Updates on Baratunde Cola

During his time as a 2015-16 MLK Visiting Associate Professor, Baratunde Cola recruited, advised and supported Ali Sina Booeshaghi, an undergraduate MIT student whose work has received a 2016 SACNAS Student Presentation Award.

The Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) is a society of scientists dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists—from college students to professionals—to attain advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in science. This year, the National Conference gathered over 4000 students and professionals in Long Beach, CA. Taking place over three days, the conference showcased both undergraduate and graduate student presentations, offered scientific symposia, keynote addresses, professional development sessions, and a grand exhibit hall in which students interacted with over 300 exhibitors representing colleges and universities across the nation.

In addition to these activities, the conference was also an opportunity for students to present their research in a professional setting. This year, over 1000 posters and oral presentations were delivered at the conference. Each year SACNAS receives comments from attendees highly impressed by the caliber of student research. The undergraduate and graduate students consistently present research that surpasses expectations in their respective categories.

Booeshagi represented the MIT Mechanical Engineering Department at this year’s conference with work titled “Harvesting Electric Energy from Waste Heat: A Novel Approach Utilizing a Thermo-Electric Liquid Cold Plate”. The conference judges recognized it as a standout among the student presentations and selected Booeshagi to receive one of the 2016 SACNAS Student Presentation Awards.

In a letter to MIT’s Mechanical Engineering Department, the SACNAS Student Presentations Committee wrote: “It is our honor to share that Ali Sina Booeshaghi’s communication skills and command of the research topic were exemplary…We feel that your program is enhanced by the participation of Ali Sina Booeshaghi, as such commitment will drive fellow researchers to similar heights. Congratulations on hosting such a talent.”

Such a talent was nurtured by a forensic engineer/mechanical engineer father, with whom Booeshaghi interned during summers, helping to investigate accidents. Though Booeshaghi has an interest in a law career, he chose to study mechanical engineering as an undergraduate. “It isn’t just learning about the mechanics of movement,” he said before entering MIT. “It’s about learning the mindset of an engineer and how to think. … It teaches you to apply fundamentals and solve any problem you’re faced with.”

Booeshaghi also had the opportunity to work with Prof. Cola of Georgia Institute of Technology, who served as visiting faculty at the MIT Mechanical Engineering Department. “Sina was a pleasure to work with and really helped me to make the most of my time as an MLK Scholar,” says Prof. Cola. “I started my time at MIT with this simple idea to combine cooling chips and generating electricity with a new application of liquid thermoelectrics…Sina’s hard work and sharp mind brought the idea to life in record time. He is a very insightful student whose career I look forward to following.”

Baratunde Cola: 40 Under 40 Award

Baratunde Cola was among Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 40 Under 40 Awardees.

From the Atlanta Business Chronicle (6 Nov 2015):

About 400 people turned out for the annual awards event Thursday night in the Fox’s Egyptian Ballroom. A dusting of star power fell on the audience when honoree and Atlanta native Christoper “Ludacris” Bridges stepped to the stage, and Master of Ceremonies Kevin Scott snapped a selfie with the entertainer. Ludacris thanked his family, including his eight godmothers who guided him growing up in Atlanta, and the volunteers at his foundation in accepting his 40 Under 40 Award. Georgia Tech professor Baratunde Cola, who is researching carbon nanotube technology, joked that it was appropriate to have a college professor follow Ludacris.

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Baratunde Cola and his research team use nanometer-scale components to demonstrate the first optical rectenna, a device that combines the functions of an antenna and a rectifier diode to convert light directly into DC current.

Based on multiwall carbon nanotubes and tiny rectifiers fabricated onto them, the optical rectennas could provide a new technology for photodetectors that would operate without the need for cooling, energy harvesters that would convert waste heat to electricity – and ultimately for a new way to efficiently capture solar energy.

“We could ultimately make solar cells that are twice as efficient at a cost that is ten times lower, and that is to me an opportunity to change the world in a very big way” said Dr. Cola. “As a robust, high-temperature detector, these rectennas could be a completely disruptive technology if we can get to one percent efficiency. If we can get to higher efficiencies, we could apply it to energy conversion technologies and solar energy capture.”

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