Senior Engineering Specialist
Since childhood, I have always been curious about how things worked. This may explain why I always felt the need to take everything apart, even though I wasn’t able to put everything back together. Fortunately, my father always encouraged my curiosity. Upon graduating from high school, I had little certainty about my future career path. I decided to attend Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and follow my father’s footsteps by majoring in electrical engineering. I knew my curiosity and strong skills in math and science would lead me to success. IIT’s program stood out to me because of its balance of theory and practical application. I was also attracted to the location--Chicago, a city that gleamed with infinite entertainment.
At IIT, all engineering students have to participate in an inter-professional project (IPRO). An IPRO is a course where students from various disciplines have to collaborate on a predefined project. My team’s IPRO project task was designing and building an electric bicycle. I am a car guy, and at that time electric mobility was beginning to spark my interest. My part of the project was to design a battery for the bicycle. (I knew nearly nothing at the time about batteries.) The project advisor suggested that I talk to Professor Al-Hallaj, a battery expert, and he got me started.
Afterwards, I approached Dr. Al-Hallaj about working in his research lab on a more complex electric mobility project and was invited to join his team. We worked on applying a passive thermal management technique to lithium-ion batteries to prevent them from overheating. Before I graduated, Dr. Al-Hallaj introduced me to his colleague who just started a business-to-business battery design and assembly company. I got a job engineering and designing batteries for applications ranging from medical, military, and consumer electronics. In this job, I worked to apply Dr. Al-Hallaj’s thermal management system, which helped him bring this technology to market..
My work at the battery design and assembly company got the attention of several people at Argonne. At the time, they were assembling a team to evaluate battery technologies for the viability in electric cars. I joined the team and have been working on batteries ever since.
Day-to-day Work At Argonne
Why Battery Science Matters
Wouldn't it be great if energy storage followed Moore’s law? We’re spoiled with the rapid improvement of new phones and tablets from companies like Apple and Samsung. With each new release our expectations stay the same: a sleeker design, a better camera, a bigger high-definition screen, more memory, a quicker processor, and a cheaper price. Yet we forget that these devices carry a “boat anchor” of technology that often occupies nearly half of the space within – the energy source. Moore’s law states that as transistor size and cost drop, processing speed, camera and screen pixel counts, and digital memory will increase. Unfortunately Moore’s law does not include batteries, and there are no laws that predict decreasing battery size with increasing storage capabilities into the future.
Our need for dense energy storage is even more obvious when we look at our modern forms of transportation. It is unbelievable how desperate we all are for the ability to store abundant energy in a small lightweight package. We are actually willing to dig miles into the depths of the earth and ocean to find it, simply to burn it all up in one trip, and have to search for more. All the while, we risk destroying our only home, earth, just to do this. If only Moore’s law could have included batteries…
Yet, the sun shines for us half of every day and the wind blows regularly, as do those oceans’ wave’s crash around the clock. Storing these free infinite energy sources as electrons in batteries would save us from sending billions of barrels of oil up in smoke every year. The urgency, the great challenge, and near point of economic viability around the corner make this an exciting time for battery science. With a touch of luck, this could be the turning point in history for humanity regarding energy storage.