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Evolving a Better Battery

Project Advisor
Professor Buz Barstow - bmb35@cornell.edu

Project Area/Concentration
intersection of energy and synthetic biology, background in chemistry; electrical or computer engineering; physics; or synthetic biology

Project Description
Batteries have the perfect combination of energy, power density and scalability for automotive and grid-scale energy storage. However, their short calendar and cycle lifespans seriously limits their potential on the future smart grid. Irreversible formation of oxides on battery electrodes causes a gradual degradation of storage capacity. However, electroactive microbes such as Shewanella oneidensis have the potential to reduce and solubilize these oxides, restoring battery capacity at much lower financial, energy and carbon costs than replacement and recycling. However, most electroactive microbes, are unable to operate in harsh battery electrolytes. We aim to use Knockout Sudoku, a new technology for gene discovery developed by my lab, to discover the genetic mechanisms of microbes that thrive in highly alkaline environments and organic solvents. We will use this to build an electroactive microbe capable of operating inside battery electrolytes and restoring energy storage capacity.

Possible Courses

Course number Course title
AEP 4210 Mathematical Physics I
AEP 4220 Mathematical Physics II
BEE 3600 Molecular and Cellular Bioengineering
BME 6130 Engineering the Microbiome