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A Lasting and Valuable Legacy | MIT News

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Betar Gallant, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and chairman of the Mechanical Engineering Career Development Board in 1922, grew up in a curious and independent family. Her mother had multiple jobs over the years, including urban planning and geospatial fields. Her father was formally trained in English, but he read all kinds of textbooks from start to finish, taught himself many technical fields, including engineering, and achieved success in those fields. When Gallant was a little girl, she and her father used to do science experiments in the basement.

But it wasn’t until she was a teenager that she says she was drawn to science. Gallant lost her father to an illness five years before her when she was sixteen, and grieving “when he missed him the most”, she recounts her love for what fascinated her father. I started looking.

“I started taking a deeper interest in what he’s been doing his whole life as a way to feel closer to him when he’s away,” says Gallant. “I was going through some of the stuff he worked on for a few months one summer and found myself reading a physics textbook. That was enough and I was hooked.”

A love of finding and figuring out solutions on her own was clearly passed on to her by her parents, which eventually led her to life’s most beloved specialty: electrochemistry.

As an undergraduate at MIT, Gallant did an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program project with Professor Yang Xiao Hong’s research group. This was Gallant’s first official exposure to electrochemistry.

“When I met Yang, she immediately showed me how challenging and rich electrochemistry can be. The way she and her group members talk about research is There was real confidence and excitement,” says Gallant. Luckily, she was a (relatively rare) electrochemist in the mechanical engineering department. I would.”

Gallant has three degrees from MIT (’08, SM ’10, and PhD ’13). Before she joined the MIT faculty in 2016, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Kavli Institute of Nanosciences Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech.

Her passion for electrochemistry is immense. “Electrons are dazzling,” she says. “They power much of our everyday world and are the key to a renewable future.” it won’t work. “

However, electrons can be stored in molecules, bonds, and metallic ions or non-metallic centers that can lose or gain electrons, as long as positive charge transfer occurs to accommodate the electron.

“This is where chemistry comes to the fore,” says Gallant. “What kind of molecule or material can behave like this? How can it store as much charge as possible while keeping its weight and volume as small as possible?”

Gallant said early battery developers using lithium and ion “arguably built a technology that has shaped the modern world more than any other.

“If you look at some of the early papers, there were hand-sketched concepts of how lithium-ion batteries and lithium-metal anodes work. It was speculated to be true before it was even developed, it actually happened, and even now those ideas have turned out to be true!”

Gallant said: If we can do that, we will be able to design better materials and devices. “

A true father’s daughter, Gallant focuses on finding solutions on her own.

“Ultimately, it’s a race to have the best mental model,” she says. “A good lab and a lot of money and people to run it is very nice, but the most valuable tool in the toolbox is a solid mental model and a very It’s the idea of ​​personalized electrochemistry.”

One immediate impact project out of her Gallant Energy and Carbon Conversion Lab relates to primary (non-rechargeable) battery work she and her team are working to commercialize, she says. says. This involves injecting new electrochemically active electrolytes during assembly of leading high-energy batteries. Replacing traditional electrolytes with new chemistries reduces the battery’s normally inactive weight and significantly increases energy, she said. One of her important uses for such batteries is in medical devices such as pacemakers.

“If we can extend lifespan, it will lead to longer intervals between invasive replacement surgeries, which will have a significant impact on patients’ quality of life,” she says.

Gallant’s team is also leading efforts to enable high-energy rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. The key to energy grading, or range, is the use of lithium metal anodes instead of graphite. However, lithium metal is highly reactive with all battery electrolytes, and its interfaces still need to be stabilized in ways that have eluded researchers. Gallant’s team is developing design guidelines for such interfaces and next-generation electrolytes to form and maintain these interfaces. Adapting the technology to that end and commercializing it is “a little further away, but I believe this change to lithium anodes will happen. It’s just a question of when,” Gallant said. I’m here.

About six years ago, when Gallant founded the lab, she and her team began introducing carbon dioxide into batteries as a way to experiment with the electrochemical conversion of greenhouse gases.She says she realized batteries don’t offer the best practical technology for mitigating CO2, But their experiments have opened new avenues for carbon dioxide capture and conversion. “That work allowed us to think creatively, and we began to realize that there is great potential for manipulating CO.2 Careful design of the electrochemical environment facilitates the reaction. ’ That led her team to the idea of ​​performing electrochemical conversions on CO2 From the captured state bound to the capture sorbent, it replaces the energy-intensive regeneration step of today’s capture process and streamlines the process.

“Other researchers are now working on it, taking this idea in exciting directions. It’s a very challenging and very rich topic,” she says.

Gallant has received awards including the MIT Bose Fellowship, the Army Research Office Young Investigator Award, the Scialog Fellowship in Energy Storage and Negative Emissions Science, the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award, and MIT’s Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching. She received the Electrochemical Society (ECS) Battery Division Early Career Award, and she received the ECS-Toyota Young Investigator Award.

Recently, Gallant has been brainstorming with her husband, a research group member and academic, and thinking about the best. She says being an MIT professor means she has “a row of things to think about,” but she’s also given revelations.

“My brain gets overloaded because I can’t think of everything at once. Ideas have to match! So there’s a lot going on in the background all the time,” she says. increase. “I don’t know how it works, but sometimes ideas come to me when I go for a walk or do something else. They’re fun.

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