KU Affairs

Khalifa University PhD Student Receives Materials Research Society Outstanding Graduate Student Award 2023

September 28, 2023

Fahmi Anwar’s Award-Winning Presentation Emphasizes a New Approach to a More Energy-Efficient Method for Making High Quality Ethylene


Khalifa University’s Fahmi Anwar, a PhD student, has been bestowed with the Materials Research Society (MRS) Outstanding Graduate Student Award 2023 for her contributions to the field of Aggregation-Based Crystallization Research. This award specifically acknowledges her achievements in materials science in the area of building advanced materials through aggregation or self-assembly.


Anwar presented her paper titled ‘Surface Assembly of Ionic Liquid Functionalities on Mesoporous Silica to Enhance Paraffin Affinity and Induce Reverse Selectivity for Ethane/Ethylene Separation,’ that focused on developing ethane-selective adsorbents for energy-efficient ethane/ethylene separation, in Symposium SF05 at the 2023 MRS Spring Meeting and Exhibit that was organized earlier this year in San Francisco.


The chemical industry places substantial importance on the availability of high-quality Ethylene, as it serves as a building block for the production of diverse polymers. However, the conventional approach to obtain Ethylene involves a process called ‘naphtha cracking,’ which entails breaking down hydrocarbon feedstocks, such as naphtha, at high temperatures – a process that generates trace amounts of ethane alongside ethylene.


Moreover, the conventional method of separating these gases through ‘cryogenic distillations,’ is energy-intensive and requires several steps involving intricate chemistry. Anwar and her colleagues explored alternative techniques like membrane, absorptions, and adsorptions systems that may make it possible to get high quality ethylene.


Along with the research team at Khalifa University, Anwar developed highly paraffin selective silica-based adsorbents by adding ionic liquid (IL) functionalities that modified the silica surface. The surface modification switched the selectivity of the material from ethylene-selective to ethane-selective as a result of van der Waal’s interactions between the functional agents and ethane molecules.


Alongside Anwar, other presenters include Dr. K Suresh Kumar Reddy, Research Scientist, Dr. Anish Varghese, Dr. Maryam Khaleel, Dr. Kean Wang, and her faculty advisor Dr. Georgios Karanikolos, Associate Professor, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.


Anwar said: “I am delighted to receive the MRS Outstanding Graduate Student Award as a Khalifa University PhD student as this recognizes my academic achievements and it highlights the incredible support and mentorship I have received throughout my journey at Khalifa University. I am truly honored to be considered among the outstanding graduate students, and I am excited to continue making impactful contributions to both Khalifa University and the broader academic community.”


Dr. Karanikolos, said: “Fahmi was chosen from a large group of extraordinary nominees, as MRS meetings are the top gatherings on materials globally. This achievement demonstrates that the research being done at Khalifa University is of the highest standards. I would like to thank Fahmi’s co-advisors, Dr. Maryam Khaleel and Dr. Kean Wang, my research group at the University, and the Center for Catalysis and Separations (CeCaS).”


Alisha Roy
Science Writer
28 September 2023