Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2015 - (Page 10)
Generating Electricity Using Waste and Pollution
by Sahil Doshi
ven before my sister told me about the Discovery Education 3M
into the water. I eventually created a cell that converted the carbon
Young Scientist Challenge (YSC), I was thinking of a way to
dioxide in the water into approximately 800 millivolts of electricity.
I spent over a month developing prototypes before I began filmsolve two big problems: the lack of access to electricity in developing
Creating the video itself was very difficult because all of the
countries, and the excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As I
project's information had to be reduced to just one to two minthought about ways to address these two problems, I came up with
utes. I spent hours editing and re-filming
the idea of a battery that uses carbon dioxide
before finally submitting my entry the
and recycled materials to generate electrici knew that silver wOuld make day before the deadline.
ity. Learning about the YSC was exactly the
motivation I needed to pursue this idea. The
an effective cathOde, but peOple Improving on Success
contest is for students in grades five through
When I entered the competition, I didn't
eight; as an eighth grader, I was in my last
fOrtuthink I had a chance of winning, as this
year of eligibility. There was no time to waste.
was my first time entering. When I got
To enter the challenge, I had to submit a
nately, i fOund a gOOd sOurce in a call in June saying that I was selected
one- to two-minute video about my idea for
as one of the ten national finalists, I
an innovative solution to an everyday probmy used silver-plated cOpper was exuberant.
lem. My battery idea definitely fit the bill, but
Each finalist was paired with a 3M sciI had a lot of work to do before I could make
who would serve as their mentor.
a video about it.
In July, I met my mentor, Dr. Jim Jonza,
a polymer chemist at the 3M World
A battery consists of one or more electrochemical cells, each of which
Headquarters in Minnesota, via a phone call. After discussing how
contains two half-cells: an anode and a cathode. The anode is more
the project would look at the final event, we set weekly goals leadprone to losing electrons, while the cathode is more prone to gaining
ing to the competition finals in October. Every week, Dr. Jonza
electrons. When you attach a wire between the anode and cathode,
and I talked over the phone about improvements I'd made on the
electrons flow from the anode to the cathode through the wire, creatproject. On Google Drive, we looked at photos highlighting my
ing electricity. An external device, such as a lightbulb, can be powered
progress as well as documents illustrating ideas for improvement.
by attaching it to the wire.
This routine continued for three months, until I developed and
I wanted my battery to use inexpensive and preferably recycled
tested a prototype that I would use in my five-minute presentation
materials. For the anode I chose aluminum, which easily loses elecat the competition.
trons and which, in the form of used beverage cans, is readily availIn the Spotlight
able. I knew that silver would make an effective cathode, but people
don't usually discard it. Fortunately, I found a good source in my used
On October 12, I boarded the plane from Pittsburgh to St. Paul,
silver-plated copper guitar strings.
Minnesota, readying myself for three days of nervous excitement.
I put carbonated water in the two half-cells and added salt to each
On the first night, the finalists got to know each other and meet
to catalyze the reaction, then placed aluminum in one and guitar
the judges and staff at an ice cream social. The event was a huge
strings in the other. To speed up the reaction, I attached two copper
stress reliever, as I saw that the other finalists shared many of my
wires to the terminals of a 9-volt battery and put the end of each wire
interests, from science to sports to video games.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2015
In My Own Words Daniel Kammen, Professor of Energy, UC Berkeley
A Solar-Powered Solution to the Water Crisis Using the sun to purify water
The PolluCell Generating electricity using waste and pollution
More than a Race The Solar Car Challenge
Energy Agenda The power of teen research
Energized! A crash course in fuels of the future
Grease Is Good Helping the environment and the community with biofuel
Fueled by Algae Sara Volz and the powerful potential of pond scum
The Future of Energy Five careers in green power
My Sanskrit Yaatra Connecting with my culture through language
Devoted Awareness My internship with Until There’s a Cure
Selected Opportunities and Resources
Off the Shelf Review of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
Exploring Career Options Interview with green architect Andrew Thompson
One Step Ahead Six things incoming college students should know
Planning Ahead for College Developing your passions
Students Review: University of Pennsylvania
Creative Minds Imagine
Mark Your Calendar
Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2015