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After surveying the state of farming in the United States in 2015, Mitlin and chemistry Ph.D. student Jesse Pokrzywinski concluded there was a glut in milk and related dairy production. From working on a dairy farm in high school, Pokrzywinski witnessed milk being disposed rather than brought to market at a loss.
The researchers learned this was a problem at a national level, with millions of gallons being discarded every year. Over the next two years, Mitlin and Pokrzywinski developed a process to convert milk products and other agricultural wastes into extremely high surface area/low density carbons to be employed for energy storage, CO2 capture and other applications.
Together with Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biomolecular Science Mario Wriedt’s group, and with staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Mitlin published a high-profile paper on the material, “Unrivaled Combination of Surface Area and Pore Volume in Micelle Templated Carbon for Supercapacitor Energy Storage,” in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Materials Chemistry A, a world-leading energy journal.