Egyptian Researchers Face Effects of Climate Change

Climate change and its massive consequences are at the forefront of global attention as being the next pandemic that humanity must unite to confront. In light of the vital role of scientific research in this regard, the Newton-Mosharafa Fund aims to address climate change as one of its priorities to support scientific research and innovation in Egypt.

The £50 million Newton-Mosharafa Fund seeks to support scientific research in Egypt by establishing partnerships between Egyptian and UK research institutions. The fund provides the opportunity to build capacities and skills, enhance research collaboration between the two countries, and transfer innovation, knowledge, and expertise.

Here are inspiring stories of Egyptian male and female researchers seeking to address climate change impacts on several fronts, either through developing an integrated smart greenhouse, designing buildings with lower energy consumption, and producing sustainable biofuels to reduce carbon emissions.

A smart greenhouse that addresses climate change impacts

Climate change poses a serious threat to food security in Egypt, with its consequences negatively affecting agriculture in particular. In light of the increasing global warming and the exacerbating water resources scarcity, a team of Egyptian and British scientists are searching for a solution to address climate change impacts on agriculture. Innovating an integrated smart greenhouse is the solution that Abdelazim Negm, Professor at Zagazig University in Egypt, working on through a joint research project with the University of Exeter, UK.

The project aims to develop an integrated greenhouse system that depends on solar energy to produce many agricultural crops, and at the same time, it provides irrigation water for those crops through an integrated desalination system. Moreover, it can self-generate the energy needed for its operation. Thus, such innovative greenhouses can address the food, water and energy challenges simultaneously.

Negm explains, "The developed novel integrated system of the project fights climate change in several ways. It produces freshwater from salt or brackish water, produces a variety of agricultural products such as vegetable, grains, halophytes and animal feed, in addition to its dependence on solar energy."

He also adds that the research team has recently filed a patent application for their innovative greenhouse as an integrated food production system that fights climate change impacts on energy, water, and agriculture. Thus, this smart greenhouse can contribute to achieving food security, which will in turn have a significant impact on economic and social development in Egypt.

Furthermore, the research project funded by the Newton-Mosharafa Fund has provided Egyptian researchers many opportunities for scientific publishing at international level. The team members were able to publish 7 research papers in high-impact factor scientific journals and published 9 contributions at international scientific conferences. Added to that, the team also contributed to 6 scientific books with about 18 chapters on various aspects of the research project.

Designing buildings with lower energy consumption

The building sector is responsible for about 36% of energy consumption globally, which significantly contributes to the carbon dioxide emissions that exacerbate climate change. Therefore, scientists are seeking to find unconventional solutions to develop buildings that can address climate change. Buildings with lower energy consumption is what Sahar Abotaleb, Researcher and Lecturer at Al-Azhar University in Egypt, working on through a joint research project with the University of Nottingham, UK.

This research project aims to digitally design building facades to reduce the energy consumption in hot climate regions such as Egypt. The Egyptian researcher was able to integrate parametric design software, energy simulation tools, and optimization algorithms together, to develop a method for digital design of building facades. Thus, it is possible to digitally design the facades of buildings that consume less energy, as they depend mainly on utilizing daylight as well as solar energy.

As Abotaleb explains, “This research project aims to address climate change by enhancing the indoor environment in buildings through improving thermal performance through the building design, as well as designing buildings to rely on renewable energy resources of solar energy and daylight to reduce their energy consumption." 

Abotaleb’s efforts did not end there, as she contributed to developing new educational curricula for students of the Department of Architecture at Al-Azhar University in Egypt on environmental building design and building performance simulation, based on the methods and means used in her research project funded by the Newton-Mosharafa Fund. This helps future architects understand the climate change challenges from a building design point of view, hoping that they can build better climate-resilient buildings.

Sustainable biofuels to reduce carbon emissions

Reducing dependence on fossil fuels to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is one of the main measures to mitigate climate change. Many researchers and scientists rely on biofuels as a sustainable and renewable alternative to fossil fuels. Producing biofuels from used cooking oil is what Mamdouh Gadalla, Professor at the British University in Egypt, seeks to achieve through a research partnership with London South Bank University, UK.

This research project aims to find a sustainable method to produce biodiesel from renewable sources such as waste cooking oil. However, waste cooking oils in Egypt are of low quality because they are reused in cooking many times, which causes them to become more acidic and water-containing. This makes the production of biodiesel from these used oils using conventional methods very difficult.

However, the Egyptian-British research team was able to develop a sustainable solution to convert these waste cooking oils into high-quality biodiesel. By performing the conversion process under certain conditions, the rate of chemical reactions increases even in the event of high acidity or the presence of water, which led to an effective method in producing biofuels by recycling waste cooking oils and then relying on them as an alternative to fossil fuels in addressing climate change.

