[Blog #3] Data Analysis - Battery Cycling

The first week of work was a lot of memorization and getting used to the lab. There were so many details and so much equipment that I had to familiarize myself with. When my post-doc gave a tour of the lab, I was busy making a mental note of the equipment usages, locations of material stocks, procedures for using equipments, and where the labs are. I was nervous that I would not remember an important detail and make a crucial mistake, like leaking oxygen into a glove box.

I personally really benefited from and would recommend using a notebook at work for noting things down, no matter how small or big they are. Regardless of how much you think you will remember, my experience says that human memory is limited, and one will easily forget the details. It is also a good way to quickly understand the material. Putting what you understood or saw into words or lists of items helped to engrave the concepts into my brain. For example, in the first week, I wrote out the procedures for operating various equipments. This massively helped me put the process into words and understand/look at the project at different angles.

Once I had the fundamentals down, it felt easier to transition into the coming weeks because it just came down to tweaking some of these mental notes when I tried more advanced parts of my research. Although I did make small mistakes here and there, I felt like I was starting to grasp the ideas better. Many things in the lab required getting my hands more comfortable with handling chemicals, making solid electrolyte pellets, and becoming more comfortable with moving around in the small space of the glove box.

The second half of my research was more constant throughout. Many of the post-docs had stressed in my first weeks that battery research will boil down to routine work. At first, I could not really understand them because everything was very new and exciting for me. I had never seen nor done this work before. But as time passed, I did realize that I was also doing routine work: making (coin cell) batteries, setting them up and running them under cycling tests, analyzing the cycling results, and then using the updated information to make a better performing battery, and this repeats. I personally enjoyed this. It felt like I was mastering my handling of the solid electrolyte pellets and getting better and better everyday.

Once I had a constant stream of coin cells running, a lot of data was produced to be analyzed. The attached image is an example of a battery cycling result. The x-axis marks the capacity (mA*h/g) and the y-axis marks the voltage (V). It shows the plot of these coordinates after charging (increase in voltage, increase in capacity) and discharging (decreases in voltage, increase in capacity) over ten cycles. Continuously working with these plots, I got a good practice of exporting data and making them visually presentable (i.e. color, size, editing axis) over the summer. I was gaining more insight on how to present the graphs in order to make the most direct comparison. This was important because many of the experiments are slight tweaks away from each other and comparison must be made in order to confirm the better direction of research.

Practice makes perfect. Routine work, data analysis, and presenting data; I gained more insight through continuous work on my research. And seeing myself improve also motivates me to work harder on my research.

(Just as a note to add, at this point, I have finished my summer internship. I am planning to write one last blog as a wrap-up blog!)