D.K.C. MacDonald Memorial Lecturer

The 33rd Canadian Materials Science Conference is proud to have Donald R. Sadoway, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as this year’s D.K.C. MacDonald Memorial Lecturer. 

Donald R. Sadoway, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Donald Robert Sadoway is a Professor of Materials Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sadoway was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He did both his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Toronto, receiving his PhD in 1977.

A faculty member in the Department of Materials Science Engineering, he is a noted expert on batteries and has done significant research on how to improve the performance and longevity of portable power sources. In parallel, he is an expert on the extraction of metals from their ores and the inventor of molten oxide electrolysis, which has the potential to produce crude steel without the use of carbon reductant thereby totally eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.

Professor Sadoway’s research seeks to establish the scientific underpinnings for technologies that make efficient use of energy and natural resources in an environmentally sound manner. This spans engineering applications and the supportive fundamental science. The overarching theme of his work is electrochemistry in nonaqueous media.


Electrochemical Pathways Towards Deep Decarbonization and Profitable Sustainability

A sustainable future is axiomatically a carbon-free electric future. Emerging technologies that will usher in this new economy necessarily include electrochemical innovations in energy storage and in steelmaking. Electricity storage is critical to widespread deployment of carbon-free but intermittent renewables, solar and wind, while offering huge benefits to today’s grid: improving security and reducing price volatility. Invented at MIT, the liquid metal battery provides colossal power capability on demand and long service lifetime at very low cost and without threat of fire. In 2019 worldwide steel production generated 9% of total CO2 emissions. Invented at MIT, molten oxide electrolysis represents an environmentally sound alternative to today’s carbon-intensive thermochemical process. Instead of CO2 as the by-product of steel, molten oxide electrolysis makes tonnage oxygen while offering better metal at lower cost while vitiating negative environmental impacts of current technology. In the narratives of both of these emerging technologies, liquid metal battery and molten oxide electrolysis, there are lessons more broadly applicable to innovation: how to pose the right question, how to engage young minds (not experts), establishing a creative culture, and inventing inventors in parallel with inventing technology.

Watch Donald F. Sadoway’s presentation at COM 2015 on Electrochemical Pathways Towards Sustainability