Tackling the Energy Crisis

As a graduate student in Leon Shaw’s research group, Vignyatha Tatagari works to develop novel materials for lithium-metal batteries. 

Before coming to Illinois Institute of Technology, Vignyatha worked for three years as a chemical engineer in India. She says the job helped her understand the need for sustainable practices, especially around energy, which is why she decided to apply to Illinois Tech. 

“I have spent most of my time at Illinois Tech doing research,” she says, “and I aspire to make my research useful for battling the energy crisis.”

Her research centers on a multifunctional material that can serve as multiple components in a lithium-metal battery that would typically be separate: the cathode, electrolyte, and separator. This material is expected to solve the stability issues that prevent the use of these batteries.

“It will make the large-scale production of lithium-metal batteries very easy by reducing the number of variables,” she says.

Through her work with Shaw, Rowe Family Chair Professor in Sustainable Energy and professor of materials science and engineering, Vignyatha received the 2021 Fear Fellowship, a $30,000 scholarship awarded to a high-achieving master’s student in the Department of Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering who has not previously received a scholarship or fellowship.

Vignyatha says her dream is to make the world a better place. “I believe that only sustainable practices can pull our planet out of the misery of climate change, and through batteries, I believe we can make significant progress in tackling climate change,” she says.

After finishing her master’s program, Vignyatha plans to continue working with Shaw as she pursues a Ph.D. degree co-advised by Shaw and Chris Johnson, a Senior Chemist/Argonne Distinguished Fellow at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL).

“ANL is renowned for advancing research on energy storage and their facilities have world-class equipment that would make research efficient and faster,” says Vignyatha. “I'm excited that through this collaboration I will have the opportunity to conduct research at their facilities, learn from some of the world's best scientists, and expand my knowledge base.”

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