Many a historical novel set in the 19th century starts this way: A beloved daughter is perceived precocious and spoiled by society because her avant-garde parents encourage her love of learning and expose her to the top intellectual minds of the time.
Ultimately, our brave heroine has to make a choice of whether to pursue her scientific dreams or settle for more traditional feminine pursuits. The traditional pursuits usually win.
Fortunately, this is neither the 19th century nor a novel. Cadenza Innovation’s CEO and Founder Christina Lampe-Onnerud was born in Sweden into a scientifically minded family with a famous inventor father, Wolfgang Lampe, a power engineer.
She knew from an early age that she wanted to make a positive contribution to the planet. Lampe-Onnerud grew up part of her father’s world, where optimism and opportunity knew no bounds and scientific talk around the dinner table with myriad international guests – many leaders in their fields – was common.
“That was profound for me growing up,” said Lampe-Onnerud. “And school was fun for me and I fell in love with the hard sciences and math.”
Lampe-Onnerud, now a 20-year battery industry expert with the professional accolades and over 80 patents to prove it, earned a Ph.D. in chemistry and mathematics in Sweden before coming to the United States to pursue post-doctoral work at MIT in 1995 on the very topic that would be instrumental to her future company: lithium ion batteries.
In Wilton since 2012, Lampe-Onnerud not only calls the town home for her family, but for her company, Cadenza Innovation, as well.
Naming her company for a musical term, which means a voice or instrument solo passage written or improvised in a composition, opera-trained Lampe-Onnerud honored another love in her life: music.
Cadenza works on Lampe-Onnerud’s specialty: battery storage (the press has dubbed her the “Battery Queen”) and has ambitious plans of improving battery space and using innovation to package energy cheaper and better for pivotal global markets, energy storage, and global vehicles.
You might not think of Fairfield County as a Silicon Valley-type hotbed, but it’s closer to one than you know.
“There’s a lot of excellence in this neck of the woods,” said Lampe-Onnerud. “I find it a very kind and encouraging environment.”
It doesn’t hurt that Duracell, the world's largest battery maker, has its headquarters in nearby Bethel, and local universities provide a fertile ground for employees, research and innovation.
In fact, Cadenza announced a partnership with the University of Connecticut earlier this month to further analyses, research and development to advance lithium-ion battery-based storage. The technical work will be conducted at UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering in the lab of Dr. Radenka Maric, UConn’s Vice President for Research and CT Clean Energy Fund Professor of Sustainable Energy, the Principal Investigator on the project.
The collaboration between Cadenza Innovation and UConn builds upon the startup’s partnership with Syrah Resources, the only major, fully funded, natural graphite development project in construction globally with its mine in Mozambique. By 2020, Syrah is projected to be the world’s largest individual graphite producer. Why is that important? Graphite is necessary to create the anode, the negative pole, of lithium-ion batteries.
“This new find [in Mozambique] is the largest resource in the world,” said Lampe-Onnerud, “and interestingly, it is the only big project outside of China, so it has significance for secure global supply.
“It’s going to help lower cost and that graphite line can be around for a long time by simply providing a stable source for many, many years. Mine life is 50 to 70 years which is incredible.”
Not only does the mine help those in industrialized nations, but as Lampe-Onnerud points out, it also creates sustainable villages around the mine, bringing up education, opportunity, infrastructure around it.
“It’s an incredible time we live in,” concluded Lampe-Onnerud. “If you want to make a difference today, you can.”
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