João Braga, working on the valorisation of mining by-products and used batteries

April 8, 2024

Meet João Braga. He joined the Nanochemistry research group at INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory as a Research Engineer in January 2024 and is currently working on the Electrochemical investigation and valorization of lithium hydroxide and carbonate from mining.

He holds a B.Sc. degree (2016) in Bioengineering from Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro and an M.Sc. degree (2020) in Biomedical Engineering from the same university.

Could you provide some insights into your background and primary focus in your field of work?

I have a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering and a master’s degree in biomedical engineering oriented towards biomaterials. My master’s thesis consisted of using electrochemical techniques to implement room-temperature prepared gold nanoparticles as enhancing agents in an aptasensor. These particles showed a very promising behaviour in oxygen a hydrogen peroxide reduction, which could be an added value to optimize mining techniques.

I joined the INL Nanochemistry group aiming towards the valorisation of mining by-products and used batteries through the recovery of metals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel, which have been gaining market value due to the growing battery industry, to effectively reintroduce these materials in the chain of value and thus minimize the environmental footprint of their future endeavours.

What is the importance of your research?

This research has been gaining some relevance for a few years and it’s expected to grow in the future because we use batteries in a wide variety of commodities and the tendency is for their use to grow. We need more and more batteries and more efficient ones too!  The ecological impact of lithium prospection is huge and, since we only have this planet to live on and protect, it’s urgent to value these residues and retrieve as much of these elements as possible minimizing the ecological impact of mining and used batteries.

What sparks your inspiration and enthusiasm for science?

I have always been an enthusiast about science in general since it’s the only way to truly understand the universe and how nature works. It wouldn’t make sense to me to live in any other way, and that’s one of the main reasons why I chose Bioengineering as an academic background. It gave me insight into many fields of study and I feel prepared to face a very diverse array of challenges.

On the other hand, since I first got in contact with the concept of nanotechnology, I thought it would be an interesting field to explore because “There’s plenty of room in the basement”. It’s such a vast and promising field of study that I find myself eager with enthusiasm every time there’s some discovery or achievement and I wish to be a part of that.

Text and Photography by Gina Palha, Corporate Communication and Marketing Officer