How do you use metal to increase the conductivity of a fuel cell? Iwnetim Abate, a sophomore at MSUM, spent 10 weeks researching at the California Institute of Technology last summer to try and answer that question.
“To address the issues of global warming, we as a society must transition to a more sustainable lifestyle,” Abate said. “I feel compelled to contribute my knowledge to this challenge.”
Abate was honored for the research he did last month and was one of three students selected for the People’s Choice Award at the 2nd Annual National Collegiate Research Conference on Jan. 26. The other two People’s Choice recipients are students at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.
During the study, Abate spent most of his time coming up with patterns for depositing metals, such as gold and platinum, onto a solid oxide fuel cell, making clean energy.
“I worked on a new, fast and cheaper method to deposit metals like platinum and gold on a cathode of solid oxide fuel cell to increase its electronic conductivity and thereby boost its performance,” Abate said. “This new method that I tested for the first time involves the use of shadow masks.”
Abate is a physics major with a minor in math and economics. He is in what is called a three to two program where he studies physics for three years and engineering for two years. He is also the president and founder of MSUM’s National Society of Black Engineers chapter.
Abate came to study at MSUM from Debere Birhan, Ethiopia, where he found a passion and knack for physics and engineering early. However, he lacked lab experience coming out of high school and said he is thankful for the technology he has been exposed to while studying.
“I was from a small town, and we didn’t get a chance to work in labs in our classes,” Abate said. “I feel like I got a small taste of my dream working the lab at CIT.”
Abate will be presenting his findings at the 2013 National Conference of Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin, the Student Academic Conference at Minnesota State University, Mankato and at the American Physical Society meeting in Denver. He has been accepted into the research program again this summer and will spend 10 weeks in California conducting research pertaining to the physics field.
BY MEREDITH WATHNE