Tunisian scientist Khair El-Din Erwa: We have engaged in global research to develop technologies for carbon capture and industrial use

Converting carbon dioxide into useful products is one of the goals set by Tunisian Professor Mohamed Khair El-Din Erwa, who led the research on a trip to Malaysia through France for 3 decades spent in laboratories and experiments, which qualified him to become one of the largest recognized scientific figures in Malaysia and in the world in the field of Chemical engineering, water and material dismantling.

His dream was to have his own research center that would enable him to contribute to raising the great challenges facing humanity in the areas of the environment and the ocean, and he has been able to achieve this dream since 2017, when he joined Sunway University in Malaysia.

He also previously contributed to a pioneering project represented in purifying flood waters and making them drinkable, one of the techniques that qualified him to rank one of the best 2% of world scientists (according to a study conducted by researchers from Stanford University), and the most cited researcher for the year 2018. -2019.

From Tunisia to Malaysia..a dream distance
His passion for knowledge led him on a shuttle trip from the National School of Engineers in the Tunisian province of Gabes to the University of Nancy I in France, then to Malaysia, where he has settled since 1993, when he joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Malaya, which is one of the best public universities there. .

In an interview with Al Jazeera Net via e-mail, Professor Muhammad Khairuddin Urwa says, "In Malaysia, I was fortunate to receive an offer from the Department of Chemical Engineering at this university, where I stayed for more than 24 years and advanced in my career from a visiting lecturer and lecturer to an associate professor, professor and first professor." .

He added, "All the good conditions were available for work, research and professional advancement. This helped me in scientific publishing on the one hand, and innovating and winning many patents on the other hand. It also helped me supervise the successful graduation of more than 30 doctoral students on the third hand."

