Project Description

Solving the renewable energy puzzle: The pathway to lasting success

Professor Donald Sadoway from the Massacheusus Institue of Technology (MIT) is developing new battery technology to solve the problem with renewable energy – intermittency in electrical supply. His TED talk from 2012 explains how the electrical supply that you use at your home, work and everywhere else is supplied on-demand. That means if there is no power being generated at that particular moment, no power is supplied. Renewable energy options such as solar and wind are subject to significant intermittency, for example if there’s no wind spinning the turbines, you don’t get any power. If it’s night time, you won’t be getting any electricity from those solar panels.

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What we like about this research is that it’s significant, cutting-edge and challenging. As an engineer, you should be aspiring to make a contribution to society. You want to leave the world in a better state than when you got here. So, what are the secrets to making a significant contribution and becoming successful? Professor Sadoway revealed some interesting insights in his presentation.

Be Practical

The most important part of engineering is creating something practical. In the case of these electrical storage batteries, the technology has several practical requirements: it must be low cost, have a long service life and uncommonly high power. If a solution is not practical and meet all the requirements, it would be pointless – destined to be written about and never implemented.

Take Little Steps

During the development of these batteries, Professor Sadoway and his team built and tested hundreds of iterations and made gradual improvements to get the battery working at a reasonable size, efficiency and cost. If you want to solve a big problem, start small and take little steps until you reach your goal. It takes time to achieve something significant; there is no quick method you can take to create lasting success and accomplishment.

Teamwork is Vital

While Professor Sadoway developed the initial idea, he proudly leads a team of over 20 individuals (the majority of which are students and postdocs) that are collaborating on various aspects of this project. Professor Sadoway could never have tested and improved the battery all by himself in the time it has taken; highlighting the importance of teamwork and collaboration.

Leave a Lasting Legacy

Professor Sadoway, through his research, aims to not only “maximise battery potential, but human potential” as well. Not only does he want to contribute something significant to society, but also to leave a lasting legacy by teaching his students on how to invent and innovate. He is passing on the baton in the hope that in the future, these students can make their own contributions to society.

What work in engineering inspires you? Are there any projects that highlight the important role engineering is playing in shaping the modern world?