Office of the Science and Technology Adviser
Dr. M. Samy El-Shall
Washington, DC
May 21, 2013

WILLIAM COLGLAZIER: Well, good morning, everyone. Very glad to have you all here for our Jefferson Science lecture. My name is Bill Coglazier, the current science and technology adviser here at the State Department. I’m especially proud of the fact that the Jefferson Science Fellows Program, which my office is the steward for, was actually created by one my predecessors in this job; a perfect program that brings tenured U.S. faculty to come and work in the State Department and USAID. We have this year 12 fellows. Next year we will have 13. They’re also available for several years after their fellowship to be advisers to the offices where they worked at State.

Today I’m going to introduce the introducer, the person who is going to introduce you to the Jefferson fellow. But we’re very glad to have Hady Amr here. He is the deputy assistant administrator at USAID for the Middle East Bureau. This bureau, as you might imagine, is very busy these days covering everything in the Middle East region; the countries associated with the Arab Spring, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco. Also supporting programs in the West Bank and Gaza, including a program that I’m a big fan of that you’ll probably hear a little bit more about called the MERC Program that brings scientists from Israel and Palestinian territories to work together in projects. Amr, his -- prior to taking his role in 2010, he was a director at the Brookings Institution of the DOHA Center, so he brings wide experience related to Middle East activities. He’s -- the office that our speaker serves in is actually in the Middle East Bureau at USAID, so I’m very pleased to have Hady here to introduce our speaker:

HADY AMR: Good morning. It’s still morning, everyone, although it feels like afternoon since we get started pretty early in the Middle East Bureau. Thank you for the kind introduction. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s my pleasure to introduce Professor Samy El-Shall, who is in Washington this year serving as a Jefferson’s Science Fellow in the Middle East Bureau at USAID. And he’s been a real, you know, key contributor to research and partnerships at USAID. Samy I’ve gotten to know over the past year since he’s been here. He’s a professor in chemistry and chemical engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He’s a native of Egypt but an American today and he’s really the perfect person or perfect kind of person to be undertaking this kind of work on Middle East regional cooperation between Israeli and Arab scientists. And he received his M.S. and B.S. degrees in -- from Cairo University and a Ph.D. from Georgetown down the street, so he’s no stranger to Washington, and completed his post-doc at UCLA. His research is focused on the development of nanomaterials for energy and environmental applications and he’s published over 200 peer reference papers and book chapters and holds eight patents in nanomaterials. So -- I hold no patents in nanomaterials, so I’m looking forward to learning from him.

He’s achieved several major awards, including Outstanding Faculty Award of Virginia, the state’s highest faculty honor; the Distinguished Research Award from the American Chemical Society; and the Innovative Research Award from the Society of Automotive Engineering. As a Jefferson Science Fellow, he serves as a senior science adviser for our Middle East Regional Cooperation Program, which David has been underway since 1980 basically, more or less, bringing together Arab and Israeli scientists in cooperation on a range of really fascinating projects. And it’s fitting that we’re doing it here because we do this project in close cooperation with the State Department. And Samy has really provided not only his scientific expertise, but really entrepreneurial vision and passion for science in the Middle East, science in the Arab world, and partnership between Arab and Israeli scientists, and as we were just discussing earlier, has some ideas for how we can even build on and strengthen our program. And basically in doing that, he’s working on a new initiative for young investigators to catalyze the next generation of Arab and Israel research. Please come on in and have a seat. And so, we’re really, really pleased to honor him today and to have him here today and to hear from him today, and he’s been a great addition to the MERC team in the Middle East Bureau. So, Samy, thank you for your service to the United States.

SAMY EL-SHALL: Thank you very much, Hady. This is very nice introduction and I’m very glad to be here. I will talk today about nanomaterials, applications of nanomaterials in energy specifically. But as Hady mentioned, I find it very difficult, I try very hard to get away from the Middle East, but I’m always failing to do so. So I will link my work on nanomaterials for energy with my current work at MERC Office dealing with Arab/Israeli cooperation. So, first of all, I’d like to make sure that my views presented here is my own views and do not represent any of the U.S. Government.

Now as an outline of the talk, I will first go about the energy challenge and how big is the energy challenge that the world is facing today, and then I will briefly mention nanoscience and nanotechnology, background on that. And then I will specifically talk about nanomaterials for energy applications, and from there I will focus on catalysts for energy conversion. And finally I will talk about the MERC Program and the new opportunities for this program.

