Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) joint appointee and chemical engineer, Rohan Akolkar, has been elected senior member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI)—a prestigious distinction that recognizes the contributions and societal impact of his inventions. Akolkar holds appointments with PNNL and Case Western Reserve University in Ohio where he is the Milton and Tamar Maltz Professor of Energy Innovation and Ohio Eminent Scholar in Advanced Energy Research in the Case School of Engineering. Before joining the university in 2012, he spent eight years conducting research and development at Intel Corporation.
Senior members at NAI are scientists and researchers whose innovations and patented technologies “have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society,” according to the academy. He is among the 2021 class of 61 NAI senior members representing 36 research universities, government, and nonprofit research institutes. Akolkar has filed 15 patent applications over his career, six of which have been issued and several more are pending.
Akolkar’s research focuses on electrochemistry and electrochemical engineering, with emphasis on applying electrodeposition to advance batteries, semiconductor devices, sensors, and critical metals production.
His inventions span a wide array of applications. Most notably, he has developed new electroplating processes for making nanowires that allow semiconductor manufacturers—like Intel—to create high-performing microprocessors and memory devices. These developments have transformed semiconductor processing in the U.S. and around the world. He has also developed electrochemical technologies for producing corrosion-resistant iron coatings and for detecting ppb-levels of heavy metals like lead in drinking water.
In his joint appointment at PNNL, Akolkar focuses on understanding electrochemical processes in batteries for grid-scale energy storage. He is currently investigating how innovations in electroplating can be used to suppress the undesirable formation of dendrites in zinc batteries.
Vince Sprenkle, lead for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Energy Storage Program at PNNL, said Akolkar has already made significant contributions to the energy storage research at PNNL and is “putting us on a path toward meeting major milestones in our work to build better, more reliable batteries for the grid.”
“His induction into the National Academy of Inventors is well-deserved,” said Sprenkle. “Rohan’s ability to leverage fundamental discovery science to effectively solve real-world issues is truly unique and inspiring. We are truly honored to have him as a research partner at PNNL.”
“I feel very fortunate to have a joint appointment at PNNL,” said Akolkar. “It gives me exposure to the great science and engineering taking place at PNNL and allows me to collaborate with top scientists working at PNNL in energy storage. The energy storage R&D facilities at PNNL are truly world-class.”