By Dr Kawtar Hafidi, Associate Laboratory Director, Physical Sciences and Engineering, Argonne National Laboratory, USA.
Over the last decade, the world has seen a fundamental shift in the energy landscape. After a century of development driven by centralized generation of energy using fossil fuels, distributed generation, based on renewables, is poised to take an increasing important role. With the steady decrease in the cost of generating electricity from wind and solar, we are transitioning to a world where renewable electricity, rather than oil, could power the world; lighting our homes, moving our cars, and powering our industries. This paradigm shift will mean that the next century of development will depend of transitioning the energy infrastructure of the world to this new reality. We are now witnessing the beginnings of this transition with increasing penetration of electric cars and the slow, but steady, increase in distributed energy systems (e.g., solar connected to batteries) at many levels; from residential systems to microgrid solutions. At the heart of this transition is a battery: to help power the transportation systems of the future and to smoothen the intermittency of renewables.
But this energy transition comes with many challenges. Batteries remain too expensive, have a low energy density, and suffer from poor cycle life to make them competitive for grid solutions. Electric cars remain a niche market due to the high cost of batteries. And electric cars do not yet have the driving range and fast charge capabilities required to compete with gasoline-powered cars. And electrifying long haul trucks, ships, and planes remain a challenge because of the low energy density of batteries. A better battery holds the key to creating an electrified future.
At Argonne National Lab, we are examining the numerous pathways to create the next-generation energy system with the aim of accelerating the transition. We are examining the future of the electric grid, investigating the role electrification and automation will play in transportation, and developing low-cost batteries with high energy density, long life, and with fast charging capability. In this talk, we will summarize the changing energy landscape and the status of battery technology and the challenges ahead in creating this future.
Prior to this appointment, she was Division Director of Physics. Previously, Kawtar was the Associate Chief Scientist for Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD). She is an experimental nuclear physicist with more than 20 years of experience in leading and conducting fundamental research at major accelerator facilities in the United States and Europe. Kawtar had been on detail assignment to the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Nuclear Physics. She was responsible for the management, oversight, and review of instrument and experiment construction projects in the United States and abroad.
Kawtar is a fellow of the American Physical Society. She has received numerous awards recognizing her effective advocacy for increased diversity, both at Argonne and within the broader physics community.
She is a co-author of more than 200 publications and has given more than 60 invited talks at international conferences, universities, and laboratories.
Kawtar’s research focuses on the experimental study of the structure of nucleons and nuclei in terms of their basic constituents, namely quarks and gluons (also called partons) within the framework of the theory of strong interactions. Her work encompasses measurements of nuclear modification effects — three-dimensional imaging of nucleons and nuclei, the mechanisms of “vacuum” confinement, and tests of charge symmetry violations.
Kawtar earned her PhD in nuclear physics from the University of Paris XI and a bachelor degree in Mathematics and Physics from Mohammed V University in Morocco.