Lithium batteries used in electric cars are the source of concern for new research at the University of Minnesota.

Ph.D. Candidate Ian Gunsolus and his team have discovered that certain materials used to make these batteries can be a big problem for microorganisms and our soil.

"Microorganisms are simply too small to see with the naked eye...the only microorganism that we focus on in this lab is bacteria," said Ian Gunsolas, Ph.D. candidate and graduate student at the U.

Think of compost, when you add orange peels and other matter, bacteria is responsible for breaking it all down into usable soil for your garden, if you have no bacteria, you won't create soil.

Ian's research focuses on a main ingredient in lithium batteries, nickel manganese cobalt. Ian and his team discovered that nickel and cobalt are the elements that are toxic to bacteria, and now they want change.

"We would like to see our research affect change in how the materials are made. So if you can redesign a NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) so it doesn't leak as much nickel and cobalt you can solve the problem before the battery ever makes it's way into a landfill," said Ian.

The research here is part of a bigger, nationwide project to make technology sustainable on a small scale.