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Sandy Journal

Sandy Teen Honored with Young Scientist Award at International Science Competition

Aug 03, 2016 10:06AM ● By Julie Slama

Sandy resident Kathy Liu was presented the Young Scientist Award at the Intel International Science and Engineer Fair for developing an alternative rechargeable battery. — Kathy Liu

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Sandy, Utah - In amongst her schoolwork, practicing her violin for the Utah Youth Symphony and researching topics for the West High School debate team, 17-year-old Kathy Liu developed an alternative rechargeable battery that may change the face of batteries.

The Sandy teen won $50,000 and received the Young Scientist Award May 13 at the Intel International Science and Engineer Fair for her batteries that are lighter and smaller and are without risk of fire inherent in lithium-ion batteries.

“It isn’t uncommon to see a leaking battery and there have been news stories of dangerous battery fires, which are issues that I tackled in my battery research,” Kathy said. “I developed a battery with completely solid components to significantly enhance battery safety and reliability. The batteries I developed are also pretty stable in terms of charging and discharging because battery components are not soluble in commonly used liquids, which can cause battery deaths.”

Kathy replaced the flammable liquids with a solid polymer that is similar to a putty-like paste, eliminating the need for thicker battery walls. Her result is a coin-size battery, similar to the size found in a watch. Her new battery costs only about 10 cents to make, which should reduce the consumer price. The batteries also hold a charge even after she tested them more than 1,000 times.

The 2016 Intel Fair featured more than 1,700 student scientists from 419 affiliate fairs in 77 countries, regions and territories.

The INTEL Fair finalists’ projects are evaluated at the competition in Phoenix by about 1,000 judges from nearly every scientific discipline, each with a doctorate or equivalent of six years of related professional experience. The is funded jointly by Intel and the Intel Foundation, with additional honors from supporters in corporate, academic, governmental and science-focused organizations, granting about $4 million in awards.

In addition to claiming the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000, Kathy also was named the top winner in the chemistry category, which awards $5,000, and grants $1,000 to her school and to the fair she is affiliated with — Salt Lake Valley Science and Engineering Fair.

At the March Salt Lake Valley fair, Kathy won first place in the category of Energy: Chemical and Physical. In February, she won first place at the Salt Lake City School District fair in the Energy and Transportation category.

Kathy also serves on the Salt Lake Valley Fair student board.

“I love engaging in scientific research because I feel it is a pursuit where I can potentially make an impact on important issues facing the world. I plan to pursue an education and career in the STEM fields, which the scholarship from Intel ISEF this year definitely helps,” she said.

Intel Foundation President Rosalind Hudnell congratulated Kathy and other winners.

“Intel congratulates this year’s winners and hopes that their work will inspire other young innovators to apply their curiosity and ingenuity to today’s global challenges,” Hudnell said. “This international science and engineering exhibition is an excellent example of what can be achieved when students from different backgrounds, perspectives and geographies come together to share ideas and solutions.”