Improving battery design by blowing them up (Day 344)

Lithium ion batteries are used in a wide range of applications and technologies. As it happens; if you are reading my blog on a smartphone, laptop or tablet, you are probably holding one right now.  From mobile phones to electric cars, Li-ion batteries are all around us, but how do we make sure they are safe?

As I have remarked previously in my blog ‘Bulletproof batteries‘, there are significant safety issues associated with Li-ion batteries. In 2013, a problem with overheating batteries forced airlines to ground their Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft, after reports of batteries bursting into flames.

An exploding lithium ion battery Photo Credit | Donal Finegan, UCL

An exploding lithium ion battery
Photo Credit | Donal Finegan, UCL

The use of Li-ion batteries is becoming more wide-spread. So we need to gain a better understanding of the hazards and risks associated with their use.

That’s why a research group led by chemical engineers from University College London (UCL) UK, with the European Synchrotron (ESRF), Imperial College London and the National Physical Laboratory, have been working to figure out what happens to Li-ion batteries when they overheat and explode.

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One less trip to Accident and Emergency (Day 185)

Boy in hospitalChildren aged one to five are notorious for putting things in their mouth. It’s part of their learning process and parents spend a lot of time and effort trying to safety-proof their homes.

There’s some good advice online about how to care for a child that is choking, but there are are other hidden dangers, especially from small button batteries.

It is fairly common for flat, round batteries that power toys, hearing aids, calculators, and many other devices to be swallowed.

Swallowing these batteries has severe consequences, including burns that permanently damage the oesophagus, tears in the digestive tract, and in some cases, even death.

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Five ways to have a successful research career (Day 169)

SuccessWhen I meet with up and coming chemical engineers – and via this blog – I often get asked for advice on what career route they should take.

My guidance is always to look at all the options; do your research; talk to family and friends; gain work experience if possible; and analyse your own strengths and weaknesses. In some cases you may even seek professional careers advice.

But, importantly, the decision must be yours, especially as it may prove to be the most dominant and consistent feature of your life for 50 years or more.

However, one of the options is a career in academia and I hope you find this information useful background to any decision you make.

Relatively few chemical engineering graduates continue on into further study; for example in the UK, 33.1 per cent of chemistry graduates carry out postgraduate study compared with 16.5 per cent of chemical engineering graduates.

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