How can batteries become more sustainable? This young scientist might have the answer

battery

(Brett Jordan, Unsplash)

What is the big problem you’re trying to solve?

Batteries are an important component of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as they are powering the next generation of electric vehicles and mobile electronics. However, batteries are not often recycled, and they contain valuable materials that are scarce. As the adoption of electric vehicles rapidly expands, we are facing an urgent need to address this materials pressure – either by finding entirely new components that are sustainable and recyclable or by promoting the recycling of the batteries we already have.

What is the big idea you’re trying to use to solve it?

I envision that the batteries of the future will be metal-free, organic and recyclable. Practically all batteries on the market contain metals such as cobalt, lithium, nickel, and manganese, which assist in storing and delivering energy or electrons. We’ve been developing a type of organic polymer that stores and delivers electrons, similar to today’s battery materials. The polymers contain the same elements found in life: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Our long-term goal is to identify organic polymer chemistries that maximize performance, while providing a recyclable platform. To-date, the major benefit of these materials is their ability to fully charge in minutes, whereas today’s batteries can take much longer.

How would you explain that to a 5-year-old?

We make batteries out of plastics. Imagine using materials similar to plastic bags, and designing them to power your cell phone.

What has been the most difficult/challenging part of the journey?

There are some out there who think there is no place for a polymer in a battery, so it can be a challenge to convince them otherwise. For instance, I’ll often hear skepticism about the stability of our materials in the harsh environment of a battery. However, our materials can be reused thousands of times. Overtime, as more people work in the field and study these materials, I expect this skepticism will morph into curiosity.

What is the most shocking fact that people are unaware of?

When I talk with people about polymers or plastics, they often think of plastic bags, packaging, and materials for construction or transportation. They are often surprised to learn that some polymers can conduct electricity, change colours as sensors or store energy. Polymers are exciting to me because we can make them do almost anything when using the right chemistry.

Is there an interesting backstory to your work?

I was always interested in polymers that could store energy, but attending the 2017 Global Battery Alliance at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions changed my entire outlook. At that meeting, the global demand for cobalt and the dangers of child labor were discussed. I was immediately inspired to work on this problem through my knowledge and expertise in organic polymers for energy storage. We are still a ways off from truly realizing metal-free, recyclable batteries, but every year I take satisfaction that we are one step closer.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Somalia: UN Security Council condemns terrorist attack in which dozens were killed or injured

Security of 5G networks: EU Member States complete national risk assessments

Could this electric ferry’s success herald an era of greener shipping?

3 ways the coronavirus is affecting animals around the world

EU Cohesion policy on the front line of the recovery: €34 billion approved for regions and cities in just 4 months  

The British “nonsense”, the relaxed Commissioner and the TTIP “chiaroscuro” at this week’s Council

IMF: Sorry Greece it was a mistake of 11% of your GDP

Political agreement on new Common Agricultural Policy: fairer, greener, more flexible

The battle for the 2016 EU Budget to shake the Union; Commission and Parliament vs. Germany

Trade Barriers Report: EU continues to open up markets outside Europe in midst of rising protectionism

MEPs want ambitious funding for cross-border projects to connect people

Electric vehicles are half the market in Norway

Spanish and Polish voters are crying out for an imminent European change while US urge now Germany to change route

The challenge for G7 leaders: vaccinate the world and be bolder on climate

Most leaders are missing this crucial character trait

Gig economy: Employment Committee MEPs want to boost workers’ rights

From landlocked to land-linked: how the UN is helping some of the world’s poorest countries

UN ‘comes together in sadness and solidarity’ to honour staff who died on board Ethiopian Airlines flight

MEPs: Focus on crisis response when coordinating economic and budgetary policies

How to Create a Clear Vision For the Future of Healthcare

UN makes ‘declaration of digital interdependence’, with release of tech report

The ethics of the Medical Technology Civilisation era

Death as a Global Public Health Issue

Young people demand a transparent job market: new campaign launches on international interns day

COVID-19 tracing apps: MEPs stress the need to preserve citizens’ privacy

Top cleantech R&D priorities to help tackle climate change

Where is Egypt leading the Middle East and the Mediterranean economy?

EU and Indo-Pacific: natural partners

Human Rights: breaches in Cambodia, Uganda and Myanmar

“Leaked” TTIP document breaks post 8th negotiations round silence and opens door to critics

New Disability Inclusion Strategy is ‘transformative change we need’, says Guterres

Google and Apple suddenly realise that doing business in EU is tough?

Take-home pay growing at lowest level since 2008, as gender-gap persists: UN labour agency

The world’s largest bus system is starting to go electric

3 ways digitalization will help end crime

What empty homes and hipster coffee shops tell us about globalization

Flexible jobs can make work-life balance worse, a German study finds

Shaping the future of democracy in Armenia

Parliament elects Ursula von der Leyen as first female Commission President

“The Belt and Road Initiative should be mutually beneficial for EU and China and every participating country”, Vice-President Papadimoulis of the European Parliament underscores from European Business Summit 2018

Christmas spending: Who can afford not to cut?

Here are 5 reasons why the ocean is so important

UNICEF warns of ‘lost generation’ of Rohingya youth, one year after Myanmar exodus

Why we all need farmers to have access to better seeds

A new global financial crisis develops fast; who denies it?

State aid: Commission approves €1 billion Cypriot scheme to support enterprises and self-employed individuals in context of coronavirus outbreak

MWC 2016 LIVE: Telenor CEO calls on operators to embrace Mobile Connect initiative

How do we design an inclusive energy transition?

Six steps that can help us to tackle homelessness

Europe plans to send satellites into space to monitor CO2 emissions

UN rights chief welcomes new text to protect rights of peasants and other rural workers

You’ve heard of 5G, but what about the quantum internet?

Brexit may finally not really happen; The Brits have second thoughts

European Commission kicks off major EU trade policy review

The Sting’s Values

UN chief appeals for calm as Mali presidential election draws to a close

First peaceful transfer of power in DR Congo ‘an extraordinary opportunity’ for advancing rights

Zilda Arns: the brazilian woman who changed children’s lives

Senior UN official strongly condemns Southern California synagogue attack

China, forever new adventures

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: