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Texas A&M at Qatar graduate named co-inventor for patent

Published Aug 02, 2023

Moustafa Raslan ’17, a mechanical engineering graduate from Texas A&M at Qatar, was recently named a co-inventor on a patent for a shape-memory alloy actuated switch that enables the stable switching between two separate electrical circuits.

Raslan  received a Master of Science in interdisciplinary engineering from the Department of Multidisciplinary Engineering at Texas A&M University’s flagship campus in College Station, Texas (USA), in 2019, where he studied microfabrication techniques, electrical engineering and industrial engineering.

He began working on a patent for the SmartPVSkin project when he worked as a research assistant Renewable Energy & Advanced Power Electronics Research Lab (REAPERLab). He was working closely  with Dr. Robert S. Balog, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Dr. Ibrahim Karaman, professor and head of the Department of Materials Science Engineering.

Balog, Karaman and Raslan were awarded U.S. Patent 11, 515, 101 "Shape memory alloy actuated switch." This work was funded through the National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) from the Qatar National Research Fund.

SmartPVSkin is a concept developed by Balog for solar energy harvesting. Photovoltaic (PV) cells, which convert sunlight into electricity, are embedded into a flexible “skin” that can be used to wrap plane wings, car roofs, a helmet or any other object. Unlike the traditional flat solar module, the SmartPVSkin opens new opportunities for solar energy harvesting.

Raslan said, “The concept for the invention is a switch that is actuated by resistive heating of (i.e. passing current through) a smart material (shape memory alloy) which enables the stable switching of two separate electrical circuits. It included metal-on-metal electrical contacts (i.e. reduced losses) as well as allowed the switch to maintain its stable position upon switching without the need for further energy supply (i.e. no holding current) unlike other types of semiconductor-based switches which made this particular switch energy-efficient. This invention is useful in applications where energy efficiency is pivotal and high switching frequency is not of need.”

After finishing his work on the patent and receiving his master's degree in interdisciplinary engineering, Raslan moved back to Qatar. He now works as a prototype engineer at Qatar Development Bank supporting enterprises and startups within the manufacturing sector in new product development and production enhancement. He looks back on his experience in the multidisciplinary engineering department with enthusiasm and gratitude.
Raslan said he believes that the best part of being an Aggie and being in Education City was the sense of community.

“As an Aggie, you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself and you learn along the way that it comes with certain privileges as well as responsibilities,” Raslan said. “Education City is a unique environment where you are surrounded by people from diverse backgrounds and cultures who are just as passionate about learning and making a difference as you are. It is one of the few places where you feel that every resource was put in place and devoted towards one specific goal; nurturing the leaders of tomorrow. I am grateful for the opportunity to belong to the aggie and education city communities - it was an amazing experience that has helped me to become the person I am today.”

His advice to current students is to embrace every opportunity they get.

“Embrace every opportunity that comes your way; academic or otherwise. Those four years are the best time to try out different things so  cross-register to classes in other campuses, sign up for competitions, participate in undergrad research, go on service learning trips, try out for the sports teams, join or create a community of common interests and try to go on an exchange program. Education City provides a unique setting for those opportunities and to interact with individuals from various cultures and disciplines, so make the most of them. Don't hesitate to challenge yourself and think outside the box; innovation often thrives at the intersection of different ideas.”

He added, “Texas A&M at Qatar is home for world-class faculty who played an instrumental role in my professional growth and personal development. I am grateful for their mentorship, the meaningful discussions we had and for their willingness to engage us in their research and professional endeavors. Their support did extend beyond the classroom. To give you an example, the research project that culminated in this invention — I was referred to by my undergrad faculty.  When it was time for me to go back to the industry after my masters, some of my professors connected me with their ex-students who work in places that I was particularly interested in. To this day, I still meet some faculty whether in a professional capacity or on a personal level to share ideas, to get guidance or just to catch up over a cup of coffee.”