Tunisian scientist Khair El-Din Erwa: We have engaged in global research to develop technologies for carbon capture and industrial use  Converting carbon dioxide into useful products is one of the goals set by Tunisian Professor Mohamed Khair El-Din Erwa, who led the research on a trip to Malaysia through France for 3 decades spent in laboratories and experiments, which qualified him to become one of the largest recognized scientific figures in Malaysia and in the world in the field of Chemical engineering, water and material dismantling.  His dream was to have his own research center that would enable him to contribute to raising the great challenges facing humanity in the areas of the environment and the ocean, and he has been able to achieve this dream since 2017, when he joined Sunway University in Malaysia.  He also previously contributed to a pioneering project represented in purifying flood waters and making them drinkable, one of the techniques that qualified him to rank one of the best 2% of world scientists (according to a study conducted by researchers from Stanford University), and the most cited researcher for the year 2018. -2019.  From Tunisia to Malaysia..a dream distance His passion for knowledge led him on a shuttle trip from the National School of Engineers in the Tunisian province of Gabes to the University of Nancy I in France, then to Malaysia, where he has settled since 1993, when he joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Malaya, which is one of the best public universities there. .  In an interview with Al Jazeera Net via e-mail, Professor Muhammad Khairuddin Urwa says, "In Malaysia, I was fortunate to receive an offer from the Department of Chemical Engineering at this university, where I stayed for more than 24 years and advanced in my career from a visiting lecturer and lecturer to an associate professor, professor and first professor." .  He added, "All the good conditions were available for work, research and professional advancement. This helped me in scientific publishing on the one hand, and innovating and winning many patents on the other hand. It also helped me supervise the successful graduation of more than 30 doctoral students on the third hand."  Professor Muhammad Khairuddin Erwa considers that Malaysia gave him the opportunity to realize his great dream of establishing his own research center, which was achieved 5 years ago when he joined Sunway University, which was one of the first universities in Malaysia, which adopted the 17 sustainable development goals as defined by the United Nations. The United States has invested heavily in research to address these goals, as it has been able, since the beginning of January 2018, to establish a center for the capture and use of carbon dioxide.  Carbon Dioxide Capture and Sustainable Development Goals “At the Center for Carbon Dioxide Uses at Sunway University of Malaysia, we have a strong desire to impact society by engaging in world-class research that addresses one of the major challenges facing humanity and the Earth, which is climate change,” says Professor Muhammad Khairuddin Arwa.  He adds, "By working to capture carbon dioxide, we mainly seek to achieve a number of sustainable development goals stipulated by the United Nations, including the 13th goal on climate, the seventh goal on clean and affordable energy, in addition to the 9th goal on innovation. Industrial and infrastructure, we are developing our business for a healthy surroundings and a clean environment.”  Orwa explains that global warming is a real threat to life on Earth, as carbon dioxide is the main contributor to this phenomenon, making it a priority in the environmental field to get rid of it by reducing its emissions or capturing it.  But in fact, carbon dioxide capture is not only important to combat climate change, but is necessary in some industrial fields, such as purification of natural gas that contains large amounts of carbon dioxide must be removed, because it reduces the calorific value of the gas, and the same for biogas, which It can contain up to 40% of carbon dioxide. As such, to upgrade biogas to biomethane, it is necessary to remove carbon dioxide.  Eurasian CO2 Capture Network Although its adoption is still limited, the technology of capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide is adopted in some countries, especially at the level of power plants and natural gas processing facilities. However, the research supervised by Professor Muhammad Khair El-Din Erwa is more focused on the valorization and conversion of carbon dioxide. .  Orwa acknowledges that the currently available techniques for capturing carbon dioxide from power plants or from the atmosphere are very expensive and costly, and that the process does not generate money for investors, as carbon dioxide capture and storage does not generate economic returns because both processes are expensive.  “At our center and in collaboration with many national and international researchers, we are developing innovative processes that go beyond CO2 capture and storage. Our goal is to integrate CO2 capture with its use that converts captured CO2 into useful chemicals and products, this is our choice to make CO2 capture and storage. Carbon dioxide from power plants, cement plants, air, etc. is profitable and therefore attractive to investors.  Orwa considers this choice to be a major challenge that no single person, team or university can meet. Collaboration and partnership involving different research teams, different universities and stakeholders from industries is the key to winning this challenge. He explains, "We at Sunway University and the Center for Carbon Dioxide Uses are working to implement the 17th goal of the sustainable development goals, which stipulates that companies contract to achieve the goals.  From this standpoint, we are currently seeking to establish the first Eurasian network for carbon dioxide capture and use, which includes many local, regional and international universities, and we recently signed a 3-year research cooperation with a group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to integrate carbon dioxide capture with its use in energy storage devices. ".  In this context, Orwa expresses his confidence that over the next two decades the captured carbon dioxide will be one of the key building blocks of multiple uses in the chemical industry.  Between capturing carbon dioxide and reducing emissions Orwa considers that climate change is a major challenge facing the Earth and all of humanity, and that there is no single solution to solve the problem of global warming and reduce its impact on climate change, and therefore many strategies must be developed and pursued simultaneously. Therefore, according to Orwa, it is necessary to work in parallel on the transition to renewable energy, and the development of carbon-free or low-carbon technologies on the one hand, while continuing to develop technologies for capturing, using and storing carbon dioxide on the other hand.  The International Energy Agency has considered the use and storage of carbon as one of the four main pillars of the global energy transition, along with electricity based on renewable energy, bioenergy, and hydrogen, estimating that the reduction of nearly half of global emissions can come from carbon capture and use technologies to achieve carbon neutrality and lower emissions. carbon to zero.  And he lists the reasons why we need to capture and use carbon dioxide even if we replace 100% fossil fuel-based energy with carbon-free renewable energy. Billions of tons of CO2 in 2050 (about a quarter of annual energy sector emissions today) on the one hand.  On the other hand, CCS can address emissions in sectors with other limited options, such as the manufacture of cement, steel and chemicals, and in the production of synthetic fuels for long-distance transportation. On the other hand, this technology can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and it is the only option to reduce its concentration, as it reached about 0.042%, which is a high percentage.  So even if we imagine that we will develop technologies without emissions of carbon dioxide (which takes decades), it will be - according to Professor Orwa - it will be difficult to reduce the concentration of this gas in the atmosphere because there is a process that emits carbon dioxide not from the use of fossil fuels, but from The process itself.  In addition, we are witnessing an increase in the frequency of natural disasters, especially forest fires, which emit huge amounts of carbon that have been stored for thousands of years, and these huge emissions cannot be balanced by the natural absorption of carbon dioxide by the earth. That's why and to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we will still need to capture, use and store it.   Carbon dioxide multiple uses and promising prospects At the same time, we are dealing with two major environmental issues: climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and reducing the impact of plastic waste, according to Orwa. In our center we work on carbon dioxide capture agents derived from natural resources such as amino acids, as well as converting waste materials into solvents or solid absorbents. In the long term, this will help us develop low-cost and sustainable operations.  “The type of waste we adopt is biomass as well as plastic waste, and we have shown on a laboratory scale that we can convert plastic waste into a solvent to capture CO2 with efficiencies similar to current standard solvents,” explains Professor Mohamed Khair El Din Arwa.  This is at the level of carbon dioxide capture mechanisms, and at the level of its uses, in addition to its direct uses, as is the case in EOR projects, the captured carbon dioxide is re-injected into depleted oil fields to extract more oil. .  The captured carbon dioxide can also be used as a pH adjusting agent in industries such as the sugar industry, it can be used as a carbon source in biotechnology, it can be used in the cultivation of algae, and carbon dioxide has medicinal uses. In addition, supercritical CO2 is a powerful solvent in a process called SFE (Supercritical Fluid Extraction) where it can be used to extract active biochemicals.  Most importantly, carbon dioxide can be converted into value-added chemicals. For example, it can be reduced to carbon monoxide "CO" (CO), which can be combined with green hydrogen to form what we call synthesis gas, which in turn can be converted into fuel, as well as chemical intermediates such as ethanol and methane, and carbon dioxide can also be converted into Carbonates such as calcium carbonate, which have multiple industrial uses.