So, of course, we all know -- much of the information you’ll hear today you probably know already, but the energy challenge is called the Terawatt Challenge. You can find that in 2008, for instance, 15 terawatt of energy was used but most of urgent problems, 80 or 90 percent of this energy were derived from fossil fuels. So, of course, this leads to global warming and carbon dioxide emissions. These are very serious problems. It’s not just as you see from the picture the number of cars that’s driven by how many people are driving today, but also by bad emissions from very few cars that even can cause damage more than much from other cars, from big cars. So it’s all about, really, scale. I’m going to talk or mention two kinds of scales in my talk. One is the terawatt, which is 1012, and the other is nano, which is small, 10-9. So there is a very big difference between the two. To get an information or a feeling for the terawatt, the federal budget is 3.8 tera-dollars; and debt, the federal debt is actually about 15 tera-dollars, which shows something unusual about this 15 tera number, whatever it is, in dollars or in watts. And on the other hand, the nano is a small number. It’s not very small. It’s 10-9. It’s a Lenza scale of a meter, which means if you have 10 hydrogen atoms together lined up, this would be one nanometer. So we are talking about two different scales here.

Energy. To come up with this deficit of energy that you’re going to need, carbon-free energy, we have to have some different strategy that does not rely on the conventional sources of energy. So, we have some options. You can start by thinking about nuclear energy, fission -- for example, nuclear fission, but to get that much energy that we need, we need to build 20,000 one-gigawatt nuclear power plants, which means for the next 40 years, we have to build one -- at least one plant every day. Currently there is about 700 or maybe 800 globally of these nuclear fission plants. Nuclear fusion, of course, is another option, but this is unproven technology. And it may take maybe 30 years or so until we see if this is going to work or not. We can work with fossil fuels and deal with the CO2, but, again, this is not a very good proposal because the options we have for sequestration are not also proven technology. So we end up that we have only renewable energy as a source. Of course, politically, a typical answer for a question like that is that this can be a politically sensitive and controversial issue.

Now, how -- what are the sources of renewable energy that’s available to us for us? So, of course, you can see the solar energy is on top. You have about 105 terawatt of energy that hits the surface of the Earth. Of course, this is not usable energy; the real usable energy and that is about 600 to 1,000 terawatts. Remember, we need 20 terawatt. You can get from biomass five to seven terawatts. You can get from wind two to four terawatt; from tide and ocean currents, two terawatts; hydroelectric, five -- about five terawatts; geothermal, 12 terawatts. So there is nothing really that competes with the solar energy in terms of what you can get as an energy source that’s usable. Again, everything is motivated by sometimes political views, so the answer typically for which renewable energy should we have typically is all of the above. But, of course, this is not the right answer because it doesn’t mean that we can do all of this at once. So solar is the answer, or at least this is my view, and -- for the Terawatt Challenge, because we can have 600 to 1,000 terawatts available; it’s renewable, it’s sustainable. And I would like to borrow the quote from Bill Clinton that it passes our semantic test and far more important, it passes the values test. Of course, he didn’t use that quote for talking about solar energy. He was talking about something else, but still very important, I think, to use it.

So, the question now -- we have an energy challenge. Everybody realizes that. Can nanoscience and nanotechnology help or can they provide special assistance in that direction? And so, I want to give you a background on that and this is the materials that can be designed as a nanoscale. So what’s nanotechnology? This is, again, a very crude and simple definition, but it is really working with materials on the nanoscale, typically one to 100 nanometers Lenza scale and more important than the Lenza scale is to create, manipulate, and materials, devices, and systems with new properties. New properties is very important, so we don’t want the same typical properties, otherwise this will not be nanotechnology. And we need new functions and new properties so this can be nanotechnology. Of course, an interest in nanotechnology started mostly through Richard Feynman, who was a Nobel laureate at Cal Tech and I’m sure Bill Coglazier knew him. I think he was a student of Richard Feynman. And he gave a very famous talk in ’59, and it says basically that there is plenty of room at the bottom and he mentions exactly his application of nanotechnology as we see it today, that if you can manipulate materials at that small Lenza scale to do new functions, we’ll be able to do more research activities and accomplish many solutions to real problems.

So, in terms of the nanoscale -- again, this is a quick overview. When we’re talking about nano, as I said, most of the nanotechnology happens between one and a 100 nanometers, and you can see how the scale changes from tissues or organs which at centimeter to plant tissues, to animal tissues, micron, bacterial, viruses. And once you get to that range, which is less than 100 nanometers, interesting things happen. I want to make sure that what we’re dealing with here is really a phenomena that’s scientifically based. It’s not magic. There is nothing magic about here. So, for instance, if you have a silicon particle, a conventional silicon particle, when this particle or this crystal becomes a nanocrystal, the properties change. The element did not change. It’s still silicon. The composition did not change. Only the particle size changed. And as a result, starts to behave differently or to show different properties that conventional or normal particles will not show. This, again, has to do with the Lenza scale. So, we’re talking about quantum size effect. The Lenza scale means that it’s all the electrons motion. So, the electron in a large silicon crystal, for example, experience a normal Lenza scale that moves in it. If you shrink that crystal to a nanometer scale, the electron field is very strange because now it’s a different environment. It’s not the typical silicon so it starts behaving in a very different way. Energy changes and then you can start seeing properties that you should not see in the large crystal. So, this is the size range that we focus in where we can see properties that depend on size. You change the size, you change the properties. You are not changing the composition of the matter, you’re only changing the particle size, which as a result you can accomplish a lot of interesting properties. Not all the interesting properties can be interesting, but some they are, and this is the ones that we try to focus on.

