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SBU Scientist Who Invented Pacemaker Battery Turns Eye Toward Clean Energy

Gerald Herbert
President Barack Obama presents the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Dr. Esther Sans Takeuchi in 2009 in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

New York wants most of the state to be reliant on clean energy in 15 years, and the key to getting it done may lie with the award-winning Long Island researcher who developed the pacemaker battery.

Dr. Esther Takeuchi developed the miniature battery that powers most of the world’s lifesaving pacemakers and personal defibrillators. She now wants to find a way to store energy generated by wind and solar power.

“We see the promise – not just for our economy but for our health and well-being – in the human capacity for creativity and ingenuity.”

Takeuchi is now chief scientist for the U.S. Department of Energy at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. She wants to use the same technology to build a much larger battery. Her goal is to store solar and wind power, and to use them in electric cars.

“When we think about portable batteries we think about lifetimes of maybe three to five years. But people on the grid, when they are thinking about very large batteries, they think about lifetimes in terms of decades.”

Takeuchi says the real challenge is the amount of heat a massive battery generates over time.

She wants to make a bigger battery, without making it hotter.

“Not just by better cooling fins or by cooling by liquids, but actually by studying what aspects of the battery generate heat,” Takeuchi says.

Many batteries today use flammable liquid chemicals, and Takeuchi wants to use solid chemicals so that if the battery were punctured, it wouldn’t catch fire.

“The battery would no longer be susceptible to the types of fires that we have all recently heard, for example, with the Samsung phones unfortunately.”  

With the success of the small pacemaker battery, Takeuchi plans to apply the idea to making large industrial batteries even smaller, but also to increase their lifetime.

“The idea of a battery, whether it is big or small, the fundamental, the chemistry and material science really remains the same.”

Takeuchi received the National Medal of Technology by President Obama in 2009. In 2011 she was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame for having more patents than any American woman.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.