Using Vegetables The Right Way
She used to hate brinjal, and her parents had to force her to eat it as a child. And now, Shannon Lee Xinjing (above in red) has finally exacted revenge on her least favourite yong tau foo ingredient.
The 18-year-old National Junior College student has managed to turn the humble vegetable into a functioning electrocatalyst for zinc-air batteries.
Her environmentally friendly and inexpensive idea will have to undergo rigourous testing to confirm that she may have actually found a durable and sustainable alternative to lithium-ion batteries – widely used in electric cars and other high-consuming devices. Using the Chinese eggplant also helps result in lighter batteries, resulting in lighter devices and saving energy when used to transport goods and people.
This discovery helped Shannon clinch Young Scientist Award this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. She was also awarded US$50,000 for the hypothesis. The plant material was discovered to be a more stable electrocatalyst compared to those commercially available.
What This Means For Us Common Folk
Carnivores will think we should stop eating eggplant so we can use it in our batteries instead. Everyone else will think this award spells hope for our young scientists, since an 18-year-old could use an everyday vegetable and come up with such an ingenious solution. Maybe our young ones aren’t all about apps and texts after all. Maybe we’re all capable of something amazing if given the opportunity and support. Maybe we’ll next use kai lan to replace plastics next.