Iwnetim (Tim) Iwnetu Abate
I am a PhD student in materials science and engineering at Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. My research interest is on energy storage devices. In Africa, only 10 percent of the people have access to electric power supply; electricity is a luxury and intermittent at best. When it was time to leave for the US, this plight instilled in me a deep sense of urgency and duty a mission to work on energy solutions that could change the lives of those living in Africa. Over the course of my bachelor's degree, I have been able to grow this passion towards finding novel methods to develop and create high performance materials for cheap, clean and abundant energy applications. Now, I am further growing and contributing more in this field through the graduate school setting. The goal of my PhD project is to combine x-ray and electrochemical characterization techniques with computational tools to perform in-situ and ex-situ studies on Li-ion batteries. The demand for energy storage for consumer electronics, transportation and is increasing at a faster rate than before. Therefore, improvement on storage capacity and safety of batteries is crucial and my PhD work will emphasize on understanding the physics behind current challenges in batteries and ways to combat them.
I was born and raised in Debere Berhan and completed my high school at Hailmariam Mamo Preparatory school with the highest score on the national examination. After studying engineering at Addis Ababa University for one year, I was fortunate enough to earn scholarship and come to the US to study Physics at Minnesota State University. My passion for physics started when I took my first physics class in grade 7. Since then, I have been fascinated by the fact how physics explains why phenomena's we observe daily occur the way they do but not otherwise. The more I studied Physics, the language of nature, the better my understanding about the environment around me has became.
The summer after my freshman year, I was fortunate enough to work with Prof. Sossina Haile whose remarkable work in finding alternative energy solutions through fuel cell innovation I had been drawn to since I was back home in Africa. This was turning point in my academic journey and the beginning of my pursuit to be a scientist. I started to learn how to apply scientific methods to carry out a project in a lab setting. During my senior year, I was involved in two research projects to study the science and economical feasibility of solar cells. Despite the current theoretical efficiency limit on solar cells, one of my research interests was to work on boosting the performance of photovoltaic materials and contribute to make the most efficient next generation cells. This was evident in my undergraduate thesis where I developed a Python code to solve 1-D semiconductor equations to simulate a current flow inside GaAs solar cells. The results were helpful to obtain insight into the working principles of the device, understand the factors that are responsible for under-performance and suggest ways to optimize the device performance. After contacting multiple experts in this area, I was able to complete the work by collaborating with a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Prof. Dragica Vasileska at Arizona State University. The final code is now on GitHub as open source.
In addition, I also worked with my economics professor to discover factors that determine the number of solar cell installations per million people in the US and built a regression model to quantify their effect. I studied ten independent variables, quantified their effects and published the results. After completing my undergraduate studies and before joining Stanford, I was a research scientist for battery and energy at IBM Almaden Research Center and worked on the Battery 500 Project. The main goal of this project was to develop Li-Air batteries for electric vehicles. Li-Air batteries have several times more theoretical energy density than the current state-of-art Li-ion batteries. I, then, joined Los Alamos National Lab as research assistant and worked on how polaron formation affect the efficiency and stability of perovskite solar cells