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CSU gets charged up

Knowledge is power. Especially in the case of associate professor in chemistry Amy Prieto.

Prieto has been working seven years on developing a battery that will last longer, put out more power and be more environmentally friendly than current batteries. Last July she received the Presidential Early Career Award for her work on this project, an acknowledgment from the federal government — and the president — of her research.

Prieto continues to develop the battery, along with similar energy projects.

Seven years went into working on the battery, ever since Prieto arrived at CSU. According to the professor, the new battery shirks the old design of using six sheets of material and instead “looks like a sponge.” The new battery is then coated with special compounds used to make the battery.

Prieto said her goals are to make an energy producing product that is “cheap so everybody can use it,” and more environmentally friendly to produce. This includes the intent to avoid the use of acidic and flammable materials used in current batteries.

From a consumer standpoint, this new battery could also be beneficial, with increased power output and battery life as goals. The new battery would last 5,000 cycles instead of 500 cycles, the time in between full charge and the need for a recharge.

Prieto said that if the battery works as planned, “It’d take five minutes to charge the whole battery, as opposed to current rechargeable batteries.”

This research netted her a Presidential Early Career Award. This award was given to 96 engineers and scientists, and is “the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers” according to whitehouse.gov.

“To be recognized at the national level, it just further solidates the path that she’s on,” Prieto Battery Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Alliances Katie Hoffner said.

Prieto said students have played a large part in the project, allowing for work on more complicated problems. These students range from sophomores helping to build Prieto’s lab to the current participation of undergraduate and graduate students from around 20 to 30 years old.

One of these students is graduate research assistant Daniel Bates. Bates is helping to develop a new separator material, which is “a thousandth of a human hair thick.” The separator will keep the anode and cathode apart, preventing the battery from shorting out.

He said that Prieto had talent for getting people interested in chemistry, making it more enjoyable.

“It’s been a great experience,” Bates said. “It’s always fun when you can learn together with your advisor as opposed to them teaching you.”

Tests by a third party is a big step of the battery’s commercialization, one which Prieto Battery hopes to complete in three months, according to Hoffner.

Funding for the battery project comes from Prieto Battery and a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Collegian writer Devin O’Brien can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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About Devin O'Brien

Collegian writer Devin is a senior studying Journalism and Technical Communication and has worked at the Collegian for two semesters.