ORNL Undergraduate Research Profile: Swati Narasimhan

Mechanical engineering student Swati Narasimhan contributed to energy storage research at the Battery Manufacturing Facility while participating in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Growing up in Miami, Florida, Swati Narasimhan knew how catastrophic the loss of electrical power could be after natural disasters, such as hurricanes. She has an interest in renewable energy and believes powerful storage technologies can alleviate the damage from natural disasters. Furthermore, she believes these technologies can also provide power to remote areas around the world.

Narasimhan developed a passion for energy storage technologies after participating in the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair during high school, when her project focused on capacitors. To further her research abilities, she began studies in mechanical engineering at the University of Miami and applied to participate in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

“I heard about the exciting research being done at the Battery Manufacturing Facility (BMF), the country’s largest open-access battery research center, and I had to join,” Narasimhan said.

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy intend to achieve a 15-minute battery charge time by 2028. Under the guidance of Rose Ruther, Ph.D., Narasimhan investigated fast-charging batteries to characterize their performance at various temperatures and cycling rates.

“This program has given me exposure to a professional research environment and the confirmation that I have chosen the right field for myself,” Narasimhan said.

With a wide range of applications, lithium-ion batteries are regularly used in household electronics. Though these batteries have high energy density, they have limitations on how quickly they can be charged. Often, the batteries plate lithium metal on the anode, which can cause short circuits and reduce cell performance. Narasimhan’s project involved developing testing parameters to consistently plate lithium metal so that a prediction tool may be created.

“Everyone that I collaborated with in the BMF inspired me with their passion and knowledge,” Narasimhan said. “With their help, I have been able to explore so much in the battery field and learn more than I could have imagined.”

After the program, Narasimhan returned to the University of Miami to complete her bachelor’s degree. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in engineering with a focus on energy storage research. Ultimately, she hopes to acquire a position at a research and development facility or university.

“This program has given me exposure to a professional research environment and the confirmation that I have chosen the right field for myself,” Narasimhan said.

The SULI program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS) and is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), managed by ORAU.