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By  Keirissa Lawson 10 May 2023 2 min read

Key points

  • Joanne is a leader in our critical minerals research.
  • She is facilitating the transition to a decarbonised global energy supply.
  • Joanne is a role model for careers in science, engineering, technology and maths.

Grab your fedora because Dr Joanne Loh is on an adventure. An adventure to explore the secrets of critical minerals for storage technologies.

Much like Dr Jones, it was a great teacher in high school that led Joanne into a career in chemistry.

“When I started university, I wanted to study chemistry and archaeology and unlock the adventures of Indiana Jones,” Joanne said.

And she didn’t choose poorly. Chemistry unlocked her adventure in science. Her career has spanned working in an alumina refinery to studying crystallisation in the Netherlands.

Joanne is now building our science capability in critical minerals for energy storage technologies such as batteries.

Joanne Loh is channeling her inner Indiana Jones to uncover the secrerts of critical minerals for energy storage.

Battery minerals

Think about your daily diet of digital technologies. From powering our phones and electric cars to running off-grid solar at home, batteries are essential. Energy storage is the “holy grail” of our transition to more renewable and low emission energy.

Joanne’s work is in the supply of compounds for current battery chemistries. She is part of a wider CSIRO team that works across the battery value chain.

Joanne’s team at Waterford in Perth has been working on purifying graphite. You may know graphite as the ‘lead’ in your pencil. Graphite is also the leading material used to make battery anodes (the positive electrode in a battery).

“Battery anodes are made from very pure graphite. Our team has developed a process to achieve greater than 99.95 per cent purity," Joanne said.

The team has been doing this work in their lab and is now working to scale up the process.

“We are looking to increase production from one kilogram to 20 kilograms scale.”

[Image appears of Joanne Loh talking to the camera|

Joanne Loh: Everyone's talking about critical minerals, but what are they?

They're the minerals that contain the elements essential to the everyday items we depend on.

Items such as the smartphone I'm using to record my video, computers and medical diagnostic devices.

Critical minerals, are also vital for the technologies that will help with our global energy transformation and to lower emissions.

Things such as electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, green hydrogen, and energy storage, such as batteries.

However, we can't make any of these without critical minerals. Australia is a rich source of critical minerals, such as lithium, cobalt, vanadium.

However, we need to find more and we need to develop more efficient and sustainable ways to extract and process them.

Our work at CSRO is helping to build a cleaner future for everyone.

[Images changes to show the CSIRO logo on a white screen and text on the screen: Australia’s National Science Agency]

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Taking a lead in critical minerals

To create a global change in our energy systems we need global collaboration. Working with international partners, we can speed up decarbonisation efforts. We can achieve this through faster transfer of technology and innovation.

We recently appointed Joanne as a group leader for critical minerals. She’ll be managing our India-Australia Critical Minerals Research Partnership.

“The breadth of skill and expertise we have in CSIRO gives us an almost unrivalled opportunity to contribute across the value chains for critical minerals and batteries,” Joanne said.

“The Partnership focuses on strengthening supply chains for battery materials. Our collaborative research projects are contributing to diversified, resilient and responsible sources of critical minerals which support new local jobs and industries for both nations.”

“It’s exciting to be involved in this initiative which seeks to benefit India and Australia. And I’m hopeful our work will ultimately have global impact to benefit everyone,” she said.

While it may not be Indiana Jones, it’s an exciting time to be part of our critical mineral crusade.

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