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Texas A&M at Qatar students present synthetic jet fuel research abroad

Published Apr 09, 2012

Three Texas A&M University at Qatar students, sponsored by Qatar Shell, traveled to the American Chemical Society’s 2012 National Spring Meeting in San Diego, CA, US, from 24 – 29 March to present cutting-edge research on synthetic jet fuels. The research project, supported by Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) and Qatar National Research Fund’s (QNRF) Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP), aims to design new generations of synthetic jet fuels obtained from Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) technology.

The project’s goal is to create synthetic jet fuels that can be utilized in the same way as crude fuels, but burn more cleanly, making them better for the environment and easier to certify in the aviation industry.

To reach this goal, Dr. Nimir Elbashir, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M at Qatar, and his team of researchers and students are conducting a series of studies to understand the role of synthetic fuels' hydrocarbon structure on the fuels' physical and chemical properties, which are essential for jet fuel certification by the aviation industry.

The team is working closely with partners in academia and industry across the world including the University of Sheffield, Qatar Shell, Shell Projects & Technology, Rolls Royce and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Elbashir explains the team’s findings so far, saying, "We have begun to clarify and understand the relationship between synthetic fuels’ composition and their properties and to identify optimum composition of specified hydrocarbon structures that meet aviation industry requirements based on certain properties. We are also working to understand the role of other hydrocarbons that normally do not exist in synthetic jet fuels such as aromatics and heavier hydrocarbons."

Undergraduate students at Texas A&M at Qatar are playing an integral role in the research through funding from QNRF’s UREP initiative.

Maria Christina B. Orillano, a chemical engineering senior at the University and research team participant, says she was motivated to work on the project because of the many opportunities she knew it would provide. "This project has provided opportunities for me to have safety training, research experience and play a role in producing synthetic jet fuels," Orillano explains. "I get to apply chemical engineering and chemistry principles in the lab and obtain results rather than only doing calculations on paper. I am also improving my research skills and learning outside the classroom."

The students are not only participating in research or laboratory testing though. They are also presenting their results at symposia and conferences in Qatar and abroad. The team won first place in the poster competition of the 3rd International Gas Processing Symposium organized by the Qatar University Gas Processing Center from 5 – 7 March.

They presented recently at the American Chemical Society’s 2012 National Spring Meeting in San Diego, CA.

Wael Sawan, executive vice president, Qatar Shell, said, "I am always impressed by the high caliber of research carried out by students at universities in Qatar. Shell’s sponsorship will support Qatari talents taking their research efforts to the next level, which is aligned to the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the emphasis on the development of the country’s human capital. I am proud that we are able to support these talents to grow and prepare for promising professional careers."

Qatar Shell is sponsoring the students on the trip, providing an opportunity for them to learn and grow in their field while connecting with industry professionals and academic experts from around the world. Before their departure, the students presented their project at the Qatar Shell Research and Technology Center located in the Qatar Science and Technology Park. The students received feedback from experienced Shell professionals that helped them put final touches on their work.

Orillano says this conference presentation will be an important step for her in being able to proudly represent Texas A&M at Qatar and create awareness about the research. "The discussion opportunities at the conference will enable us to learn about similar research done by scientists and other engineering students around the world and ask experts’ opinions on how our research can be improved. I am grateful to Qatar Shell for providing this opportunity for us to develop our skills and improve our project."