MIT Technology Review’s list of Innovators Under 35

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Yuto Katsuyama

Graduate student Yuto Katsuyama (Kaner group) has been named one of MIT Technology Review’s list of Innovators Under 35 (IU35) Japan for his development of a “next-generation battery” that does not use rare materials. The annual list recognizes the brightest young minds working in technology today.

Katsuyama was recognized at the IU35 Japan Summit in Nihonbashi, Japan on December 15, 2022, which he attended virtually.

Katsuyama was recognized at the IU35 Japan Summit in December.

A third-year chemistry (materials chemistry) graduate student in Professor Richard Kaner’s group, Katsuyama is also Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Satoyama Engineering, a start-up company originating from Tohoku University in Japan.

“Yuto has been a stellar graduate student,” Kaner said. “During the past year he has published two first author papers on novel energy storage devices in the high impact factors journals Advanced Functional Materials entitled “Macro- and Nano-Porous 3D-Hierarchical Carbon Lattices for Extraordinarily High Capacitance Supercapacitors” and the second in Small entitled “A 3D-Printed, Freestanding Carbon Lattice for Sodium Ion Batteries.” 

From MIT Technology Review Japan:

Innovators Under 35 [Japan Version] 2022
Creating new and innovative technologies that open up the future.

Yuto Katsuyama (25)
Affiliation: University of California, Los Angeles / Satoyama Engineering
Developed a “next-generation battery” that does not use rare materials.
A new generation of researchers who are driving innovation in the battery field.

Lithium-ion batteries have been widely used in smartphones, notebook computers, and more recently electric vehicles, and have now become an indispensable part of the world. However, lithium-ion batteries have their problems. The amount of electricity stored (energy density) per battery weight has not increased. This will be a big obstacle for electric vehicles to enter the period of full-scale popularization. This is because the cruising distance that can be traveled on a single charge does not increase. In addition, since conventional lithium-ion batteries use rare materials such as cobalt and nickel, there is a limit to cost reduction.

Therefore, battery manufacturers and automobile manufacturers around the world are working on the development of next-generation batteries. One example is the all-solid-state battery, which uses a solid rather than a liquid electrolyte. Yuto Katsuyama, a doctoral student at the University of California, Los Angeles, who is researching next-generation batteries, chose new battery materials not only to improve performance but also to reduce costs.

These are the basic elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sodium. Instead of using rare materials such as cobalt and nickel, they created a high-performance next-generation battery using materials that are abundant on earth.

Katsuyama and his collaborators succeeded in developing the world’s highest-capacity supercapacitor and sodium-ion battery. These batteries don’t use lithium, they use protons (hydrogen ions) or sodium ions, which makes them much cheaper. In addition, one of the methods for reducing the cost and improving the energy density of batteries is to “thicken the electrode film.” This is because thicker electrodes (the parts that store energy) reduce the amount of battery materials (the parts that don’t store energy), and increase the weight ratio of the electrodes in the entire battery. However, simply increasing the thickness will only lengthen the migration path of ions and will not function as a battery. Katsuyama et al. used a commercially available 3D printer costing less than 30,000 yen to fabricate 3D carbon electrodes with multiple pore sizes, and succeeded in thickening the electrodes while securing ion diffusion paths within the electrodes. We have succeeded in developing the world’s highest-capacity supercapacitor sodium-ion battery negative electrode, which enables high-speed ion transfer even with electrodes that are ten times thicker than conventional electrodes.
(Note: A supercapacitor is an energy storage device that not only can store a large amount of energy like a battery, but also can be charged at high speed (several tens of seconds to several minutes) like a capacitor.)

Furthermore, the battery developed by Katsuyama in joint research with Tohoku University in Japan is called an “organic battery” because it uses organic matter. However, the problem with organic batteries is that it is difficult to raise the voltage above 2.5V. Therefore, Katsuyama and his colleagues focused on a pentagonal organic molecule (croconic acid), which had been difficult to study until then, and incorporated it into an organic battery, successfully increasing the output voltage to the 4V class. As a result, the storage capacity has improved to about four times that of conventional lithium-ion batteries. If it can be applied to electric vehicles, it means that the distance that can be driven on a single charge will be four times longer.

While Katsuyama is active as a researcher based in the United States, in May 2022 he co-founded Satoyama Engineering, a start-up company originating from Tohoku University in Japan. Currently serving as Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), he is also working on the commercial scale development of “environmentally friendly high-performance organic batteries made from biomass”.

Read the full list of winners here.

Katsuyama also recently received an International Battery Association (IBA) student scholarship award, which covered some of his expenses to attend the IBA 2023 conference in Austin, TX.

At the IBA 2023 conference, Graduate student Yuto Katsuyama (center) was fortunate to meet Dr. Akira Yoshino (right), a Nobel Prize winner in 2019 for the development of lithium-ion battery, and Professor Ryoji Kanno (left), who is familiar with his all-solid-state battery research.