Following an eye-opening keynote delivered by Bayile Adeoti, President of Scottish Women in Business, the Ecosystem Development panel offered an encouragingly positive outlook on the future of technological innovation in Glasgow. Particularly encouraging was Jamie Clyde of Bruntwood SciTech’s discussion of their plans to transform the iconic Met Tower into a hub of technological innovation at the very heart of the city.
In the days which have followed since the Ecosystem Development keynote, and the wide-ranging conversations held with founders and others at the Marks & Clerk stall, the power of innovation to transform the lives of individuals, cities, countries and indeed the world is a concept which I have not been able to shake. Furthermore, as a trainee in the field of intellectual property protection, this is a concept of which I am consistently reminded. The more non-obvious the innovation seems to be, the greater the impact it seems to have. It is no surprise, therefore, that the following technological development recently discussed by Engineering and Technology (E&T) quickly grabbed my attention.
In the face of often catastrophic climate change, the electrification of any carbon-emitting practices offers an attractive, but oftentimes rocky, path to redemption. One such rock blocking the path to complete electrification is the storage of electrical energy. The lifespan of the batteries upon which we rely to store electrical energy is often shorter than we’d like. These lifespans having expired, the issue of battery disposal, and the lack of facilities for their safe and unobtrusive disposal, is also problematic. Time and time again, the most complex problems – such as that of electrical energy storage – are proven to require the most innovative solutions.
Enter seaweed... Yes, seaweed.
A team comprised of individuals from Marine Biopolymers and the University of Glasgow's School of Chemistry have been exploring the role which alginates - naturally occurring materials found in brown seaweed - may be able to play in the development of silicon-based batteries.
The silicon which forms the electrode of a silicon-based battery, although allowing these batteries to enjoy a charging capacity ten times greater than that of their graphite-based counterparts, becomes damaged as it expands and contracts in-line with the cycling of the battery – the silicon-based battery thus enjoying a shorter-than-preferable lifespan.
Through the combination of silicon with seaweed-derived alginates, and the resultant increase in elasticity, these researchers have been able to increase the lifespan of a silicon-based battery by two to three times. At present, a small-scale prototype suggests that this technological innovation is capable of improving both the lifespan and the charging capacity of a range of industrial and consumer products – not least Electric Vehicles (EVs), which are vital to the global decarbonisation effort.
A resource which occurs naturally – in abundance – along the coasts of Scotland, a 2022 report by IBioIC and the Scottish Association for Marine Science estimated that the harvest of wild seaweeds for the extraction of alginates (as well as numerous other uses) could generate a revenue of £71.2m/year by 2040.
Not only, therefore, does the implementation of this innovative – and prior to unconsidered – solution to the issue of electrical energy storage provide us with enhanced means via which to tackle the ongoing climate crisis – it is also set to bring considerable financial gain to the country whose researchers and natural resources made the technological innovation possible.
If the Glasgow Tech Fest 2023 has achieved anything – which it most certainly has – it has reaffirmed my sense of the paramount importance of technological innovation such as that discussed above, and proven to me that there are countless individuals and organisations spread throughout Glasgow who are keen to further technological innovation in the city – and who are keen to collaborate with one another to realise this goal. Having reconnected with some familiar faces whilst exhibiting at the Tech Fest, and having formed connections with some new ones, I feel motivated to further Glasgow’s burgeoning Tech Ecosystem to the best of my abilities as a trainee in the field of intellectual property protection.