What is your role with TEES/GFRC?
Dr. Hanif: With hands-on experience in the Fischer Tropsch (FT) process, I joined Texas A&M University at Qatar in February 2015 as a postdoctoral research associate to support the research activity of TEES/GFRC under the supervision of Dr. Nimir Elbashir in a Qatar National Priority Research Project (NPRP No.: 7-843-2-312). This was a joint project between three leading universities to understand the effect of reaction media, catalyst geometry and catalyst particle pore structure on the FT synthesis. I led the experimental campaign for Texas A&M at Qatar and helped build a successful collaboration with Dr. Benjamin Wilhite from Texas A&M University, Dr. Bruce Tatarchuk from Auburn University and Dr. Elbashir’s team from Texas A&M at Qatar while achieving the project objectives and deliverables.
In another project (NPRP No.: 5 ‐066-2-023), I led the experimental campaign to develop surrogate fuel and fuel blends for gas to liquid (GTL) fuels. In this project, I helped build a successful collaboration with Dr. Rafiqul Gani of Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Dr. Mahmoud El-Halwagi from Texas A&M University, Dr. Reza Tafreshi from the mechanical engineering department from Texas A&M at Qatar and Dr. Elbasir’s team.
In the reforming project (NPRP-X-100-2-024), I am leading the experimental campaign of CARGEN technology invented by Dr. Elbasir’s team at Texas A&M at Qatar for concurrent production of carbon nanotubes and high-quality syngas. I am working in collaboration with Dr. Eric Weitz from North Western University to understand the carbon nanotube geometry and physical property using the advanced Raman microscopy.
Lately, I have helped build a successful collaboration with Dr. Sherzod Madrahimov from the Texas A&M at Qatar science program and Dr. Elbashir’s team to design and test catalytic systems for direct conversion of CO2 to polymer in a SEED GRANT-482192-65250.
Apart from the academic collaborations, I have also participated in developing many joint proposals between Texas A&M at Qatar and industry partners such as TOTAL, ORYX GTL and Qatar Shell.
What is the focus of your research? How did you get interested in the topic?
Dr. Hanif: Catalysts are the heart of any chemical and gas processing industry, and my focus is to develop novel catalytic systems that are more efficient and sustainable. In addition to the catalyst development, I am also interested in improving the process performance by increasing the efficiency of the overall process. The carbon footprint of many old chemical and gas processing industries is very high and not sustainable in the future due to stringent environmental policies worldwide. Therefore, my research focuses on rendering the carbon footprint of the processes such as reforming of methane, FT, syngas to methanol and carbon dioxide to polymers that are highly energy intensive and emits more greenhouse gases. Overall, my continuous efforts are to improve the economics and suitability aspects of chemical processes by designing novel catalysts, reactors configurations and chemical pathways for synthesizing value-added chemicals.
What is the expected outcome/impact of your work?
Dr. Hanif: My goal is to develop sustainable processes that have a direct impact on improving the quality of life. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions of chemical processes will directly benefit nations in improving their carbon footprint and improving the environment. Therefore, my research will help improve the dry reforming of the methane process to become sustainable, help direct conversion of CO2 to organic carbonate to become commercially viable and help the economical production of carbon nanotubes. My research’s immediate outcome would be peer-reviewed research articles, invention disclosures, training of engineers and researchers. The long-term benefit will be a sustainable chemical process with commercial success and generating revenue from waste resources that negatively impacts the environment.
What stage is your project in/any interesting findings so far?
Dr. Hanif: Currently, the CARGEN campaign, in which multiwalled carbon nanotubes are being synthesized from CO2 and CH4, is at technology readiness level (TRL)-3. Another project in which organic polymers are synthesized from CO2 has reached TRL-2. My current efforts are to escalate the TRLs of both projects for possible commercialization. There are several research elements in both the projects before becoming a commercial success. Our team at Texas A&M at Qatar continuously evaluates different pathways to converting CO2 to value-added products. The project for organic polymer from CO2 was recently invited for technology development funds by the Qatar Foundation, Research Development and Innovation (QFRDI).
Who are people/organizations you collaborate(d) with?
Dr. Hanif: I have been part of several research collaborations, both internally and externally. For testing fuel blend in a combustion engine, I worked with Dr. Reza Tafreshi from the mechanical engineering department from Texas A&M at Qatar. While in a CO2 utilization project, I participated in a fruitful collaboration with Dr. Sherzod Madrahimov from Texas A&M at Qatar’s science program. I am actively involved in various collaborative projects with Dr. Mahmoud El-Halwagi and Dr. Benjamin Wilhite from Texas A&M University on various projects in process system engineering.
Recently, I have actively participated in developing a joint proposal with Dr. Mohamed Nounou and Dr. Hazem Nounou from Texas A&M at Qatar, along with Dr. Elbashir’s team, to develop models for fault detection and identification methods for the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process.
In an external collaboration, I have worked with Dr. Rafiqul Gani from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) on a synthetic fuel design project. Together, we have made several research achievements for designing synthetic fuels for both the aviation and transportation industries. In a FT project, I have worked in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Tatarchuk from Auburn University to understand the effect of pore structure on the product selectivity of supercritical FT synthesis catalyst. This collaboration has led us to model the heat management across reactor beds and helped scale-up reactor tubes from a 1-4-inch internal diameter.
Lately, I am involved in a successful collaboration with Dr. Eric Weitz from Northwestern University to understand the carbon nanotube geometry and physical property using the advanced Raman microscopy.
How has COVID-19 and working remotely impacted your work?
Dr. Hanif: Approximately half of my research activity is experimental, and therefore, COVID-19 could have affected my progress. However, while working from home, I have mostly utilized my time to process the raw data I have generated pre-COVID-19 period. Also, I indulge myself heavily in creating ideas for future projects that directly impact the quality of life.
Can students get involved in your work?
Dr. Hanif: Yes, undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students can participate in various aspects of any of these ongoing activities. Undergraduate students are encouraged to participate in the design and economic analysis of the chemical processes under consideration to get hands-on experience on process design. Also, undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students can participate in synthesis and characterization of catalysts, designing and testing synthetic fuels, building and operating complex chemical reactors and using state-of-the-art analytical tools at the Texas A&M at Qatar labs.