Interviews - May 6, 2021

April's Expert of the Month: Dr. Sharath Chandra Mahavadi

Written by Jamie Wylie 3 min read

Each month we recognise the efforts of one of our Solar Impulse Experts. The Expert Community plays a vital role in the Foundation by assessing the solutions seeking the Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label. The Expert Community is made up of over 360 Experts from across the world, bringing expertise from a diverse range of fields including science, engineering, research, industry, business and much more.

We're delighted to announce that the Expert of the Month award for April goes to Dr. Sharath Chandra Mahavadi! Sharath is a Principal Research Scientist at Schlumberger, an important partner of the Solar Impulse Foundation. Sharath has been an Expert since 2018, and in the last year alone has helped to label 12 clean and profitable solutions! Thank you very much to Sharath for his dedication in the Expert role.

Congratulations on being the Expert of the Month! Please tell us a little about yourself and your area of expertise.

Sharath: I am a researcher at Schlumberger, currently based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  I have a PhD and Master’s in Chemistry from University of Hyderabad, India, and a Bachelor’s degree with a major in Microbiology and Genetics. 

I had an opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary area interfacing chemistry, physics and biology during my PhD.  I have developed methods to organize molecules at the air-liquid interfaces to prepare molecular materials for applications in photonics and also to understand the structure of cell membrane to get insight into biological delivery mechanisms. I spent significant amount of time in understanding molecular behaviour and interaction across interfaces under different environmental conditions. Over the past 13 years with Schlumberger, I have been involved in multiple projects with a focus on fluids and fluid behaviour in bulk and at the interfaces.  

What current projects or topics are you involved in with your research? 

The primary area of my research is interfacial and colloidal chemistry. Most of my projects revolve around understanding fluids better so that we can predict their behaviour during the different phases of production. This will enable us to make better decisions in making the energy production process more efficient and environmentally benign. Many of these projects are executed in collaboration with various industry partners on application front and with universities and institutes on sharing and improving knowledge on the fundamental understanding of the process.  

What is the most promising or exciting area of your research focus which could help the transition to clean energy and sustainability?

Fortunately, sustainability has been an integral part of my research all the time. Currently, I am working on a technology to better assess the environmental risks of the water that we produce. I think it is very important and hope this research will bring in more objectivity to the existing assessment tools. Schlumberger recently announced the development of lithium extraction pilot plant through NeoLith Energy. It is a privilege to work with this group for the past year to develop technologies to improve the efficiency of the extraction process.     

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

It is definitely the people and the opportunity to work on challenging and diverse problems. I interact and collaborate with individuals with different expertise and experience who continuously motivate and challenge me to grow and learn new things. At Schlumberger, we operate across the globe so naturally have teams with people from all over the world with different cultural background. This makes you appreciate and respect diversity and enable us to learn from each other. Every day is an education and I really enjoy it.

What does being part of the Solar Impulse Foundation mean to you?

Schlumberger partnered with Solar Impulse Foundation quite early on, and I started as one of the very first Experts to assess solutions. Solar Impulse Foundation provided a great platform for Innovators from every nook and corner of the globe to showcase their solutions that have the potential to positively impact the climate. Looking back, together we came a long way in this exciting journey, and I am very proud that this month we announced reaching the first milestone of 1000 solutions! It is an honour to contribute in a small way to this incredible achievement.   

What are your hopes for the labelled Solutions, and the mission of the Solar Impulse Foundation more widely?

I sincerely hope every solution will scale and grow at a level we anticipated them to be with the support of Solar Impulse Foundation.  Bertrand Piccard recently stated that the first 1000 solutions would travel across the globe with the Foundation. I hope this will bring in the needed visibility to these solutions so people, policy makers and states start appreciating the value they bring in and consider implementing them in their respective regions.  

Written by Jamie Wylie on May 6, 2021

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