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.