Jodie Lutkenaus’ pioneering research redefines energy storage with organic batteries, addressing the challenges of today’s lithium-ion batteries. Cobalt, nickel, and lithium sourcing issues and their environmental impact form a critical concern, driving her pursuit of sustainable solutions. By utilizing earth-abundant elements like carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur, Lutkenaus aims to create energy storage systems that break the barriers of traditional batteries. Her work envisions recyclable batteries, promoting a circular economy and minimizing environmental impact. Lutkenaus’ commitment to ethical and eco-friendly technology transforms the future of energy storage, revolutionizing the way we power our world, with degradable batteries.

Which wall does your research break?

Cobalt, nickel, and lithium are essential ingredients in today’s lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), but their continued use presents economic, ethical, and environmental challenges or “walls”. Society must now begin to consider the implications of a LIB’s full life cycle, including the carbon footprint, the economic and environmental costs, and material access. These challenges motivate the case for degradable or recyclable batteries sourced from earth-abundant materials whose life cycle bears a minimal impact on the environment. My research on organic batteries breaks this “wall” by creating energy storage systems that have no cobalt, nickel, or lithium. Instead, organic batteries contain earth-abundant elements such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. We are researching how these batteries can be degraded or recycled for full circularity.

What inspired or motivated you to work on your current research or project?

In 2017, I was honored to be selected as a World Economic Forum Young Scientist, which allowed me to attend the Annual Meeting of New Champions. At a session on batteries, I listened to some of the major battery and tech companies discussing and strategizing about cobalt. I was shocked to learn that a portion of the world’s cobalt was mined by children and individuals in poor conditions. Inspired by this, I resolved to apply my expertise in polymers and electrochemistry to the area of organic batteries.

In what ways does society benefit from your research?

Organic batteries will not require the energy-intensive mining and refining of strategic metals such as cobalt, nickel, and lithium. Instead, organic battery materials can be sourced from both biomass and fossil resources. Because of the flexibility in materials sourcing, organic battery manufacturing might disrupt the current lithium-ion battery supply chain and democratize battery materials and manufacturing to more geographical locations. Further, organic batteries might be recycled or degraded to achieve full circularity.

Looking ahead, what are your hopes or aspirations for the future based on your research or project?

My dream is to create an organic battery that performs just as well as a Li-ion battery but is easy to recycle.

Further Information

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