"Tackling Energy Sector Challenges by Intersecting Materials, Manufacturing, and Systems" by Saniya LeBlanc


Tackling the energy sector’s pressing technological and workforce needs requires a multi-pronged approach. This talk will include a discussion of research at the intersection of solid-state energy conversion materials and additive manufacturing as well as large-scale district energy systems with integrated renewable power and storage.

The first part of the talk will focus on thermoelectric power generators that convert waste heat into useful electrical energy. Traditional thermoelectric device manufacturing uses bulk material processing with machining, assembly, and integration steps that lead to material waste and performance limitations and offer virtually no flexibility in designing the geometry of thermoelectric modules. Additive manufacturing could enable new thermoelectric geometries and architectures, material-to-device integration, and large-area processing. Dr. Saniya LeBlanc will describe her team’s progress in laser-based additive manufacturing of thermoelectric materials, such as bismuth telluride and silicon germanium, for low and high-temperature applications. Dr. LeBlanc will show demonstrations of laser additive manufacturing applied to thermoelectric materials and discuss the link between multi-scale materials, manufacturing, and system-level considerations for thermoelectric power generators.

The second part of the talk will highlight their work in urban district energy systems where they simulate multi-building systems with combined heat and power, renewable generation, and electricity and thermal storage to determine impacts on system efficiency, resilience, reliability, and return on investment for new technologies. Finally, Dr. LeBlanc will highlight educational initiatives such as the Energy Fellows Program, a training and professional development program, and research on the varying perceptions of students, faculty, and practicing engineers about what skills and knowledge are required for careers in the energy sector.


Saniya LeBlanc is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at the George Washington University. Her research goals are to create next-generation energy conversion technologies with advanced materials and manufacturing techniques. Previously, she was a research scientist at a startup company where she created research, development, and manufacturing characterization solutions for thermoelectric technologies and evaluated the potential of new power generation materials.

Dr. LeBlanc obtained a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with a minor in materials science at Stanford University where she was a Diversifying Academia Recruiting Excellence fellow, a Sandia Campus Executive fellow, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research fellow. She was a Churchill Scholar at the University of Cambridge where she received an M.Phil. in engineering, and she has a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.

In 2018, the American Society of Engineering Education named Dr. LeBlanc one of its “20 Under 40” high-achieving researchers and educators. She received the NSF CAREER award in 2020.

Seminar sponsored by the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering