Jan Procházka, a nanotechnology genius and the inventor of the 3D accumulator, has had a number of jobs – he washed dishes in Germany or drove a taxi in the USA, but he has never lost his lifetime passion for chemistry. The first success in Czechia and abroad came with his self-cleaning coating that could turn Prague into the cleanest place in Europe, but today he is best known as the author of the safest accumulator in the world.
His love for chemistry began at the primary school when an old school chemistry lab found a new home at Jan’s parents’. “It was such an adventure for me that I plunged right into it and I have been enjoying it ever since,” says Jan Procházka, his eyes sparkling, and he recalls how he mixed different salts, observing the resulting colour changes and sediments. He says it was right then that he developed his sense for how things behave in chemistry. He studied university textbooks already in eighth grade and his classmates used to say that he knew more than the teachers.
Washing dishes qualifies you to become a millionaire
In 1987, he left for Germany where did jobs for the army and worked as a waiter, chef, and dishwasher. “This is important for your career, they say that if you have washed dishes, you are qualified to become a millionaire,” Procházka laughs. Two years later, he moved from Germany to America.
He did not know English, so he was starting from scratch yet again, working as a taxi driver and gardener. “I did not manage to get a dishwasher job in America,” he laughs and adds that all the jobs he has ever had broadened his horizons and allowed him to get to know the society from its very bottom.
He discovered nanotechnologies at the time when they were a novelty. In 1998, he participated in the research of inorganic nanomaterials at the research centre of one of the largest mining companies – BHP Minerals. He returned to the Czech Republic only in 2005 to complete his doctoral studies. And then he came up with his first revolutionary idea.
Prague could be the cleanest place in Europe
“Together with my colleague, we visited a company making garden gnomes and they asked us what could be done so that the gnomes did not get so dirty. And on the way back, I had a flash of inspiration,” the inventor recounts. After a series of experiments, they found that Procházka’s idea worked. And this is how the photocatalytic coating was born.
“A photocatalytic coating is a surface layer with several functions. It purifies air and screens out UV rays – preventing deterioration. The coating purifies air of exhaust pollutants. It cleans actively every time the Sun rises,” says Jan Procházka and he adds that if we painted Prague with his coating, the city would be nicer and cleaner, while the buildings would require less maintenance and their lifetime would be longer.
“So you could preserve historical monuments for generations to come in a non-destructive manner. This would also solve another big problem like the Blanka tunnel complex that leaks concentrated acids which then settle in the valley of Prague, eating away the city.
He never liked electrochemistry, that’s most likely why he invented the 3D accumulator
His first encounter with lithium titanate took place in USA. “We found that the smaller particles we produced, the quicker the fusion was. Back then, accumulators required 24 hours to charge, not two hours like today. We were the pioneers who showed the way,” he recounts his first research in electrochemistry.
Nevertheless, he admits that he did not like electrochemistry during his university studies. “But it usually works like that in life. If you’re not wearing ‘professional blinders’, you can look at things from a different perspective and come up with something different. You are simply foolish enough to try a different approach.”
His first idea about a 3D accumulator came already in 2006 when he started thinking about a three-layer configuration of an electrode. So, he did the first experiment.
“It was far from being sophisticated. I took a piece of aluminium, drilled a hole, mixed some nano powder and hammered it in,” he recounts. The experiment was a success and Procházka’s company HE3DA now produces 3D accumulators in Prague-Letňany today.
Nowadays, his accumulator is not unique in its quick charging but thanks to being totally safe, cheap to produce, and 100% recyclable. You will not find any other accumulator with such qualities.