As an Assistant Professor in industrial engineering at Texas A&M, Dinakar joins Breakthrough Energy’s Innovator Fellows with his cutting-edge steel strip manufacturing process, MetPeel. Steel sheet and strip, which makes up more than 55% of all steel products worldwide, is traditionally manufactured using energy-intensive and complex rolling processes that rely on fossil fuels and large, wasteful production plants. Without a clean solution, steel sheet and strip manufacturing would release more than 1.4 billion tons of carbon emissions per year by 2050.
MetPeel disrupts the traditional manufacturing processes by producing steel strip through a more efficient, emission-free, single-step process of peeling a thin foil from the circumference of a rotating metal feedstock using only electricity for power.
Dinakar chose to headquarter the research and development process at Texas A&M, in College Station, Texas, where he’s worked since 2016. There he can access the support structure and resources from Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station.
Dinakar grew up in Andhra Pradesh, a province in southern India, and received his Bachelor of Science in materials engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. Prior to joining Texas A&M, he received his Doctor of Philosophy in materials engineering and completed postdoctoral research at the Center for Materials Processing and Tribology at Purdue University.
What inspired you to go into this field?
My doctoral research focused on developing a new class of deformation-based processes for creating high-performance magnesium alloys for use in automotive lightweight applications. This was my first encounter with the clean energy community. It was also at this time that I came to realize the serious shortcomings of many manufacturing processes currently used in the metals industry in terms of energy usage and carbon emissions.
How did you learn about the BE Fellows program and what inspired you to apply?
I learned about the program through an announcement at Texas A&M. I applied because this program provides an opportunity not only to develop and scale a new technology that has come out of basic research, but also to apply the technology to address a compelling industrial problem (steel) that is massive in its scale.
What do you hope to achieve through the BE Fellows program that you would not be able to accomplish without it?
My goal is to develop and scale the technology to a stage where it becomes commercially viable for large-scale steel production at reduced energy usage and emissions. The BE Fellows program, with its emphasis on technology commercialization aspects and access to a broad network of industry partners who can further help validate and demonstrate the technology, is ideal for realizing this goal.