How do we store renewable energy?
In this What That Means video, Camille talks with Jef Caers. They get into why lithium-ion batteries are so important for the future of renewable energy, how scientists are using AI to find more metals to make these batteries, the human impact of mining, and more.
Storing Energy with Lithium-Ion Batteries
The need to shift to renewable energy is dire as the issue of CO2 emissions increases. Lithium-ion batteries are a key element of renewable energy as a way to store energy. While the demand for batteries increases, the metal required to make the batteries also increases. Lithium-ion batteries require metals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, and copper.
While these batteries are resource-intensive, Jef Caers explains they are the best option we have right now for offsetting CO2 emissions and moving to renewable energy.
AI Speeds Up Discovery
Scientists are using AI in new ways to improve the discovery of new metal reserves to produce these lithium-ion batteries. The discovery process, which can take up to 10 years, has already been seen to decrease by as much as 2 years thanks to the help of AI.
The AI used to help find these metal reserves determines where and how to acquire data for mining, but it doesn’t use the data recovered itself. This is still useful, but it does prevent the process from being even faster. The progress so far is promising, however, and scientists are already starting to use this AI to discover resources off-world like on Mars and the Moon.
How Mining Impacts People
Ultimately, we can’t forget the human impact of mining to make these batteries. There are still no standards for involving the peoples and communities where there are new discoveries of metal reserves. Whether it’s Greenland or the many global indigenous communities, we must consider how mining affects the people who live there. If the human impact would be too great, then scientists and mining companies must look elsewhere.
Jef Caers, Stanford University Professor
Jef Caers is a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Stanford University’s new Doerr School of Sustainability, as well as the director of the Stanford Center for Earth Resources Forecasting. His education includes a Ph.D. in engineering as well as an M.S. in Mining Engineering & Geophysics from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. Jef was awarded both the Vistelius Award and the William Christian Krumbein Medal by the IAMG, and he has been widely published throughout the scientific community.
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