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“My philosophy is to make science green.”

“My philosophy is to make science green.”

To the Venezuelan world Yarivith Carolina Gonzalez Peñahe Princess of Girona International Award 2024 It hit him like a breath of fresh air. “I was at a career transition moment, and this opportunity motivated me to continue on the path of research and science,” he says in an interview with Innovaspain from Sweden, where he settled about half a year ago.

González Peña received this award “for her outstanding work in chemical research, including… Recycling metals into lithium-ion batteries, “For his work promoting environmental education and bringing science to schools in Latin America.” I stood up the judge.

The 35-year-old scientist, originally from Barquisimeto, in northwestern Venezuela, (“the city of music and the most beautiful aurora I have ever seen,” she highlights), has a degree in chemistry, a master’s degree in environmental sciences, as well as in Education, environment and sustainable development. She is about to become a doctor in chemistry National San Luis University,Argentina.

Yarivith Carolina Gonzalez Peña. Photo: UNSL Press.

Gonzalez Peña Patent author Numerous scientific publications in high-impact international journals, and have been recognized in the ranking of the 500 most important projects in the field of science, technology and environment in Latin America “Green Awards 2022-2023”.

But in her quest to better herself, she had to leave her “comfort zone,” she says. “I have been an immigrant in different countries for more than 10 years. Many times I had to seek personal improvement through a path that was not strictly a professional path.

[Una segunda vida para el grafito de las baterías de los teléfonos móviles]

The first time he immigrated from Venezuela about eight years ago, he had to combine his studies with jobs in hospitality. And he says it with pride. “I think my professional profile is a result of what I learned from working in customer service,” he says.

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In Argentina, he met with the Extractive Minerals Group of National San Luis UniversityWho continues to work with him remotely. González Peña’s research focuses on developing sustainable methods and processes for Recycling and recovery of precious metals from lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and electronic waste. The goal is to recover high value metals e.g Lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel or graphite To reuse them to make new batteries for mobile phones and electric cars, and reduce the environmental impact at the end of the batteries’ life cycle.

“We take advantage of waste classified as garbage to extract a high-value metal that has previously been extracted from a non-renewable natural resource, such as the salt flats of Argentina, or in Bolivia, where for example lithium is extracted to make a battery,” he adds. The countries, along with Chile, are home to one of the largest lithium reserves on the planet, known as Lithium triangle

González Peña is also an active member and volunteer in various NGOs implementing social-environmental action in Latin America and the Caribbean, and a regional facilitator for the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP-UN.

In this way, the researcher was able to combine her two interests: science and environmental care. “My philosophy in life is Doing science that can be environmentally friendly“, it states.

Yarivith GP teaches the class. Image courtesy.

“Life is a laboratory”

After years in Argentina, chemistry returned to its native country. But the political and economic situation forced her to pack her bags again. This time she decided to go with her husband to Sweden. I left ready for anything and thought: “It doesn’t matter if I have to change out of my lab coat for an apron; I do this with great pride, because I feel that this is the essence of life, which is to go after what you want, but without giving up on your ideals. Although it wasn’t necessary. The researcher was recruited by a company to join an R&D group developing lithium-ion battery recycling technologies.

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[Ingenieros de la Universidad de Málaga le dan una segunda vida a las baterías]

González Peña conveys the calm of a person who knows what he is doing, a person who knows his way clearly, despite the possibility of obstacles. “I believe that life itself is a laboratory, You’re always experimenting from different perspectives to see what can happen. “She tries over and over again until something comes out.”And it reflects.

When he remembers his roots, he gets emotional. “My parents are self-taught people. My father learned to assemble and disassemble the engines of large cars and trucks with his own hands. I saw that he did it with great passion, without having to study, without having to be an engineer or scientist. My mother was always with him and I saw how the two of them assembled an engine “A giant gondola in their house,” he recalls proudly, “so that created in me the curiosity to do things with my hands.”