Featured Research – Dr. Oussama El-Kadri, CAS

The library is pleased to feature the influential and cutting-edge work of our AUS faculty researchers. In a newly launched library series, faculty from across the schools discuss their work and areas of research focus.

AUS Featured Researcher: Dr. Oussama El-Kadri, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences, CAS.

People often think about rising global temperatures, but we also have to understand their effects, like rising sea levels and the impact on animal life. These are major issues that scientists are trying to work out. My work is part of this puzzle.

Dr. Oussama, wearing a labcoat, is holding a vial of bright red, translucent fluid and is pointing to it

Dr. Oussama shows some of his work in his lab.

Since joining AUS, my research has been directed toward clean energy and compacting environmental challenges such as the emission of radioactive species and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from nuclear and fossil fuel power plants. These are issues of interest to UAE’s national agenda, such as lower carbon emissions (UAE is a member of Paris Accord treaty committed to lower emissions from fossil fuel burning), nuclear power plant safety, and water safety and security. My research interests are also in line with the goals and objectives of the newly established research institutes at AUS: Materials Sciences and Engineering Research Institute (MSERI) and the Gulf Environment Research Institute.

On the academic side, my research endeavors give undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to engage in high caliber research projects and prepare them uniquely for their independent careers. I want these young, smart students to work and see what conducting research is all about.

The research that I am carrying out is based on the development of nanoporous materials for use in clean energy and environmental applications. These nanomaterials are based on “stitching” molecular building blocks (organic, inorganic) to form highly porous structures consisting of repeating units that are held together by very strong bonds. The porosity and chemical functionalities of these structures can be tuned by the use of various “linkers” that exhibit different lengths and decorated with heteroatoms such as nitrogen and oxygen coupled with particular synthetic routes. Accordingly, with the proper choice of linkers and synthetic routes, the porous frameworks can be tailored for specific applications.

Crystal Structure of an edible and biocompatible Metal Organic Framework (bMOF)

My expertise in porous materials was acquired during my stay at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) working as a postdoctoral research fellow in the laboratory of Professor Omar Yaghi, one of the most cited chemists in the world. I was a member of a team that developed a series of 3-D edible and biocompatible Metal Organic Frameworks (bMOFs) from nontoxic metals and linkers. These bMOF materials can be utilized in drug storage and delivery, drying and flavoring agents in food, dietary supplements, gas storage, etc. A patent was granted in 2014 for the preparation and usage of bMOFs.

My AUS team has been collaborating with Professor Hani El-Kaderi’s research group in Virginia Commonwealth University to design and prepare highly porous organic polymers (POPs) that are capable of capturing radioactive iodine and small gas molecules. Recently, we reported on the design and preparation of highly porous polymers that exhibit surface areas as big as two tennis courts per gram and can capture and store significant amounts of iodine and carbon dioxide (one of the highest amounts by POPs reported to date). These research results were published in the ACS Applied Materials and Interface and the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, both highly reputable journals.

We are also designing porous materials to detect and remove heavy metal ions from water. Up to this point, we have successfully prepared chemosensors that have the ability to detect toxic metals such as mercury, lead, and thallium ions in water.

As AUS has continued to increase research funding, along with the establishment of the MSERI, my future research projects include the utilization of porous materials in Li-sulfur batteries, supercapacitors, and drug delivery.

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