Energy research and the Circular Economy


When researchers in science can give their time to share not only their contemporary research but also some things about their practice of science, we can all learn more deeply.  School science is often limited through the learning context and style… so learning with/through researchers in the field can bring the magic of science alive.  We hope that the symposium did that for many people in a variety of ways.  It certainly brought aspects of the circular economy and battery storage into focus for more than 60 people on Monday.” – Dr Peta White

Six groups from the Deakin team at storEnergy presented their research on battery energy storage and the circular economy in a webinar on Monday 4 May.

The event, co-organised by researchers from the Deakin’s STEME Research Group in the School of Education, Dr Peta White and Alfred Deakin Professor Russell Tytler, was the first stage in a program to develop a website for secondary science teachers with online resources and activities for high school activities, related to this research.

Students from Deakin’s Science, Engineering and Built Environment (SEBE) – Ebony Reynolds, Sarah Anil, Nkem Obi, Kahlid Omar and Yi Pu, are now busy generating the website, which will be freely available to all.

Talking about ‘Synthesis of better performing battery electrolytes’, Dr Colin Kang and PhD students Anna Warrington and Mahdi Ghorbani explained how they go about designing and synthesising new electrolytes with desirable properties to develop safer and longer-lasting batteries.

The materials they are developing will be scaled-up at Boron Molecular, a local chemical company partnered with storEnergy.

Colin Kang said one of the most surprising, yet fulfilling, things for him about working as a researcher was “the number of ideas that you constantly bounce off each other, which can turn into exciting scientific advancements”.

PhD student Mahdi Ghorbani commented “to promote science at the highest level we need to formulate the right questions, and the achievement can be exceptional! Each new puzzle excites me in the synthesis of new compounds and how we can make chemical systems to respond in the way we desire.”

Dr Xiaoen Wang, Dr Yan Liang and PhD students Greg Rollo-Walker and Yady Garcia discussed the role of polymer electrolytes and solid state batteries. They reviewed the opportunities that these materials offer in terms of increased safety and higher energy density for next generation batteries.

Dr Natalie Ralph, from the ACES Ethics Team gave an overview of Energy Ethics Research and the Circular Economy, considering the need to find alternatives to ‘conflict materials’ and ‘critical materials’ as battery components.

Dr Jenny Sun and Dr Faezeh Makhlooghiazad talked about beyond Lithium ion batteries – cheaper and safe sodium batteries using plastic crystal electrolytes, which are very robust and tend to have wider electrochemical windows than organic electrolytes.

Dr Rob Kerr and Mojtaba Eftekharnia discussed the topic of Ultra-batteries: from research to application. They discussed the various stages involved in developing new batteries – from testing, building prototypes and the use of new materials.

Finally, the session concluded with a presentation by Dr Cristina Pozo-Gonzalo on the topic of the circular economy and e-waste where she discussed her research on an environmentally friendly method for reclaiming and recycling rare earth metals from battery waste. She explained the importance of reusing, repurposing and redesigning battery components, rather than recycling, to lead to a circular economy of the future.

More than 60 people participated in the webinar, including 20 teachers. A group of Deakin University science students and secondary school science teachers will now work with the STEME researchers and the storEnergy team to develop the website and online resources.

Special appreciation and thanks to Professor Jenny Pringle, Sofia Georgiadis and Alfred Deakin Professor Maria Forsyth for helping to organise this event.

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