The practice of moving energy around

One of the things Rod Bayliss III ’20, MEng ’21, remembers most from his childhood is his father’s 1964 Ford Mustang. “I was fascinated by this car,” says Bayliss. “Mostly by the engine, that thing that converted oxygen and fuel into energy.”

Bayliss grew up in Augusta, Georgia. Mathematics and physics came easily to him, and in high school he developed a passion for Latin, Greek and debate. “I particularly liked Latin grammar,” he recalls, “with the variations that allow you to move the words in a sentence. It reminded me of solving engineering problems.

Bayliss’ parents, both with engineering degrees, urged him to consider career opportunities in electrical engineering. At MIT, he pledged to work with Professor David Perreault, SM ’91, PhD ’97, on his research in power electronics under the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

“At the time, I always thought I wanted to work on the engines,” Bayliss explains. “But in this UROP, I discovered power electronics. The practice of moving energy around. It was the name of the game, and I loved it.

After learning how electrical energy is generated, stored and transformed, he began working on an inductor – a device that can store large amounts of magnetic energy – which would generate high-frequency radio waves, a crucial element in the ultrafine silicon etching process. fries. “You put gas in a chamber, and then you use those radio waves to turn the gas into plasma,” he explains. “Then you direct the plasma to do the etching. The process requires huge amounts of energy.

After earning his undergraduate degree in three and a half years, Bayliss stayed at MIT – and continued to refine his inductor – for an additional year, earning a master’s degree in January 2021. He is now in a doctoral program at the ‘University of California, Berkeley.

Rightfully so, he returned to his first engineering crush: engines. Specifically, he is researching new methods of storing electrical energy and converting it into a form that could reliably power an aircraft engine. Last March, during the Black Alumni / ae of MIT (BAMIT) Research Slam, an online competition in which alumni presented their research to a jury, this work won the first Bayliss Prize.

Bayliss knows the goal is complex. “It’s especially difficult to power an airplane with electricity than with fossil fuels,” he says. “The batteries are heavy. And the consequences of a system failure – from the battery to the inverter to the motor – in mid-flight would be catastrophic. But we’re going to get the power electronics on those planes working.

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