Ep 3. Nanoparticles in Electric Car Batteries: How Do We Study Sustainability?

Welcome to episode 3 of the Sustainable Nano podcast! In this episode, we talk about a recent research study that looked at how one type of battery nanomaterial affects bacteria called Shewanella oneidensis. We interview Mimi Hang and Ian Gunsolus, who were co-first authors of the study as graduate students in the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology.

Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf is one example of an electric car that uses NMC in its batteries (image by Tennen-Gas)


The study may sound familiar to regular blog readers – Mimi summarized it in this post and it got some media attention, which we wrote about here and here.

Wrapping up our podcast launch week we will have one more new episode coming tomorrow (nanotechnology superheroes!). After that we will switch to an every-other-week schedule. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss an episode! Or if you’re not an iTunes person, you can always still listen here on the blog.


Related links:

  • Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology
  • Hang, M. Gunsolus, I., Wayland, H., Melby, E., Mensch, A., Hurley, K., Pedersen, J., Haynes, C., & Hamers, R. Impact of Nanoscale Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC) on the Bacterium Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. Chemistry of Materials. 2016, 28, 1092-1100. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.5b04505

IntervieweesDr. Ian Gunsolus, Mimi Hang

Producer/Narrator: Miriam Krause

Music sources: Music for this episode came from the Free Music Archive, specifically tracks by Kesta and Dexter Britain

2 Replies to “Ep 3. Nanoparticles in Electric Car Batteries: How Do We Study Sustainability?”

  1. Landfills are often lined with clay or other impervious materials that prevent leakage of landfill contents. However, in developing countries this may not be the case. Recycling of battery materials will greatly increase as pressure on natural resources increases which may downplay the issue with toxicity (which is only found at high concentrations in this organism). Is the endpoint of the life cycle of this material actually a problem or should we be worried about other aspects of the material life cycle?

    1. Thanks for the question! Here’s Ian’s reply:

      This is a somewhat difficult question to answer… We are not experts in material life cycle analysis, so we cannot say with much clarity whether there are other aspects of the material life cycle that we should be worried about. We are taking the approach that it is advantageous to “engineer-out” the issue (i.e., use NMC formulations that reduce the release of toxic compounds) even in the presence of safeguards like material recycling and impervious landfill linings.

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