Gadalla explains, “According to United Nations estimates, Egypt produces about 500,000 tons of waste cooking oil from food industries, restaurants, and hotels per year. Applying this new method to waste cooking oil in Egypt can contribute to the production of 1.2 million tons of biodiesel. This is equivalent to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 0.56 million tons annually.”

It doesn't just stop there, the Newton-Mosharafa-funded project has other effects. By integrating the outputs of scientific research, government efforts, and society, low-income families can collect used cooking oils for biodiesel production and sell them to manufacturers, to become an additional source of income. Thus, this research project contributes to the economic and social development in Egypt in addition to its environmental impacts to mitigate climate change.

Protecting wind turbines with state-of-the-art acoustic technologies

To combat climate change, the entire world is moving towards a shift to clean green energy, mainly through wind power generation. Through a research partnership with Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, Ahmed Hisham, an assistant professor at Ain Shams University, is seeking to keep the blades of wind turbines used to produce electricity intact.

This research project funded by the Newton-Mosharafa Fund aims to develop a mechanism that contributes to the detection and diagnosis of damage to the blades of electric wind turbines. This is done by using acoustic emissions and sensors that convert the wave energy, resulting from the presence of damage to the damaged body, into electrical signals. Computers process these signals to accurately describe the damage and determine its location and then it can be easily repaired.

In addition, the objectives of the project include the development of low-cost technology for the production of wind turbine blades. “My research project supports the achievement of three SDGs: addressing the challenges of climate change, producing clean energy at affordable prices, and supporting the development of industry and infrastructure.”

The support Hisham received from the Newton-Mosharafa Fund went beyond mere funding. “In general, the grant contributes to solving the problems of the Egyptian economy by giving scientists the opportunity to study in the UK, and then return to Egypt to share their experiences and implement their research projects on the ground,” Hisham explained.

Hisham's research project also led to the publication of three scientific papers in prestigious scientific journals, one of which is ranked 11th in the world in the field of mechanical engineering. In addition, through his research project, Hisham was able to reach the final stage of the Peter Watson Award for Excellence in Mechanical Engineering, becoming the first Egyptian to reach that advanced stage of the competition.

In addition, Hisham co-founded a project supporting academic relations between the Egyptian University of Ain Shams and the British University of Cardiff. The project allows sharing of the experiences of Cardiff University researchers in the field of acoustic emissions with the researchers of the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University, specifically with regard to ways of confronting climate change.

Preserving vernacular architecture to promote sustainable development

The construction sector contributes significantly to the carbon dioxide emissions that are the primary cause of aggravating the climate change crisis. In addition, some modern buildings and structures cause environmental damage as well as depletion of local resources. The preservation of vernacular architecture in Egypt - also known as local architecture - in order to promote sustainable development is the main goal of a research project conducted by Ibrahim El Hadidi, a researcher at Cairo University in Egypt, in cooperation with the UK University of Bath.

Vernacular architecture is an architectural style that reflects the environmental and cultural conditions and historical context of buildings. Therefore, through his project, El-Hadidi was interested in studying the vernacular architecture in Egypt, as well as ways to preserve it from disappearance. Vernacular architecture studies are particularly significant for being directly linked to the achievement of the SDGs. This architectural style contributes to the protection of the environment by avoiding the depletion of local resources, along with the preservation of cultural heritage and respect for the human dimension of architecture.

“My research project focused on vernacular architecture and heritage preservation in relation to the Egyptian context. The project is about achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are aligned with Egypt Vision 2030. The research focuses on reducing inequality and establishing sustainable cities and communities,” El-Hadidi explained.

El-Hadidi 's research project funded by the Newton-Mosharafa Fund offers a range of tools to help researchers and architects as well as decision-makers and politicians pay attention to the cultural, environmental, and social dimensions as they engage with urban communities. This, in turn, will lead to more sustainable interventions in the future that take into account issues of social justice, cultural heritage preservation, environmental sustainability, and climate change.

In addition to these findings, El-Hadidi explains that the support of the Newton-Mosharafa Fund contributed to the development of both his academic abilities and his personal skills. He was able to publish his first paper and has been seeking to publish two new papers, currently under review. He also built strong relations with a group of distinguished international researchers, who helped him gain more experience in his field.

Unconventional solutions to save water resources

Egypt currently suffers from limited water resources, which is expected to be exacerbated by a number of reasons including climate change. At the same time, the steady increase in population calls for more of these resources to be used in agriculture to meet the population's food needs. Finding solutions to this problem using unconventional water sources is the goal of the research project conducted by Abdelraouf Ramadan, a professor of agricultural engineering at the Egyptian National Research Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Environmental and Water Sciences in the United Kingdom.

