Ms Karolina Biernacka

Field: Frontier Materials

Set to ‘supercharge’ her career, one of Deakin’s PhD candidates is following her passion for materials science and developing internationally recognised green battery storage technology.

We sat down with Karolina Biernacka to talk about her PhD journey.

While interning at Deakin, I worked on my Masters thesis, enjoyed the supportive environment and was inspired by the excellent science happening at the University.

Karolina's PhD Journey

Why did you choose to study a PhD at Deakin?

During the final trimester of my Masters degree at the European Master Program – Material for Energy Storage and Conversion (MESC), I undertook an internship at Deakin. While interning at Deakin, I worked on my Masters thesis, enjoyed the supportive environment and was inspired by the excellent science happening at the University. After completing my Masters, I chose to come back to Deakin to start my PhD research project.

What is your PhD research project about?

I am working on novel solid state electrolyte materials for sodium-ion batteries (Na-ion batteries). These materials are safer and more environmentally friendly than what we are currently using in batteries.

What have you achieved that you never thought possible before beginning your PhD?

I never thought that we could achieve so much from ElevenStore, an idea to electrify motor scooters with sodium batteries, which propelled myself and three Deakin researchers to the international Grand Final of the Climate Launchpad 2020 – the world’s largest green business ideas competition.

Our idea draws on using cutting-edge sodium batteries for mobility applications, initially motor scooters, but also buses and auto-rickshaws, in Indonesia, with a focus on clean, cheap, affordable transportation.

Our team has won state, national and South East Asian Climate Launchpad finals to qualify for the Global Final, which was held in late 2020. We competed against entrepreneurs from 56 countries, with an audience that includes investors, media and industry leaders.

ElevenStore’s success has already gained us a position in the Climate-KIC Climate Launchpad Accelerator, which will help us turn our idea into a reality.

As a result of myself and the team’s achievements, I was also named a finalist in the 2020 Australian Women’s Weekly Women of the Future Awards.

How is your PhD helping you make an impact on society?

My PhD contributes to the development of Na-ion battery technology which will ultimately have a positive impact on the environment as well as on millions of people lives. Potential applications of Na-ion technology include residential renewable energy and light vehicles. By establishing electric transport, we could not only reduce pollution but also noise from road traffic.

What are your future career ambitions? How has your PhD helped you realise these?

I’d like to continue working on Na-ion technology development. I truly believe in the potential of this technology, and I’d like to contribute to Na-ion batteries commercialisation by investigating scalability avenues for Sodium-Ion battery technology into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) market.

My supervisor, Professor Maria Forsyth, has introduced me to relevant experts with whom I am now doing a part time internship as Business Development Manager. Findings from this internship will be summarised in the business plan which I am planning to create and include as a chapter in my PhD thesis.

I also hope to undertake a Graduate Certificate (or Diploma) of Business at Deakin. With Deakin’s strong reputation in business studies, I believe this would place me well to develop business strategy and framework for ElevenStore and put us on a great trajectory to commercialising our Sodium-Ion batteries. These batteries have significant sustainability indictors and have the potential to revolutionise travel in underdeveloped countries.

How would you describe your current job?

After a lot of work I realised that ElevenStore, although it is a great concept, required more R&D to commercialise our technology. I decided to look for alternative ways of more immediately bringing the compelling idea of novel, safe and environmentally friendly sodium-ion battery technology to the ASEAN market. I knew I wanted to be involved in an industry that I was passionate about, and that was doing good for the environment.

Following my passion into the clean energy space and future energy storage solutions, I joined the Australian company, Sodium-ion Batteries Pty Ltd. I currently represent the company as a Business Development manager. I feel extremely lucky to be a part of a team which will bring the first sodium-ion batteries to the ASEAN region.

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