Friday, 6 July 2007

So what is it that you do exactly?

When asked the question 'So what do you do for a living?', I sometimes respond by saying 'I'm trying to save the world'. OK, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but I do like to think that my work may have an impact on our future lifestyle. Let me explain. My background is in Materials Science and Engineering, and over the last 10 years or so, I have been researching new materials for alternative energy technologies. The aim is to develop efficient batteries, solar cells and fuel cells that will supply us with a clean source of energy and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels (hence, saving the world). More specifically, I study the performance of different electrolyte materials that can be used in these devices. The effectiveness of an electrolyte is dependent on its ability to conduct an electric current, which is directly related to the availability of ionic charges (ions) and how fast they move through the material. The factors that affect the ion mobility include the chemistry and structure of the material and the temperature. By performing a number of experiments, I piece together a picture of how each of these factors affects the overall performance of the electrolyte and what can be done to improve the material. Of course, there is always the desire for faster ion mobility and improved electrolytes, but is there a limit to what can be achieved? Probably, but there are still enough unanswered questions to sustain electrolyte research for at least the time being. So, the end of the world is NOT nigh...well, not yet.

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