Chasing passions: AP chemistry teacher researches lithium ion batteries

Samuel Fung works pursues passion project at San Jose State University

Walking into the lab, thumps of the mortar and pestle pounding battery paste fill the room. After putting the lithium-ion battery into the discharge machine, tiny red lights illuminate along a row, each with a different lifespan to test the overall efficacy of the batteries, Fung said.

Samuel Fung works with students in his AP chemistry class on an experiment related to batteries. (Photo by Nathan Gu)

Besides teaching chemistry at our school, Fung said he participates in lithium battery development at San Jose State University with a group of other researchers with the hopes of producing a properly working lithium-ion battery. 

Fung said his research includes producing different pastes for the lithium-ion battery and testing efficacy by discharging, a process in which the battery lets out its voltage over a period of time. Through the process, he said his team realized a simple flaw: a missing material within the production created a rapid discharge rate. 

“For our current project, we’re still waiting for equipment and the materials,” Fung said. “After receiving all the grants, I’ll work with the administration team to order other materials [to further resolve the issues].” 

The chemistry teacher said he felt relieved to identify and fix the issue, as it could delay the process of him possibly bringing the recruitment of students to lead the battery research. 

In hopes of exploring more about batteries, Fung said he looks to continue his ongoing battery research at San Jose State in the future to work on other areas of research, especially solid-state batteries, given the importance of energy storage in the coming years. 

Energy storage plays a role in combating climate change and the adoption of clean energy, while also allowing for cost-effective deep decarbonization, a process of removing carbon dioxide, with great reliability, according to MITEI.

Fung said he looks to expand his research into fragrances as well, a new endeavor of his, and also considered recruiting students for this project. 

“I want to enrich students with a new perspective on organic chemistry,” Fung said. “I’m excited about the opportunity and look forward to trying to find a connection between electrochemistry and organic chemistry.”