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Making Fuel Cells More Efficient

Electrochemist Dr. Gumaa El-Nagar from Egypt in Two-Year Project at Freie Universität Berlin to Improve Catalysts for Fuel Cells

May 25, 2016

Gumaa El-Nagar in the laboratory of the Applied Physical Chemistry Group at Freie Universität Berlin.

Gumaa El-Nagar in the laboratory of the Applied Physical Chemistry Group at Freie Universität Berlin.
Image Credit: Manoj Krishna, AG Roth, Freie Universität Berlin

The Egyptian electrochemist Dr. Gumaa El-Nagar has received a Georg Forster HERMES Research Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to work for two years at Freie Universität in the Applied Physical Chemistry Group led by Prof. Dr. Christina Roth. He will be working on the improvement of catalysts for fuel cells.

During his stay at Freie Universität, Gumaa El-Nagar will be working on a project entitled "How contaminants can contribute to catalysis: Improved electro-oxidation of small organic molecules for more efficient fuel cells." His work will focus on how to significantly reduce the amount of platinum, which is very costly, that is needed to catalyze oxygen reduction. To achieve this, Gumaa El-Nagar intends on the one hand to reduce the needed amount to a minimum by extraction of the precious metal in the form of nanoparticles on metal oxides and carbon-based carriers. On the other hand, he intends to increase the catalytic activity in the fuel gas through the targeted addition of acetonitrile and methyl acrylate, which occur as impurities in the system.

Gumaa El-Nagar earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry with distinction in 2008 in Cairo, where he completed his master's program as valedictorian in 2011. His doctoral thesis, which he submitted to the University of Cairo in 2015, also received honors. He has been a lecturer in physical chemistry at the University of Cairo since 2012, and in 2015 received the award for good teaching at the university.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation aims to support research projects that have particular relevance in the countries of origin of the Fellows, for example, energy and environmental research. The selection is based on the scientific qualifications of the applicants as well as the innovation potential of the proposed project. Gumaa El-Nagar’s project augments the current activities of the group led by Professor Christina Roth with theoretical methods for predicting catalyst performance and benefits from the experimental possibilities in the laboratories on site.

In 2015 the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awarded about 50 HERMES Fellowships to doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from developing and emerging countries. Three of the Fellows are from Egypt. Overall, six of them are doing research in Berlin, including four in the natural sciences.

This text was originally published in German on May 2, 2016, as a press release by Freie Universität Berlin.