Professor Muhammad Khairuddin Erwa considers that Malaysia gave him the opportunity to realize his great dream of establishing his own research center, which was achieved 5 years ago when he joined Sunway University, which was one of the first universities in Malaysia, which adopted the 17 sustainable development goals as defined by the United Nations. The United States has invested heavily in research to address these goals, as it has been able, since the beginning of January 2018, to establish a center for the capture and use of carbon dioxide.

Carbon Dioxide Capture and Sustainable Development Goals
“At the Center for Carbon Dioxide Uses at Sunway University of Malaysia, we have a strong desire to impact society by engaging in world-class research that addresses one of the major challenges facing humanity and the Earth, which is climate change,” says Professor Muhammad Khairuddin Arwa.

He adds, "By working to capture carbon dioxide, we mainly seek to achieve a number of sustainable development goals stipulated by the United Nations, including the 13th goal on climate, the seventh goal on clean and affordable energy, in addition to the 9th goal on innovation. Industrial and infrastructure, we are developing our business for a healthy surroundings and a clean environment.”

Orwa explains that global warming is a real threat to life on Earth, as carbon dioxide is the main contributor to this phenomenon, making it a priority in the environmental field to get rid of it by reducing its emissions or capturing it.

But in fact, carbon dioxide capture is not only important to combat climate change, but is necessary in some industrial fields, such as purification of natural gas that contains large amounts of carbon dioxide must be removed, because it reduces the calorific value of the gas, and the same for biogas, which It can contain up to 40% of carbon dioxide. As such, to upgrade biogas to biomethane, it is necessary to remove carbon dioxide.

Eurasian CO2 Capture Network
Although its adoption is still limited, the technology of capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide is adopted in some countries, especially at the level of power plants and natural gas processing facilities. However, the research supervised by Professor Muhammad Khair El-Din Erwa is more focused on the valorization and conversion of carbon dioxide. .

Orwa acknowledges that the currently available techniques for capturing carbon dioxide from power plants or from the atmosphere are very expensive and costly, and that the process does not generate money for investors, as carbon dioxide capture and storage does not generate economic returns because both processes are expensive.

“At our center and in collaboration with many national and international researchers, we are developing innovative processes that go beyond CO2 capture and storage. Our goal is to integrate CO2 capture with its use that converts captured CO2 into useful chemicals and products, this is our choice to make CO2 capture and storage. Carbon dioxide from power plants, cement plants, air, etc. is profitable and therefore attractive to investors.

