Women’s History Month 2020: Women Scientists Shaping Energy

Esther Sans Takeuchi

Scientist and Educator 

Not many people can be credited with saving lives on an industrial scale, but Esther Takeuchi has done just that. In the mid-1980s, Takeuchi took on the challenge of increasing the power of batteries used to power implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs), tiny devices placed inside patients needing an occasional shock to regulate heartbeat. The trouble was the meager voltage in these batteries was barely powerful enough to do the job; a battery ran out after only a year, requiring major surgery to implant a new one. 

Takeuchi changed all that through research at Greatbatch, Inc. She employed new cathode materials, highly conductive electrolytes, and a novel cell design that enabled a new type of lithium/silver vanadium oxide (Li/SVO) battery the same size as the previous model—and one million times more powerful. Instead of lasting a year, Takeuchi’s battery lasted five—newer generations last even longer. More than 300,000 ICDs are implanted each year to help keep heartbeats healthy.

During her career, Takeuchi has received more than 140 patents. She now serves as chief scientist at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, where she advocates for more applied research in battery science, in applications ranging from medical to vehicles to large-scale energy storage to renewable forms of energy generation.

Takeuchi also teaches at Stony Brook University, where she counts many young women among her students. “I like to be a role model for them,” she says, “demonstrating that it’s possible to succeed as a scientist.”

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