Another step forward
Abigail Rozenblit, Technology Energy Transition Engineer, has just been awarded her PhD in Engineering from the University of Buenos Aires. We spoke to her about her latest achievement.
The hall in the Faculty of Engineering of the UBA (University of Buenos Aires) was bustling with people on that warm December morning. Some twenty of Abigail's relatives, friends, colleagues and classmates were there to watch her defend her thesis on “Advanced lithium batteries for renewable energy storage and sustainable lithium recovery.”
More than a decade dedicated to learning and studies concluded with her successful defense. “After the experimental and theoretical part, I spent a whole year writing. I worked on weekends, here and there, with a lot of proofreading and editing,” she says, reminiscing with a smile.
What is the subject of this investigation that demanded so much from her? Abigail researched and developed a method of directly extracting lithium from salt brines. This is a far easier, selective and more environmentally friendly method as its energy consumption levels are very low.
Her project didn’t end with her thesis, but is the basis for an initiative that will put it into practice: “We’re doing this with Marco Tivelli, (Chief Technology Officer): scaling the reactor so that it can perform direct lithium extraction (DLE) from brines. At the moment, this is a one-year plan. We have a very specific set of tasks that need doing in order to advance the technology and we’re doing this at Ernesto Calvo’s laboratory, my thesis director and a Senior Researcher at CONICET (National Council for Scientific and Technical Research).” Abigail speaks with gratitude about Ernesto as well as about Miguel Ángel Laborde, her thesis co-director.
But DLE is just one of many the topics she’s working on. She explains that, “I’m involved in the TechEnergy Ventures investment fund. Some of the areas where I work are related to direct lithium extraction as well as to many other technologies involving electrochemistry. And I also teach Process Thermodynamics as part of the Chemical Engineering program at the UBA.”
All of these different areas, in addition to her acid jazz band Segundo Principio, where she plays keyboards and sings, set the context for the work she did on her thesis and its defense. “Luckily, I had plenty of time to prepare so that I could condense all these years of work into a fifty-minute presentation. I felt like I could give it an extra twist so I could tell it as a story.”
As we mentioned above, her work went far beyond her thesis. “I had the opportunity to rehearse the presentation and practice with my colleagues and some very critical people, which prepared me extremely well for when I had to stand up and give it. There were some really valuable technical discussions. I didn't have much prior interaction with the jury but answering their questions, which went into great detail, was quite a unique experience.” There were some questions that were very targeted, aimed at encouraging a process of critical review to enrich the topic of the thesis. “We’re going to include their comments, and all the exchanges that took place will deepen the work.”
The result was better than expected. Awarded a Pass with Honors, having achieved top marks, her diploma reads Summa Cum Laude. Now she can look forward to celebrating and building upon what she’s learned. And of course, get back to her music! “My bandmates have been terrifically patient with me. Now we’re playing again, and as on December 29, we issued our new single, we’re going to present it.”