25 May, 2022



May 25, 2022, Cairo – Amal Esawi, professor of mechanical engineering at The American University in Cairo (AUC), is the first to specialize in nanotubes as reinforcements in aluminum in Egypt. She investigates new ways to make aluminum strong but still lightweight by enforcing it with carbon nanotubes (CNTs) as well as improving their wear performance. Esawi adds CNTs to bulk materials and coatings using low-cost manufacturing techniques. “CNTs have been described as a wonder novel material of the 21st century,” Esawi noted. "They are seamless tubes of carbon with diameters less than 100 nm that have outstanding mechanical, thermal and electrical properties and thus are considered for potential applications in almost all fields such as biomedical, transportation, sports, environment, microelectronics, energy harvesting, desalination and storage."

Esawi first joined AUC at Yousef Jameel Science and Technology Research Center in 2001, where she developed a huge interest in nanotechnology. Esawi noted that many scientists got into nanotechnology at the time and started researching it, as little was known about it back then.” I found CNTs the closest to my field of mechanical engineering and started working on it,” she added.

Making use of her background as a mechanical engineer, Esawi chose to investigate the use of CNTs in composite materials for structural reinforcement, conductive polymers, water filtration, lubrication and sensors. "The lighter and stronger the material is, the better the applications are," she said. "I believe that improving the current performance of materials by adding nanomaterials such as CNTs while still using low cost or traditional manufacturing techniques will allow scalability and ease of fabrication."

It's not just the current low cost of these materials that make them so appealing but also the fact that less of them could be used. According to Esawi, less of individual nanotubes could be used to reinforce aluminum due to their lightweight and strength, thus, minimizing the waste of materials and increasing sustainability while reducing cost.

CNTs are also used in desalination membranes by adding them to polymers, a research Esawi is working on with Adham Ramadan '91, professor of chemistry, dean of graduate studies and associate provost for research. CNTs also perform extremely well as strain and temperature sensors, an application Esawi is investigating with Mustafa Arafa, professor of mechanical engineering.

Esawi is currently collaborating with colleagues in Canada on the use of CNTs in lubricating oils used in the machining industry, and with colleagues from the United Kingdom on utilizing aluminum-CNT coatings and feedstock powders for wear and corrosion protection and additive manufacturing, respectively.

Being a mechanical engineer has been a long-lived dream for Esawi since she was a little girl. She also wishes to see more young ladies studying science and engineering, pursuing their dreams, and conquering this field of study. “Through science and engineering, women can contribute to making the world a better place,” she emphasized.

Esawi was recently recognized as one of the top 2% most impactful scientists globally, named in the Stanford-Elsevier's Scopus database as one of the most-cited scientists for the years 2020 and 2021.