Researchers from Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) have struck green by winning big at Climate Launchpad 2020 with their innovative sodium battery, which the group is hoping to use to electrify scooters, buses, and auto-rickshaws in Indonesia.
The Deakin team, ElevenStore (extra points for anyone who knew sodium’s atomic number is 11), which was an a roll after winning state, national and South East Asian Climate Launchpad finals, completed the job by winning the GLobal Sustainability Mobility category, landing itself a position in the Climate-KIC Climate Launchpad Accelerator, and €5,000 in prize money. Fair to say the team is worth their salt.
The team, consisting of PhD student Karolina Biernacka, Dr Faezeh Makhlooghi Azad, Dr Jenny Sun, and Dr Vahide Ghanooni Ahmadabadi, designed and created their innovatory sodium battery technology in order to bypass expensive global reserves of lithium and cobalt, oft mined via reprehensible means. In fact, Biernacka believes sodium technology has reached a level of maturity at which it can out-compete lithium-ion batteries due to its smaller environmental footprint and not requiring expensive minerals.
“We are passionate about clean energy,” said Biernacka, “and want to have a positive impact on the environment. Our proposed sodium battery technology is composed of safe, sustainable, environmentally-friendly, earth-abundant and cheap raw materials. By employing the electrolyte technology developed at Deakin, it can also outperform traditional rechargeable batteries in terms of safety, cost, and exceptional thermal stability.”
Moreover, because the technology’s electrodes are sustainably-fabricated from waste biomass and batteries that can no longer work optimally for scooters to be utilised as home batteries in remote areas, the entire design process allows for circular economics.
The technology is being runout in Indonesia, where it is thought the green batteries will help to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, particularly considering Indonesia is the third-largest market in the world for scooters.
In December 2019, Indonesia set itself a goal of rapid electric vehicle (EV) growth via a presidential decree (55/2019). The nation wants to achieve 20% EV integration by 2025.
Deakin University Professor Maria Forsyth, Director of the StorEnergy training centre at IFM, who encouraged the team initially, and now congratulates them on “their remarkable achievement in putting together an innovative energy storage solution that will make a real difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Finally, Biernacka spoke to the empowering experience of actuating an idea into a real and helpful tool. “Our goal is not only to spin out a technology that has the ability to change many lives, while also substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also to inspire and empower other young women to actively pursue their dreams.”
The team think the technology could be in use on the streets of Indonesia within three years. “We have spoken already with Indonesian businesses keen to get this off the ground.”
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