As a world energy leader, Aramco is committed to maintaining a strong, diverse workforce of men and women – talented, dedicated and enthusiastic about their role to provide the world with clean, sustainable energy.
Wala A. Algozeeb
Wala Algozeeb is a doctoral student at Rice University in Houston, seeking to broaden her knowledge in chemistry.
Algozeeb began working with Saudi Aramco’s Research & Development Center (R&DC) in 2012, where she took a position as a lab scientist to help solve energy challenges and assess new technologies. In collaboration with the R&DC team of scientists and engineers, she sought ways to customize a catalyst to crack heavy oil – which is basically of no use in the industry – and converting it, she said, “to a lighter petrochemical that is incorporated into our daily life.”
With an interest to further her education, she applied for and won a spot in the company’s Advanced Degree Program. Since starting her research at Rice University, Algozeeb has worked under the guidance of the school’s chemistry department, with a focus on nanotechnology and synthetic organic chemistry. She has carved out her own research niche in this area, seeking to lower industry’s carbon footprint.
Algozeeb is already gaining international recognition for her work as part of a trio of scientists who have recently discovered a new cost-saving process in the production of graphene, a one-dimensional carbon-based composite used in everything from cement to car bumpers, to drugs synthesis.
“We were working to design a different catalyst using a flashing method – and accidentally made graphene,” she admitted. The idea originated with one of Algozeeb’s colleagues, she said, who did most of the setup assembly using high-powered capacitors while collaborating on the chemistry involved.
Algozeeb’s role in the process has been vital, as she is the sole chemist in the trio, providing the expertise for all the composite work and plastics conversion to graphene.
Scientific journal Nature features graphene breakthrough
The team’s findings were published in the scientific journal Nature in January 2020. Although graphene production is neither new nor isolated, Algozeeb’s research stands to change the way industry looks at making graphene available.
She explained that, traditionally, all the methods used for graphene production have been very energy intensive and not economic. The flashing method Algozeeb’s group has devised can potentially convert cheap waste into high-quality graphene at bulk using minimal electric energy.
Algozeeb said the developed technology offers Saudi Aramco opportunities in multiple arenas including petroleum coke upgrade and fuel de-carbonization. It allows for the use of fossil fuels with zero carbon emissions by decomposing the hydrocarbons to hydrogen gas – a clean fuel – and amorphous carbon, that can be converted to graphene with limitless applications.
Algozeeb said the research is very exciting, “with huge potential” to benefit the chemicals sector. “My goal all along has been to do more for Saudi Aramco, to further its position as a technology leader. It is my hope that this new breakthrough will indeed help fulfill that goal.”