YOUNG SCIENTISTS: DEVELOPMENT OF NEXT-GEN BATTERIES
Who would have known 20 years ago that people would be able to carry a telephone or a computer in their bags? As time goes by, more wireless equipment appears. The scientists put every effort to make our lives more comfortable. It is interesting that there are more and more women among them. The news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community continues to introduce young women-scientists that inspire other people by their passion for knowledge and achievements in science.
Daria Burova graduates from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and receives master’s degree at the SkolTech at the same time. Despite her young age, the girl already conducts serious research. She creates new electrode materials for electrochemical current sources, i.e. for rechargeable batteries, which we use in mobile phones, notebooks, and other portable devices.
The rechargeable batteries increase in demand all over the world. It is connected with the development of technologies and appearance of new gadgets. Daria put Tesla company as an example. It produces 25 thousand electric vehicles a year. The organisation entered a contract with Panasonic firm. According to its terms, Tesla will receive 2 billion batteries by 4 years. Soon, there will be a great deal more electro vehicles on the roads. It shows that life without rechargeable sources of energy is almost impossible in the modern world.
Our interlocutress explained that most of rechargeable devices work on lithium-ion batteries nowadays. This is the least harmful type of battery. For example, cadmium ones are difficult to recycle due to toxicity of the metal. Lithium is easy to obtain. Batteries made from it can work in a wide scope of temperatures. However, price for lithium carbonate, the main raw material for obtaining lithium, raised twice nowadays. Obtaining this metal becomes more difficult because its stock constantly diminish. Most of stock is situated on territory of South America.
Therefore, a question of substituting lithium raised. According to Daria, sodium is the most obvious answer. That substance can be found all over the world. We can obtain it even from seawater. Thus, that substance is cheaper than lithium.
Today Daria designs sodium-ion batteries. The young scientist explained that sodium is inferior to lithium in terms of chemical properties. However, this disadvantage may be removed. For that, one should find compounding that show electrochemical properties of sodium comparable to lithium ones. Band structure NASICON is such a compounding. It allows sodium ions circulate at high speed. Daria put the situation when we use a common charger. While charging, ions of alkali metal (sodium or lithium) move from cathode to anode. They move back while discharging. The compounding Daria chose has a high sodium mobility. It allows exploring sodium’s electrochemical properties to the maximum.
Thus, sodium-ion batteries are a bit less inferior to lithium-ion ones. However, they are cheaper and simpler in production. According to Daria, there is an innovative method of designing a compounding that serves as cathode material for batteries. The high-temperature annealing was popular earlier. The salt was mixed and then put into oven for 10-12 hours at a temperature of 800-1000 degrees C. This process required a lot of energy and time and was harmful for ecology. Now hydrothermal synthesis becomes popular. The dry salts dissolve in water, and then are put into reactor for 10-15 minutes at a temperature of 100-180 degrees C. It is faster, less energy-consuming, and harmless for ecology. It allows making the same amount of substance, by the way.
Daria is really fond of science. She can explain the most complex things in a simple language. Initially, she chose the wrong specialty and studied at the Faculty of Biological Physics where she was conducting clinical research. Then, Daria understood that she would like to go in for other profession and chose direction traditionally considered men’s.
Daria said that her work is difficult but interesting. The girl is amazed by beauty of occurring chemical processes. Another advantage of that profession is that you can see the results of your work in the closest future. For example, you can patent a battery prototype and put it into production in 18 months.
Daria is sure that the most important thing in life is to choose the right way and do what you love. You can achieve great success if you listen to both brain and heart.
Viktoria Yezhova, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community
Translated by Yan Zarubin