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Vedanth Iyer

Vedanth Iyer

Vedanth Iyer

Age: 17
Hometown: Portland, OR

Science: “First-Principles Characterization of a Novel Chromium Doped Vanadyl-Oxide Based Cathode for Higher Energy and Efficiency Lithium-ion Batteries”

About Vedanth

I am a graduating senior from Sunset High School in Portland, Oregon, and this upcoming fall, I will be attending Yale University where I plan to major in Physics and Computer Science.

Aside from science research, I enjoy playing chess, solving Rubik’s cubes, and playing basketball in my free time. I have been playing the mridangam (a South Indian classical drum) for almost 9 years now and am currently developing self-inspired Carnatic/Hip-Hop fusion music.

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"I am extremely honored to have been named a Davidson Fellow this year and am thankful to the Davidson Institute for supporting me in my future educational endeavors and inspiring me to continue my science research in college and beyond. For me, becoming a Davidson Fellow not only means being part of a group of highly gifted and intellectual scholars that are quite literally changing the world in a multitude of ways, but it also means inspiring future generations of scientists and engineers to continue seeking out innovative solutions to our world’s most pressing problems."

Vedanth Iyer

Project Description

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries power virtually all of the world’s technology, from smartphones, laptops, and even medical devices. However, as the demand for higher energy storage exponentially increases, the current batteries are proving to be insufficient. With the recent expansions in the electric vehicle and renewable energy industries, next generation Li-ion batteries will prove vital in the coming years. To solve these issues, I developed a novel chromium doped vanadyl-oxide based cathode material using a variety of first-principles quantum mechanical calculations and simulations. This cathode can theoretically achieve a fivefold increase in the energy capacity as well as a significant increase in the electrochemical cycling efficiency, making it a highly promising solution for next generation Li-ion batteries.

Deeper Dive

In my project, I developed a novel chromium doped cathode material that significantly increases the energy capacity and efficiency of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries using computational quantum mechanical calculations. Batteries can be found almost anywhere these days, from smartphones, laptops, and even medical devices. However, as the demand for higher energy storage exponentially increases, the current Li-ion technology is proving to be insufficient. With further expansions into the electric vehicle and renewable energy industries, next generation Li-ion batteries will prove vital. The solution I developed significantly increases the energy storage capabilities of current batteries, making it a highly promising avenue for next generation Li-ion technology. My curiosity with batteries first stemmed from the Samsung Note 7 battery explosions in 2016. I realized that this catastrophe was affecting such a large company which inspired me to look into potential solutions for the Note 7 problems. As I continued my research throughout high school, this small scale middle school project eventually evolved into a fascinating research idea with larger real world implications.

One of the biggest challenges I faced in this project was gaining access to research equipment and funding. As an inexperienced high school student, many professors weren’t keen on providing the experimental resources and facilities I needed for my research, especially because of how expensive experimental battery research is. I cold emailed numerous professors in hopes of receiving any guidance and resources for my project but with no avail. However, after a year of continued research, I later learned about how computational chemistry was being used to explore and develop different materials for a variety of applications, including batteries. As a result, I shifted to a computational approach instead and was eventually able to receive mentorship from a professor at Caltech as well as access to computing power for computational calculations and modelling. With my promising computational results in this project, I hope to soon get my solution experimentally synthesized and tested in the near future.

I hope to not only implement my battery solution in commercial thin film products like smartphones and laptops, but I also hope to apply this solution in more essential technologies such as active implantable medical devices (AIMDs) and portable communication systems. Furthermore, with the recent shift to more sustainable and cleaner practices, I plan to use my solution for large scale applications as well such as electric vehicles, renewable energy, drone technology, and space exploration. Finally, because of the scarcity of electricity in numerous developing countries, I hope to utilize my solution in large scale energy grids that store renewable energy for remote villages that don’t have direct access to electricity. This could help make common household chores significantly easier and would greatly improve the standard of living in these areas.

Q&A

If you could have dinner with the five most interesting people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?

Richard Feynman, Brian Greene, Sundar Pichai, Hasan Minhaj and Neil deGrasse Tyson

Would you rather have invisibility or flight?

I would take invisibility because you can do a lot more with invisibility than flight, such as sneaking into concerts or basketball games for free (though this is only a hypothetical of course…)

There’s a round-trip free shuttle to Mars. The catch: it’ll take one year of your life to go, visit, and come back. Are you in?

You had me at “free”

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In The News

Portland, Ore. – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2021 scholarship winners. Among the honorees are 17-year-old Vedanth Iyer and 18-year-old Lila Schweinfurth, both of Portland. Only 20 students across the country to be recognized as scholarship winners each year.

Download the full press release here