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Summer 2014 Blog - Morgan Monroe

Morgan Monroe is spending the summer at Imprint Energy

July 28, 2014

It is amazing how fast the summer is going by- I keep forgetting to blog because I simply do not realize how quickly the days are going past!

Every day, we are running a number of experiments to make our batteries as good as they can be. This is like a playground for me – so many factors I can study! It is a wonderful feeling to have too much data to work with (that never happens to me in the world of academic research). I’ve been allowed to focus on a number of issues with the batteries that suit my particular interests. This makes me happy because it means I get to be excited about what I am doing at work each day! Of course, I have to fulfill certain duties assigned to the interns, but once that is complete, I am able to focus on my own projects.

Recently, I have been looking specifically at the batteries that do not meet our standards for working cells. I developed a system to mark down defects in the various layers of the batteries during and after the production process to see if I could relate any particular characteristic with cell failure. It is a bit overwhelming as there are many factors to consider, but I am enjoying playing at detective. I have been taking apart already completed and packaged batteries and marking down qualitative observations of defects. This is a time consuming process, but I think it has given me valuable insight to what happens to the cells over time. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make that many definitive connections between my qualitative observations and our quantitative data regarding defects, but I’ve got some ideas that I plan on developing more in the future!

July 3, 2014

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog post, but I plan on rectifying that by updating weekly for the rest of the summer!

Since I last posted, a number of things have happened whilst working at Imprint. For one, two new interns began their summer internships. Nick and Thomas are rising juniors in chemical engineering at Stanford and UCSD respectively. Though our school rivalries cause us to butt heads at times, I like working with “the boys” – our varied backgrounds give us each a unique perspective on the different issues that come up daily, and this lets us collaborate more effectively to come up with a solution. For example, Nick has taken a course on electrochemistry whilst Thomas and I haven’t, so when we have issues with the electrolyte in our batteries, we utilize his know-how to figure out what is going on. It is nice to work on a team and collaborate!

The first week I started working at Imprint, I noticed an issue with the printing process that we use to make the different component layers of our batteries and was thus given the task of figuring out and resolving the issue. I am very happy to say that I have succeeded! It is gratifying to complete an experiment that has permanent effects on the process and will benefit everyone at the company. Also, that first experiment sparked a number of side experiments that I am now working on. I am currently looking at the shelf life of the batteries when certain additives are introduced into the electrolyte layer and how they respond over extended periods of time. That is to say: Do they hold as much charge? Do they charge and discharge at the same rate? How many times can we cycle them (charge and discharge) before the battery is totally dead? These are just a few of the questions I’m looking into for these cells, but hopefully, they’ll allow us to produce better, more reliable batteries. I’ll let you know how it’s going in a week.

June 10th, 2014

Let’s take a moment to orient ourselves so everyone is on the same page: What does Imprint Energy do? Imprint Energy, Inc. is a battery technology company pioneering ultrathin, dynamically flexible, rechargeable batteries based on its proprietary ZincPolyTM chemistry. The company was founded in 2010 building on original research conducted at UC Berkeley and is based in Alameda, California. Imagine a piece of metal foil (you might use aluminum foil for cooking, we use stainless steel) that has a battery on it! These batteries have all sorts of interesting applications in small electronics as well as wearable electronics. What’s even more interesting, to me at least, is that we literally print the batteries on the substrate using a screen printing process – the same technique used to print decals on shirts. This means the process is quick and cheap; we can easily make a few hundred batteries a day for our R&D purposes, and can easily scale to thousands with our current setup! This young and small company will be the focus of my life for the next few months, and I expect it to change my life. I can’t wait!

It’s amazing how quickly these first two weeks have gone by – I’ve been interning at Imprint for such a short time, but I already feel like part of the family. My co-workers have been very welcoming – they have all taken the time to talk to me and help me find my way around the lab. I’ve really been enjoying the casual relationship everyone has here – I work with multiple PhDs and am the only undergrad in the lab at the moment (we’ll have a few other interns starting in two weeks), but everyone insists that I call them by their first names and they all treat me like part of the team.

On my second day of work here, I was taking measurements of the thicknesses of the different layers of the battery and noticed that there was a pattern to the unevenness of some of the samples. I pointed this out to my mentor, Kourosh, and we discussed potential causes of the problem. He listened to my ideas and together we developed an experiment to verify if what I noticed was a legitimate problem or just a fluke. Thus, on day 3 of work, the focus of the R&D department (all six of us) was the experiment I developed. How cool is that!? I am flabbergasted by how much of an influence I was able to have on the company in such a short time.

I must say, I am really looking forward to spending the rest of the summer here. I can’t wait!

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