Energy production can be expensive, or inefficient, or toxic to the environment — or some unfortunate combination of the three. But Jesse Hinricher thinks it doesn’t have to be.

Hinricher, an MIT senior majoring in chemical engineering, has been conducting research focused on specialized batteries that could be plugged into the grid to provide renewable energy on demand. Specifically, he works on swapping out some of the pricier electrolytes in so-called redox flow batteries for more abundant ones, which could help make clean energy more affordable.

He cites his rural childhood as the initial source of his passion for environmental conservation. Hinricher grew up on a Minnesota farm, planting and harvesting soybeans, gardening, and tending cattle on his mother’s farm. His mom, who singlehandedly tends the 700-acre family farm, instilled in him the importance of hard work and independence, which remain some of his core values.

“She taught me to value education, and knowledge, and her work ethic has been a source of inspiration to me,” he says.

On a farm, he says, everything is mechanical; he enjoyed working with his hands. That affinity, blended with his drive to develop solutions for climate change, led Hinricher to study chemical engineering. He had seen firsthand how dramatically the seasons changed over years. For him, climate change wasn’t a distant concept; it was an increasingly alarming reality, and one that he felt he couldn’t ignore.

“I enjoy the environment, and I think it needs to be protected,” he says. “And if not me, then who?”

Read more at MIT News