So, of course, I’m sure you -- some of you know about the National Nanotechnology Initiative and this was launched in 2000, with President Bill Clinton, and at that time was only eight agencies. Right now there are 27 agencies international NIA, and basically 15 of them they have R&D programs, which means they can support themselves, they have funding to do that and most of their research in the United States in the nanotechnology and nanomaterials is done through the funding from these 15 agencies. There’s a new budget for 2015. It actually calls for about $1.8 billion in nanotechnologies. There are about five big players here, which is DOE, NSF, NIH, DOD, and NIST. This is -- and of course there are 10 more, but this is the biggest sources or agencies that deal with funding for nanotechnology.

So, as far as energy applications, I’m going to mention a couple of examples, one of them from my lab, which has to do with catalysis; and the other one is more general, which has to do on solar energy, how to use solar photons or light to convert to electricity, for example, or to convert to chemical use or to convert to fuels even. So I want to focus more on one specific kind of materials, which we call all-carbon materials. And all-carbon materials are interesting because they have properties that can vary a lot. We all know about diamonds and we also know about graphite. And graphite is many layers of carbon. Diamond is crystalline carbon. Both of them just have carbon, nothing else, nothing more. But the properties are very different. But in the graphite group, you see this graphite has many, many layers. One layer of graphite is called graphene, and I will talk specifically about that. And if you dig this layer, which is a sheet, this is the thinnest material can ever exist because the thickness of that sheet is one atom and that’s it. Because it’s one layer, it has only carbon hexagons and if you can roll it up, you basically form carbon nanotubes and another class of carbon material. And if you can curve it, you can form a bucky ball or C-60, which you can see here as a sphere.

Now, carbon materials are very fortunate with Nobel prizes. So the first one was awarded in ’96 to Curl, Smalley and Kroto, basically for the discovery of fluorine. Fluorine is that sphere of carbon, 60 carbon atoms. Now there are a lot of applications in fluorines and lubricants and actually solar cells applications in reinforcing materials and this was a great discovery in that area.

In 2010, the Nobel Prize in physics was given to Andre Geim and Novoselov from the University of Manchester for the discovery of graphene. Graphene is that single layer -- and, of course, Novoselov was a post-doc in Geim lab and you can see here scotch tape because the real ways that they isolated one layer from graphite is to use scotch tape technology. And this is what’s amazing. Of course, when he tells the story, they say that in their labs every Friday they dedicated to experiments that will never work. And they kept doing this experiment many times, and every time you put a scotch tape on a piece of graphite, of course you peel hundreds, thousands of layers, but then if you do it again on the same piece of scotch tape, you can start decreasing the number. At some point you’ll see nothing on the scotch tape. You go to the electro microscopes, that’s what they did, you find that you have a single layer, one layer. They measured conductivity. Of course it’s not just because they isolated one layer that they got the Nobel Prize. But they measured conductivity in the microscope and this was the highest ever conductivity material ever reported in the universe. So this became -- opened a new field of research and now graphene research is basically one of the most crowded area of research and one of the most fascinating areas of research.

What are the properties of that single layer? Again, this single layer is all carbon. You have a hexagon structure, no other atoms, and is very thin. It’s the thinnest material ever. Number one is conductivity. The electron goes through this material is the fastest material that an electron can go through in the universe, more than any metals, more than any semiconductor. So this is a very important property. Second, it’s a very strong and rigid material, although it’s very thin, and then it has thermal -- high thermal conductivity. It has a very high surface area; for instance, if you take one gram you can cover easily a 1,500 square meter room or even -- or maybe a thousand. But -- so that tells you how light the material, of course, and how large a surface it is.

What can we do with graphene, besides, of course, getting a Nobel Prize for it? This is one of the areas that in my lab we focus on application of graphene for energy conversion. And this is a typical electro microscope image of graphene. There are now a lot of methods to make this, so I’m not going to go through this because it’s becoming very easy ways to do it. But one of the important applications I told you -- the critical properties, the critical property is conductivity. If you have a single layer the electron will go through it the fastest that’s ever will do in any other materials. So if you do solar cells, this can be an electrode material. It has another advantage, you know, but this transparent so the light will go through it and at the same time, very high conductivity. So if you use this as electrode material for solar cells, you increase the efficiency a lot. And, of course, since this has happened, a lot of groups show that. We have recorded now breaking actually theoretical estimates of solar cell efficiency. We’re getting solar cell efficiency now that’s close to 50 percent efficiency. And this is, of course, very expensive products because it’s a multi-junction connections and it uses graphene, which is still kind of expensive technology, but the breakthrough in the record achievement of this material. So this is one of the very promising to use it as electrode for electron transfer, which you need when you convert light to electricity because you need that electron to move very fast and it will never find any other material to move that fast as graphene.

