01 March, 2023
By David Murphy
Jehad El-Demellawi, a scientist at the Aramco Research Center at KAUST (ARC KAUST) and former postdoctoral fellow at Professor Husam Alshareef’s Functional Nanomaterials and Devices Laboratory (FuNL), was named among the MIT Technology Review Arabia’s "MENA Innovators Under 35 (IU35)" for 2022.
El-Demellawi was recognized for his work in optimizing and tailoring the synthesis and processing strategies of MXenes, a family of two-dimensional metal carbides, carbonitrides and nitrides, one of which he used to develop high-performance, low-cost silicon solar cells at an industrial scale, in collaboration with Professor Stefaan De Wolf’s group at the KAUST Solar Center.
The fabricated MXene-based solar cells have offered device performances comparable to those obtained using standard, expensive and less abundant materials, like silver, widely used in current solar cell production. Owing to their ease of processing and reduced fabrication cost, compared to silver, MXenes could significantly impact the deployment of solar cell technology, especially in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, leveraging favorable weather conditions.
Acknowledging the next generation of MENA innovators
Together with 14 other trailblazers—including KAUST researchers Asmaa Abdallah (CEMSE Division), Asma Al-Amoodi (BESE Division) and Wedyan Babatain (CEMSE Division)—El-Demellawi (PSE Division) was acknowledged by a leading panel of academic and industry experts as among the young innovators “who are advancing science and technology” in the MENA region.
Since 1999, MIT Technology Review has announced an annual list of exceptionally talented young innovators under the age of 35 whose work has the greatest potential to transform the world. The awards span various fields, including biotechnology, materials, computer hardware, energy, transportation, communications and the internet.
Founded in 2018, the MENA contest is the regional version of a global awards scheme. This year’s awards featured many innovations in technology, biotechnology, computer science, medicine and materials science.
“Being one of the recipients of such a prestigious award is a true reflection of the quality of research work we do at KAUST, thriving on the harmonious collaborations we established among several research groups,” El-Demellawi said.
“I also would like to thank professors Husam Alshareef and Omar F. Mohammed (KAUST) and Yury Gogotsi (Drexel University) for supporting my nomination for this award,” he added.
A new chapter awaits
As a member of Alshareef’s FuNL group, the Egyptian researcher developed and engineered various nanomaterials, including different members of the MXenes family, for an array of real-life applications.
El-Demellawi was able to enhance and tune several MXenes, initially invented in 2011 by Gogotsi and Barsoum et al. at Drexel University, Philadelphia, U.S., mainly for energy storage applications and adapted/introduced them to many other application fields, including plasmonics, optoelectronics, sensing, desalination and energy harvesting. His research has touched on various real-life challenges, including the water-energy nexus and the ongoing need for affordable green energy resources.
“On a personal level, receiving such an accolade was timely while starting a new chapter in my R&D career as a scientist at ARC KAUST, where I aim to bring my research activities to another level. I hope to continue expanding the use of MXenes to new areas of interest,” he emphasized.
“Jehad has a breadth of knowledge that is rare to find in a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow. Combining his sharp intellect, hard work and love for collaborating with others, he has initiated countless successful collaborations with other groups at KAUST and internationally. He is so highly deserving of this award, and I am very proud of him,” Alshareef concluded.