Powerful Materials

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The College of Earth and Mineral Sciences' Ismaila Dabo uses computer simulations to help design and improve the materials that bring us power.

Originally from Paris, France, Ismaila Dabo has family roots in Guinea, a West African nation blessed with abundant sunshine to match the sunny optimism of its people. But despite these powerful sources of energy, there is a lack of electricity to power the country. 

“People there do not have the basic items that many of us take for granted here,” says Dabo, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering. 

“Many students, for example, can’t study at home at night. You will see them studying at the airport, one of the few places equipped with electric lights.”

Creating and storing energy from the sun and other sustainable sources could dramatically change the lives of people in Guinea and around the globe, says Dabo. He hopes his research may play a role in the discovery of materials that can economically and efficiently create solar panels, batteries, capacitors, and fuel cells. 

Dabo, a computational materials scientist, creates simulations of everything from electrochemical environments to solar systems, exploring a realm governed by the fuzzy probabilistic rules of quantum mechanics. As scientists and engineers explore the world of the very small, and as computers become faster and more powerful, materials researchers are increasingly relying on computer engineers to help them efficiently design new materials.