The research project funded by the Newton-Mosharafa Fund is exploring ways to exploit marginal water resources as an alternative to total reliance on freshwater sources. In other words, use water from non-traditional sources such as agricultural wastewater, brackish groundwater, domestic wastewater, and water from agro-industries. However, these water sources are of low quality, consequently, they require scientific management.

“Through my research studies, I aim to maximize the consumption of water from non-traditional sources, in line with Egypt Vision 2030, and to achieve the SDGs, especially those related to the development of irrigation projects to protect us from the risks of climate change,” Ramadan explained.

Ramadan’s project aims to exploit the wastewater of fish farms - one of the most important sources of marginal water - specifically in the irrigation of agricultural land. The researcher has been able to reveal the advantages of using fish farm wastewater for irrigation, as it provides useful organic materials that contribute to soil improvement during agriculture. Such water can fertilize agricultural land with fish droppings or with the decomposition of such droppings, thereby promoting the growth of crops.

Through his project, Ramadan was able to publish four research papers on the use of unconventional water resources, one of which included a study of the benefits of using fish farm wastewater in irrigation. The paper received UNHCR's International Irrigation and Drainage Award. Ramadan also believes that the Newton Musharraf Fund contributed to the implementation of his scientific research on the ground. His research project has been included in the plans of the Egyptian National Irrigation and Drainage Authority as part of ongoing efforts to address the effects of climate change.

Energy Hidden in Piles of Waste

Mohamed Gamal Amer is conducting research to find ways of exploiting waste as a source of energy. Amer obtained a Ph.D. scholarship from the University of Manchester School of Science and Engineering and School of Natural Sciences - Department of Chemistry.  

“My Ph.D. project aims to improve current waste management strategies in the UK by utilising waste piles to generate bio-liquid petroleum gas, a relatively clean fuel that is widely used for transportation and domestic purposes," Amer explained.

Amer believes that his research project will have a tangible impact on the energy sector in both the UK and the US, and will therefore have a global outreach soon.

“The grant I received from the Newton Fund is an opportunity that I will forever appreciate. It has paved the way for my doctoral studies as I have successfully implemented Synthetic Biology approaches to introduce developments that allow biofuel generation, such as the production of a bio-liquefied natural gas mixture. Through the grant I received from the Newton-Mosharafa Fund, I sought to create   an impact on the global energy sector, meanwhile, contribute to addressing some of the challenges of climate change,” Amer said.

Amer's research received international recognition, as the Royal Society of Chemistry chose one of his research papers to be presented with a collection of articles on techniques to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These research papers were classified as the best promising research published in RSC journals in the field of climate action. They all focused on achieving SDG 13, which calls for taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

A single device for water desalination and energy production 

Speaking of energy and the ability to reduce emissions, the project of Mona Gamal, Dean of Energy Resources, Environment, Chemical and Petrochemical Engineering at the Japanese University in Egypt, has to be mentioned. Professor Gamal research interests are mainly concerned with the environment as well as many other disciplines. In addition to environmental expertise, the project tried to develop technologies that combine the developments made by researchers at the Japanese University concerning solar water desalination technologies with the progress made by researchers at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom concerning solar absorption cooling systems, instead of traditional patterns of cooling based on water and energy consumption. 

Mona Gamal hopes that the project will open the door to increase knowledge and develop the latest technology for the integration of electricity generation, absorption cooling, and desalination in one unit, by incorporating the best sustainable and efficient technologies.

The researcher believes that this project is a good example of how innovative water and energy technologies can be integrated to improve human life and reduce water and energy demand.

The project relies on three aspects: the generation of electricity and water, and the cooling of surfaces. A prototype was made and tested as a triple-generation pilot unit, which produces 10 kilowatts of electricity, desalinates 1 cubic meter per day of water, and cools the equivalent of 10 kilowatts of cooling load.

Mona Gamal explains that the project also focuses on achieving a number of SDGS, especially the following:

  • SDG 3 "Good health and well-being."
  • SDG 6 "Clean water and sanitation for all."
  • SDG 7 "Ensure access to affordable and clean energy."
  • SDG 11 "Sustainable cities and communities."
  • SDG 13 "Climate action."

"We took into account that the project should be sustainable.  We cooperated with researchers from abroad to develop techniques for the exploitation of solar thermal energy and recover the lost heat and use it in the water desalination process," she said.

Gamal believes that there is hope that the project will expand to other regions of the world suffering from an energy crisis. 

“This integrated approach can be used in other arid areas where water is not good or potable even when using traditional methods. The joint research team from Cranfield University and the Japanese University in Egypt, E-JUST plans to continue the collaboration after the end of this project by applying for additional joint financing, to expand the project and implement it in various places,” Mona explained.