Dr. Neeraj Sharma, from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, has earned the Early Career Researcher of the Year award in physical sciences.
The award was given for Sharma’s work in lithium-ion batteries found in electronic devices, electric vehicles, and the grid. He was also honored for his study of next-generation battery systems, such as environmentally friendly sodium-ion batteries.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently presented Sharma — from the School of Chemistry at UNSW — with the award at the Government House in Sydney.
“To enhance the next generation of technologies, we require better performance at a lower environmental cost,” said Sharma in a press statement. He is deemed one of the global leaders in the use of neutron and X-ray scattering techniques to study materials for next-generation lithium-ion batteries.
“My work explores lithium-ion batteries — discovered in electronic devices, electric vehicles, and the framework —as well as next-generation battery methods such as sodium-ion batteries,” he explained. “I find the study of sodium-ion batteries especially fascinating, and we have been developing new electrodes for these operations.”
By concentrating on electrochemical reactions in batteries, Sharma’s goal is to better understand how electrode composition and structure at the atomic level can impact battery performance.
So, what is the ultimate goal of Sharma’s research? “We can facilitate and enhance the uptake of electric vehicles, ensure batteries are recycled, transmitting a minimal environmental impact, and shift away from fossil fuels for energy generation and transportation. There is a vital opportunity to shape how we exist in the future,” said Sharma.
To this end, Sharma’s research team is also exploring:
- Solid-state batteries, which use solid electrodes and an electrolyte, rather than liquid or polymer gel electrolytes found in lithium-ion batteries. Although more costly, solid-state batteries are typically safer.
- Energy-dense lithium-sulfur batteries, which are rechargeable, cost-effective, and with a higher energy density compared to lithium-ion batteries.
- Double function solar batteries, which store solar power
- Alternative methods for recycling
Sharma was not alone in his award. Researchers from UNSW gained half of the science and engineering awards offered by the NSW Premier, including the top prize for NSW Scientist of the Year.
“Such successes will inspire more scholars from India to take up meaningful research professions,” said Amit Dasgupta, UNSW Country Head, India.
UNSW Engineering will begin offering new streams, beginning in February 2020, including those in renewable energy, mining engineering, and petroleum engineering. Additionally, the university is finalizing a new robotics program that should also be accessible next year.
“Students in India will find these programs exciting. We want more meritorious students from the region to practice for the Future of Change scholarships, available completely to the Indian students,” added Dasgupta.