Nottingham student’s research on improving solar-powered technology wins Germany’s Green Talent Award

Solar power could be used to solve water scarcity in some of the world’s poorest countries.

A project by Ahmed Zakaria Hafez Mohamed, a researcher and doctoral student in civil engineering at the University of Nottingham, has won the prestigious Green Talent Award by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

This is the first time an Egyptian researcher has claimed the international prize which drew more than 600 applications from over 95 countries.

Ahmed’s research focuses on boosting the water-pumping capability of Stirling engines in order to increase access to water in remote rural areas of his homeland, Egypt. The engine functions as a power source for an innovative solar tracking system, comprising photovoltaic cells and a (solar) dish, which work to maximise the amount of energy that is collected.

The multi-award winning research impressed judges with its practical outcome because at the end of his project, Ahmed will have developed a working, solar-powered Stirling engine that can be put straight into use by a remote community.

Ahmed explained the objectives of his research, ‘Rural and remote communities such as those in Egypt’s deserts do not have access to electricity and they rely on diesel generators to pump or extract water from below ground. I hope that my research can be used to improve access to water and decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.

‘I am so proud to be the first Egyptian researcher to receive the Green Talent Award and this has encouraged me to set the bar even higher for my achievements. I am certain that the knowledge, exposure and new experiences gained from my time in Germany, will enable me to be more effective and develop a greater understanding of how my research can help others,’ he added.

Andrew Dawson, Ahmed’s PhD supervisor said, ‘When I heard that Ahmed had been recognised in this way by the German government, it only confirmed my view that he is absolutely the right kind of innovative thinker to study at Nottingham for a PhD. His understanding of what communities need is certain to bring positive results with tangible, viable solutions that can address some of the most pressing problems facing our world. He has impressed us with his engineering expertise, his motivation and the focus on application that he brings to his current project with us. He is a valuable member of the team and I look forward to seeing him achieve much success.’

Ahmed is now a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Researcher at the Nottingham Transportation Engineering Centre (NTEC), the UK’s foremost university-based research organisation in sustainable highway pavement and rail track engineering and in infrastructure asset management. His current project is part of SMARTI (Sustainable Multi-functional Automated Resilient Transport Infrastructures), one of the EU’s prestigious European Training Networks. Ahmed’s current project focuses on energy harvesting from railway infrastructures.

Ahmed was one of 25 young scientists from 21 countries who were honoured in this year’s Green Talent Awards ceremony which was held in Berlin on 27th October with guest of honour, Matthias Graf von Kielmansegg, Head of Department at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

A jury of experts selected the most outstanding ‘green’ visionaries who were drawn from a wide range of academic research areas with diverse achievements. The awardees participated in a two-week Science Forum where they visited top locations for sustainability research in Germany and have an invitation to return in 2018 for a fully funded research stay at an institution of their choice.