Cody Friesen for his work in developing long-lasting rechargeable batteries and solar panels that pull drinking water out of the air.

Friesen’s rechargeable battery can provide power to electric grids in emergencies, and the Lemelson-MIT Program said the technology has been used “during approximately one million long-duration outages, while simultaneously offsetting thousands of tons of CO2 emission.”

He was also recognized for a second invention, so-called SOURCE Hydropanels, which can create potable water by absorbing water molecules from the air. The devices are capable of collecting water in conditions as dry as 5 percent humidity.


Friesen’s inventions, Lemelson Foundation Executive Director Carol Dahl said in a statement, “are truly improving lives, take into account environmental considerations and have become the basis for companies that impact millions of people around the world each year.” He was also recognized by the MIT Technology Review at its EmTech MIT conference Wednesday.

Friesen received his PhD in materials science and engineering from MIT in 2004. He is currently an associate professor of materials science at Arizona State University. He also created two companies for his inventions, Fluidic Energy and Zero Mass Water.

“As inventors, we have a responsibility to ensure our technology serves all of humanity not simply the elite,” Friesen said in a statement. “At the end of the day, our work is about impact and this recognition propels us forward as we deploy SOURCE Hydropanels to change the human relationship to water across the globe.”

Max Jungreis can be reached at max.jungreis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MaxJungreis.