I am a chemical engineer by training, starting with my undergrad at NITK (2010) in India followed up by an MS at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2011). I, however, decided to take a slight detour into the automobile world and worked for Mercedes-Benz R&D India for a couple of years as a Computational Fluid Dynamics analyst. The pull of academia proved to be stronger though and I returned in 2014 to the University of Michigan to get a PhD with Prof. Charles Monroe. As luck would have it, our whole group moved in the fall of 2015 and here we are in the Energy and Power Group at the Department of Engineering Science, Oxford.
Presently, I am working on developing models for solid electrolytes for fuel cells and Li-ion battery systems. There are fundamental differences between a multi-component fluid and a fluid-solid mixture, which need to be accounted for to make such models theoretically rigorous and physically meaningful. The case of Nafion, ionomer used as the electrolyte in PEM fuel cells, is particularly interesting because these membranes are phase separated into hydrophilic and hydrophobic domains, which makes it necessary to hydrate them to lend them stability and conductivity. The water in the membrane makes them swell and could possibly introduce stress profiles leading to species redistribution, thereby coupling the electrochemical and mechanical phenomena. Incorporating this coupling in a manner which reconciles the different theories describing these phenomena and resolving any contradictions is the biggest challenge we face.
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