Orwa considers this choice to be a major challenge that no single person, team or university can meet. Collaboration and partnership involving different research teams, different universities and stakeholders from industries is the key to winning this challenge. He explains, "We at Sunway University and the Center for Carbon Dioxide Uses are working to implement the 17th goal of the sustainable development goals, which stipulates that companies contract to achieve the goals.

From this standpoint, we are currently seeking to establish the first Eurasian network for carbon dioxide capture and use, which includes many local, regional and international universities, and we recently signed a 3-year research cooperation with a group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to integrate carbon dioxide capture with its use in energy storage devices. ".

In this context, Orwa expresses his confidence that over the next two decades the captured carbon dioxide will be one of the key building blocks of multiple uses in the chemical industry.

Between capturing carbon dioxide and reducing emissions
Orwa considers that climate change is a major challenge facing the Earth and all of humanity, and that there is no single solution to solve the problem of global warming and reduce its impact on climate change, and therefore many strategies must be developed and pursued simultaneously. Therefore, according to Orwa, it is necessary to work in parallel on the transition to renewable energy, and the development of carbon-free or low-carbon technologies on the one hand, while continuing to develop technologies for capturing, using and storing carbon dioxide on the other hand.

The International Energy Agency has considered the use and storage of carbon as one of the four main pillars of the global energy transition, along with electricity based on renewable energy, bioenergy, and hydrogen, estimating that the reduction of nearly half of global emissions can come from carbon capture and use technologies to achieve carbon neutrality and lower emissions. carbon to zero.

And he lists the reasons why we need to capture and use carbon dioxide even if we replace 100% fossil fuel-based energy with carbon-free renewable energy. Billions of tons of CO2 in 2050 (about a quarter of annual energy sector emissions today) on the one hand.

On the other hand, CCS can address emissions in sectors with other limited options, such as the manufacture of cement, steel and chemicals, and in the production of synthetic fuels for long-distance transportation. On the other hand, this technology can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and it is the only option to reduce its concentration, as it reached about 0.042%, which is a high percentage.

So even if we imagine that we will develop technologies without emissions of carbon dioxide (which takes decades), it will be - according to Professor Orwa - it will be difficult to reduce the concentration of this gas in the atmosphere because there is a process that emits carbon dioxide not from the use of fossil fuels, but from The process itself.

In addition, we are witnessing an increase in the frequency of natural disasters, especially forest fires, which emit huge amounts of carbon that have been stored for thousands of years, and these huge emissions cannot be balanced by the natural absorption of carbon dioxide by the earth. That's why and to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we will still need to capture, use and store it.


Carbon dioxide multiple uses and promising prospects
At the same time, we are dealing with two major environmental issues: climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and reducing the impact of plastic waste, according to Orwa. In our center we work on carbon dioxide capture agents derived from natural resources such as amino acids, as well as converting waste materials into solvents or solid absorbents. In the long term, this will help us develop low-cost and sustainable operations.

“The type of waste we adopt is biomass as well as plastic waste, and we have shown on a laboratory scale that we can convert plastic waste into a solvent to capture CO2 with efficiencies similar to current standard solvents,” explains Professor Mohamed Khair El Din Arwa.

This is at the level of carbon dioxide capture mechanisms, and at the level of its uses, in addition to its direct uses, as is the case in EOR projects, the captured carbon dioxide is re-injected into depleted oil fields to extract more oil. .

The captured carbon dioxide can also be used as a pH adjusting agent in industries such as the sugar industry, it can be used as a carbon source in biotechnology, it can be used in the cultivation of algae, and carbon dioxide has medicinal uses. In addition, supercritical CO2 is a powerful solvent in a process called SFE (Supercritical Fluid Extraction) where it can be used to extract active biochemicals.

Most importantly, carbon dioxide can be converted into value-added chemicals. For example, it can be reduced to carbon monoxide "CO" (CO), which can be combined with green hydrogen to form what we call synthesis gas, which in turn can be converted into fuel, as well as chemical intermediates such as ethanol and methane, and carbon dioxide can also be converted into Carbonates such as calcium carbonate, which have multiple industrial uses.
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