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Sidy Ndao

NEF Fellow 2017-2019

Country: Senegal
Area of Research: Micro & Nanoscale Thermal/Fluid Sciences
Institution: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Sidy was born in Dakar, Senegal, where he started his elementary education. At the age of 16, he moved to the United States where he graduated as Valedictorian of his high school class in 2001. By then, he was already interested in science and technology, even carrying a notebook with him where he drew designs of space rockets and mechanical systems. Sidy completed both a Bachelor and Master in Mechanical Engineering from City College of New York. He completed his PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York State in 2010. His graduate training at RPI was in the area of two-phase heat transfer at the micro/nano- scale, specifically in the study of the two-phase heat transfer and critical heat flux on functionalized micro/nano structured surfaces. Before Joining the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012 as a tenure-track faculty, Sidy spent about 2 years as a Postdoctoral Associate in the Chemical Engineering Department and the Institute of Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His research work at MIT focused on MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) Thermoelectric and Thermophotovoltaics power generation and the development of high temperature 2-D photonic crystals.

Currently, he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). At UNL, he is the Director of the Nano & Microsystems Research lab with research interests in Nanotechnology and Thermal-Fluid Sciences. His recent research work in High Temperature NanoThermoMechanica Memory and Logic Devices has garnered much interest in the scientific community because it changes what’s possible and how we think about computing. About four years ago, a colleague of Sidy’s from NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) brought him the problem of how to record data on the surface of planet Venus where the average surface temperature is about 400 Celsius. Clearly current state-of-the-art computing technologies could not function at such elevated temperatures. In the pursuit ofalternative technologies, the research community has been focused on two main approaches, namely material research (i.e. alternative wide bandgap semiconductor materials), and NanoElectroMechanical memory and switches, both of which still depend on Semiconductor properties and/or electricity.

Taking a completely different approach, Sidy’s research group has recently developed the world’s first high temperature thermal rectifier, a building block for future High Temperature Thermal Memory and Logic Devices, i.e., thermal computer. Unlike electronics, thermal memory and logic devices use heat instead of electricity to record and process data. Basically, Sidy’s research group is creating the world’s first thermal computer that can one day unlock the mysteries of outer space, explore and harvest our own planet’s deep-beneath-the-surface geology and harness waste heat for more efficient energy utilization. He was awarded the UNL College of
Engineering Henry Y. Kleinkauf Family Distinguished New Faculty Teaching Award in 2016.

One of Sidy’s major accomplishments is the creation of the Dakar American University of Science & Technology (DAUST) in Senegal. DAUST provides instruction and research opportunities for undergraduates and graduates in fields of engineering and technology that are useful in developing technological solutions to address Africa’s societal needs and challenges. He is also the founder of SenEcole, an organization whose goal is to promote STEM education for the sustainable development of Africa. One of SenEcole’s main program is the Pan-African Robotics Competition (PARC).

Einstein Challenge: Sidy hopes to develop the technology to control the flow of heat at micro/nanoscale. The ability to control and manipulate heat transfer at the micro/nanoscale is of great importance to many engineering applications such as thermal management, energy conversion, and thermal computing.