Dr Neeraj Sharma from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney -- considered one of the global leaders in the use of neutron and X-ray scattering methods to study materials for next-generation lithium-ion batteries - has won the 'Early Career Researcher of the Year (Physical Sciences)'.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian honoured 35-year-old Dr Sharma, from the School of Chemistry at UNSW, with the award at the Government House in Sydney, the university said in a statement on Friday.

The award was given for his work in lithium-ion batteries found in electronic devices, electric vehicles and the grid, as well as next-generation battery systems such as sodium-ion batteries that will leave minimal environmental impact, and transition away from fossil fuels for energy generation and transportation.

"To develop the next generation of technologies, we need better performance at a lower environmental cost," said Dr Sharma.

"My work explores lithium-ion batteries - found in electronic devices, electric vehicles and the grid - as well as next-generation battery systems such as sodium-ion batteries. I find the study of sodium-ion batteries particularly fascinating and we have been developing new electrodes for these systems," he elaborated.

By focusing on electrochemical reactions in batteries, Dr Sharma aims to better understand how electrode composition, and structure at the atomic level, influence performance.

His research group is also exploring inherently safe solid-state batteries, energy-dense lithium-sulfur batteries, dual function solar batteries and methods for recycling.

"We can enable and enhance the uptake of electric vehicles, ensure batteries are recycled leaving minimal environmental impact, and transition away from fossil fuels for energy generation and transportation. There is significant opportunity to shape how we live into the future," Dr Sharma said.

Researchers from UNSW won half of the science and engineering awards announced by the NSW Premier, including the top prize for 'NSW Scientist of the Year'.

"Such achievements will inspire more students from India to take up meaningful research careers," said Amit Dasgupta, UNSW Country Head, India.

UNSW Engineering has launched new streams starting February 2020 in mining engineering, renewable energy and petroleum engineering, and is in the process of finalising a new Robotics stream to be available from early 2020.

"Students in India will find these courses exciting. We would like more meritorious students from the region to apply for the 'Future of Change' scholarships, available exclusively to the Indian students," Dasgupta added.