Skip to main content

Polymer and Color Chemistry Student Studies Energy Conversion at NASA

Anita Nagavalli
Anita Nagavalli

Students in the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry & Science often receive highly rewarding summer internships at great institutions and companies around the nation, and even internationally. One of our Polymer & Color Chemistry students, Anita Nagavalli, was no exception. This past summer Anita was an intern at the NASA Langley Research Center, where she worked on the characterization of thermoelectric materials with a goal of maximizing energy conversion.

“What sparked my interest in energy conversion was an assignment in T101, one of my freshman classes in the Wilson College of Textiles. Our instructor, Mr. Dail, asked the class to find journal articles about new innovations within the textile world. I found an article about piezoelectric polymers, which have the ability to convert kinetic energy to electrical energy. I started to do undergraduate research on piezoelectric polymers with Dr. Jiang in the College of Engineering, who recommended that I apply for an internship at NASA,” said Anita.

Thermoelectrics are materials that have the ability to convert thermal energy to electrical energy, via the Seebeck Effect; however, the reverse also holds true, converting electrical energy to thermal energy via the Peltier Effect. “One of the best parts of working at NASA was touring the facilities. From vertical spin wind tunnels to lunar habitats, and the gantry that was used to train Apollo astronauts to land on the moon. My time at NASA was truly an amazing one. I would not have been able to complete any of this research without my wonderful mentor, Dr. Hyun Jung Kim,” said Anita, who co-authored a technical memorandum for NASA at the end of the summer, “System to measure thermal conductivity and Seebeck coefficient for Thermoelectrics.” Being able to work with state of the art technology, while working side-by-side with incredible minds, made my experience at NASA a truly unforgettable one.”

Anita aims to graduate in May 2014 and attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in polymeric dyes. “Polymer and Color Chemistry may seem like a very specific field, but in reality it is probably one of the broadest. Polymers and dyes are such prevalent components of our world and gaining an understanding of how they work and interact with other materials will help with many fields of science and engineering.” However, Anita feels the opportunities at NC State are not just confined to a given major. “The best advice I can give other students is to follow your passions even if they take you outside your comfort zone. NC State is the perfect place to develop new interests and be able to pursue them outside your specific degree or college.”