Dr.-Ing.Ali Al-Abadi is a Mechanical Engineer with degrees from prestigious institutes such as University of Baghdad, Iraq, and Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen, Germany. As a student he transition from the Turbomachinery to renewable energy (mainly focus on wind energy) for his specialization, particularly during his Post-Doc experience in South Korea. He has previously worked as a research associate at Friedrich-Alexander-University and Team Leader of the group R&D Projects in SGB-SMIT Transformers. In 2022, he switched to Hitachi Energy located in Brilon, Germany as a Senior Expert. He is a domain expert in sound and vibrations, thermal modelling, losses, and magnetic-field calculations of transformers and shunt reactors. He is an active member of IEEE, CIGRE, DAGA and ASME, and a participant member in the CIGRE working group WG-A2.54. He has authored and reviewed many scientific and technical papers in the international conferences and peer-reviewed journals. He is an active contributor in power transformers and wind energy industries.
Let’s start the interview!
Q. Tell us about yourself
Ali: Hi, my name is Ali Al-Abadi. I graduated from University of Baghdad, Iraq in 1997 with B.Sc. and in 2000 with M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering (mainly focus on Turbomachinery). I received the Dr.-Ing. degree from Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen, Germany, in the field of renewable energy (mainly focus on wind energy). I have previously worked as a research associate at Friedrich-Alexander-University and was responsible for the industrial projects. Later, I joined SGB Transformers located in Regensburg, Germany in 2015 as R&D Engineer and then promoted to a Team Leader of the group R&D Projects. As of 2022, I work with Hitachi Energy in Brilon, Germany as a Senior Expert.
Q. What inspired you to join this sector?
Ali: My multidisciplinary experience, and the lack of mechanical engineers in the transformer technology, which is mainly dominated by electrical engineers had motivated me the most to take the challenge and contribute to the transformers industry. In addition, to apply my technical background in mechanical and thermal on transformers, which is demonstrated in the development of physical models. Last but not least, the need of an engineer with both electrical and mechanical backgrounds in the transformer’s technology. As a mechanical engineer I took the challenge to enter an electrical engineering dominant sector where my biggest challenge was understanding the electromagnetic and transformers design to propose reasonable solutions. Here I encourage all junior engineers with mechanical, chemical, and metallurgical engineering background to join this sector as it includes multiple specializations.
Q. What trends do you think will rule in the next 5 years in this sector?
Ali: Sustainability and reliability of the design to be more compatible with the global trend towards clean energy which requires parallel sophisticated monitoring and digitalization systems. The general trend of energy generation sector toward renewables, shall be associated with sustainable transmission and distribution sectors as well. Net-zero, minimum CO2 emission and using of recycled materials are among the main objectives of the sustainable designs.
Q. Can you elaborate why?
Ali: Energy sources are still dominated by fossil fuels; however, there are some critical observations we can share. Global energy consumption is drastically moving toward fossil free resources and renewables contribution is less than 2%. A remarkable increase of the renewable’s capacity in the last two years 20% is marking significant transformation of all market sectors towards clean energy. Electrification itself represent only 20% of the global energy consumption and is a key parameter and backbone of the energy system. It has a big responsibility on the global sustainable energy system. The sustainable transformer must involve all aspects, Materials (solid insulations, core, fluids, Operation (low sound emission, low losses, high efficiency, low temperatures, lifetime, etc.) Production (all production process should be restricted to low carbon emission minimum material waste, etc.) Monitoring to access transformer status help in up front maintenance and failure avoidance
Q. Most of the people think maintenance and reliability are the same thing. What are your thoughts about it?
Ali: Transformer is a vital component within the power grid system (generation, transmission and distribution) and it is not a stand-alone devise, and hence it is mutually influencing other system components. The integration of the transformer within the power system, therefore, is a must. This requires a compatible design to align with the trend towards sustainable power system. Transformers are installed in main- and sub-stations which may be close to residential area and hence it become a target for criticizing and therefore, need for concrete legislations. Minimum heat dissipation, sound emission, environmentally friendly design is required. Therefore, maintenance and reliability are not the same; however, they are fully correlated. The reliable design is robust, efficient, sufficient cooled, long lifetime, low sound emission and therefore, requires minimum maintenance cost.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you would give to a junior professional to succeed in your sector?
Ali: You have two ears and one mouth. Learn to listen and listen to learn. Start where others end then find your own way. Transformer is a multi-physics device which involves all engineering specialist. Start with basics, learn the design, visit the production line, and present in measurements to gain the engineering sense.
Q. What is something nobody tells you, but you wish you knew earlier?
Ali: That real engineering is not at university, but the journey starts at the industry. Nevertheless, all basic sciences I had learned at university are important as a start-up for the technology. Academic research alone cannot solve industrial problems, overlapping among different objectives leads optimization is challenging; for instance, optimum sound design is not an optimum design. The sound works normally against thermal, for minimum sound emission we normally reduce surfaces (cooling ducts) which leads to increase of loss density and overheating problems.
Q. Can you recommend any books or media?
Ali: Textbooks for right learning (basic), Papers for fast learning (new topics). In general, keep an eye on the new trending in energy business by following specialist magazines/websites, built network with standardization bodies and other relevant business.