Making Solar Energy Economical: A Grand Challenge of Engineering

Welcome to my website! I’m Shomik Verma, from Houston, Texas. I’m majoring in Mechanical Engineering with minors in Energy Engineering in Mathematics, and I am part of Duke’s Class of 2019.

I conduct research under Dr. Nico Hotz in the Thermodynamics and Sustainable Energy Laboratory. My primary project involves developing a  concentrated solar thermal collector for dry methane reforming to generate hydrogen. Read below for more details about my interest in solar energy!

Solar energy is an invaluable part of solving our current and future energy problems. With growing population comes growing energy demand, and solar is a virtually unlimited energy source with great potential to help meet humanity’s energy needs. One major barrier for solar implementation is cost, as current infrastructure provides electricity for just a few cents per kilowatt-hour.

Therefore, my goal is to help make solar energy economical. Specifically, I am interested in using thermodynamics and heat transfer to further develop solar thermal applications. Heating is one of the biggest power draws in residential and industrial sectors, so developing solar thermal power using well-understood heat transfer analyses can thus alleviate many of our energy problems.

During the summer following my freshman year I participated in DukeEngage in Argentina where I interned at an environmental non-profit and developed installation plans for solar water heaters in an impoverished community. This was my first exposure to solar thermal, and the possibility of harnessing heat radiating from 93 million miles away has fascinated me ever since.

Since then, I have designed a cheap, easily-manufacturable parabolic trough solar thermal collector for water heating through a Smart Home project called Smart Shelters. I am also doing research with Dr. Nico Hotz investigating the feasibility of concentrated solar power for hydrogen generation through dry methane reforming: combining methane and carbon dioxide (two potent greenhouse gases) to sustainably produce a high-energy fuel. Based on my interest in hydrogen as a fuel of the future, I also co-led the development of Duke Electric Vehicles’ hydrogen fuel cell car, which recently broke the Guinness World Record for fuel efficiency at 14,573 MPGe.

I would like to further my experience and technical prowess in solar thermal power and heat transfer. My future goals include applying thermodynamics and heat transfer to develop sustainable energy technologies.