top of page

Two American inventors win 2022 European Patent Office innovation prizes

Updated: Nov 28, 2023


Inventors from around the globe are seeking to make a lasting and impactful difference to sustainably protect our planet for future generations. From new renewable energy techniques, to creating habitats for young sea life, and AI-driven recycling; this video will reveal some incredible, new solutions to the current environmental issues facing our world.

The European Patent Office (EPO) this past week honored MIT chemistry professor Donald Sadoway with the 2022 European Inventor Award in the “Non-EPO countries” category and U.S. student and scientist Erin Smith with first place in the inaugural Young Inventors prize.

Winner of the European Inventor Award 2022

Chemist Donald Sadoway has developed a liquid metal battery for storing solar and wind energy. Comprised of locally sourced raw materials, his battery provides a cost-effective long-term storage solution.

While lithium-ion batteries power billions of devices, they typically lose 50% of their storage capacity over 5 000 charging cycles. This means they may not always be the most effective long-term energy storage solution. Having spent his career in liquid metal technologies, electrochemist Donald Sadoway made a breakthrough by developing a battery that stores electricity in layers of metal melted at temperatures above 500°C.

As all key components in the battery are liquid, they do not suffer the structural damage that conventional batteries experience as charged atoms flow through them. Crucially, liquid metal batteries also retain 99% of their original capacity over 5 000 charging cycles. They could reduce the cost of storing solar and wind power on the electricity grid, leading to greater amounts of clean power consumed during peak load times. In many countries, this demand is currently met by burning natural gas.

Power up Born into a family of Ukrainian immigrants in Canada, Sadoway studied chemical metallurgy at the University of Toronto before moving to MIT, where he became professor of electrochemistry. After twenty years in the aluminium and steel industry, he extended his research to the energy storage field.

Ambri, the academic spin-off he founded with his graduate students in 2010, has raised over EUR 180 million (USD 211 million) and plans to launch their first product in 2023. In addition to research and entrepreneurial activities, Sadoway is a passionate educator who has delivered an award-winning series of lectures.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Kathi Vidal, personally recognized these American innovators’ outstanding achievement.

“My congratulations to Professor Sadoway and Ms. Smith for winning the European Inventor Award and EPO’s Young Inventors prize, respectively.

Their award-winning innovations – liquid metal batteries that increase the reliability of wind and solar power by storing large amounts of renewable energy and an artificial intelligence-powered facial recognition app that detects early signs of Parkinson’s disease – are two impressive examples of American ingenuity that impact our world for the better. We hope that others are inspired by their ideas and by their journeys of innovation. Congrats!”

1st place of the Young Inventors prize 2022

After watching a YouTube clip of Parkinson's patient Michael J. Fox, US-based Erin Smith developed an AI-powered app that uses video to enable early detection of Parkinson's disease. Her intervention can help to slow development of the condition.

When Erin Smith was a child, her mother encouraged an interest in science, even turning the family kitchen into a makeshift laboratory. Later, shortly after starting high school, inquisitive young Smith watched a YouTube video of Michael J. Fox, a high-profile Parkinson's patient who showed the facial expression trait known as "mask face". She began to question whether facial expressions could be analyzed to monitor changes in the brain. Smith learned to code and began working on what would later become FacePrint, an AI-powered application that records facial expressions and uses computer vision to accurately detect minute indicators of early-onset Parkinson's.

The computer vision algorithms are trained to interpret video data of Parkinson's patients and healthy people making facial expressions. As a result, FacePrint can detect Parkinson's with 95% accuracy and objectively capture and digitise changes that occur five to ten years before diagnosis based on traditional motor symptoms. Additionally, Smith and her team have focused on building an inclusive dataset, enabling accurate detection across gender and race.

Towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SGD)

More than 10 million people worldwide live with the condition, with cases expected to increase significantly as the ageing population grows. Earlier diagnosis enables faster treatment, potentially delaying more serious symptoms of Parkinson's, such as tremors and walking difficulties. FacePrint therefore contributes to UN SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) at every stage of life. As the tool is low-cost and can be used remotely by non‑experts, it also addresses UN SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities).


bottom of page