Impacts — from batteries to career choices

Categories: General News

When Sofia Verdi was deciding on a university, her top two choices were UNC Charlotte and Virginia Tech. 

“One deciding factor was Charlotte’s rapid growth and the resources invested in the engineering program,” Verdi said. As she would soon discover, her decision was on target and would provide direct, positive impact for her college career. 

“I’m glad I chose UNC Charlotte because I got to join a research group at its inception, which allowed many research areas from which to choose. I was excited to learn UNC Charlotte had a research area aligned to my passion for safety and sustainability,” she said. 

Verdi now applies that passion to her work with Anthony Bombik’s research team in BATT CAVE, the North Carolina Battery Complexity, Autonomous Vehicle and Electrification Research Center, where she is studying lithium-ion batteries. 

Some electronic vehicles may struggle with long distances because the batteries require a relatively large amount of space and weight compared to the energy they carry, Verdi noted. However, a structural approach to EV batteries can address the range issue. 

“Batteries can be used as part of the vehicle structure itself,” said Verdi. “This allows the EV to carry more batteries and drive longer ranges without adding unnecessary weight.” This directly supports the sustainable goals of EV’s overall, she added.

Likewise, Verdi recognizes EV battery safety concerns, like thermal runaway or overheating. “Thermal runaway can occur, for example due to impacts from traffic accidents, which presents a serious safety issue,” Verdi said. “So I conduct impact tests on different battery designs to help ensure that structural batteries can be safely implemented into EVs. I hope my research will help facilitate large-scale application of structural batteries.”

She was so confident in her goals and direction that Verdi applied and was accepted into early entry to the master’s program in mechanical engineering. This head start has allowed her to begin her graduate studies as an undergraduate, making efficient use of time and resources, and making a substantial impact on her next steps.

“Because I have been able to start on research related to my thesis as an undergraduate research assistant, I am set to graduate with my MSME two semesters after my BSME,” said Verdi.

Anthony Bombik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, discusses structural batteries with his team.