The other area which is more focus of my research group is on catalysis. And catalysis, if you are not a chemist, it’s a very easy concept. A catalyst basically makes things happen. Catalysis is responsible for a lot of the products that we use every day, including medicine, including of course, fuels. And of course you can just go to your catalytic converter and if you go through the catalytic converter, you’ll find that you have very tiny particles of platinum or rhodium. These are nanoparticles and this is a particle. This is the whole thing, the whole cost of the catalytic converter in these particles because this is the action. What do they do? They take the harmful gases, COs, they convert it to CO2, they take the nitrogen and Os and they convert it to nitrogen. So, this is very valuable, of course, concept. So a catalysis can be a real great area for energy conversion. Catalysis also is an area which a lot of Nobel Prizes have been given. One of the very famous ones is making ammonia, and making ammonia in 1918, was given to Haber method. And ammonia basically you mix -- chemistry tells you to make ammonia you need just to mix two gases; one is hydrogen, the other is nitrogen and then that’s it, you make ammonia. If you do that, you can wait forever and no ammonia will ever be produced because you need a catalyst. So -- and the catalyst need to work at normal conditions, temperatures that can be achievable. So, Haber did that and now we make ammonia simply by mixing hydrogen and nitrogen but using this critical catalyst to make the things happen.

Another type of process, which is the focus now of my research is called Fischer-Tropsch. Fischer-Tropsch you also mix two gases, but you don’t make ammonia, you make hydrocarbons; you make liquid fuels, you make diesel. And basically if you take carbon monoxides, CO and hydrogen, you produce diesel. Fischer-Tropsch process is very actually documented now and it started in Germany before World War II. It was invented and patented in 1936, and during World War II, Germany actually used this process because Germany, of course, they don’t have oil, they have coal. So they take carbon monoxide from coal and hydrogen and through the Fischer-Tropsch process, they can produce diesel and they can produce liquid hydrocarbon. Actually it is estimated that during the war, 25 percent of the automobile fuel in Germany was used from this process. So it’s very old technology, but why is it coming back? Because now we have new materials that can bring this. Imagine, again, you’re making fuels, liquid fuels, not from petroleum, from just gases, CO, and there are many sources to do this now. If you have coal you can do that, if you have natural gas you can do that, if you have biomass you can do that. So this is a very nice combination. The whole critical -- all of this is possible. What is the critical point? Where should we invest the time and the research and the money? It’s really on the catalyst, because if you don’t have the right catalyst, to me, because this happens, it will happen under very high temperatures, very high pressures, so the cost would be very high so nobody will use this. And it’s very interesting. If you follow the oil prices and the research in Fischer-Tropsch area, you can plot when the oil prices goes very high, the research in Fischer-Tropsch goes very high because this is what you’re competing with. Actually it’s a method now if still this process is not very economical, but it will become very, very economical if the oil prices start to get even higher than $100 a barrel. However, as there are still important to do research in this area and to find what’s the best materials to make this happen.

In my lab, we’re focusing on graphene. And graphene here is not a catalyst. We -- of course, we’re using the typically iron, potassium catalyst for this process, but was using graphene as a support. It’s just where the catalyst sits. It’s like a carpet. So, we have graphene as a carpet or support and the catalyst you see here, this is the metal particles, and here’s another electromicroscope image showing the metal particles sitting on the graphene. It actually acts as a very good support because the support has to – a very major role here and the graphene satisfies this important role. This is our reactor at VCU. It’s a micro-reactor. To give you a feeling or a comparison of real life, this is a real reactor and this is the SASOL reactor. It used to be the largest Fischer-Tropsch facilities in the world, in South Africa. And now the largest is being constructed. I think it’s probably finished or is in the process in Qatar. So this is another area where we think that nanocatalysis or nanomaterials can make a very big impact. We have actually our first results on this and we already have two patent applications on this process. The critical thing with this process is you produce a mixture of hydrocarbons, all hydrocarbons. Then you have to go through separation to get a fraction that you want for these for diesel for instance. So -- but we find catalysts that actually can produce a group of hydrocarbons. For example, here you see a globe of carbon-11 or 12, 18 maximum, and this is in a diesel kind of fraction and no small hydrocarbons. So if you can tune the process to that, you are in real business because you’re basically minimizing a lot of cost of separation and so on, and this can become economically viable process. So this is where our work goes and we hope to continue this work in my lab.

So I want to conclude that part of -- the energy part and switch gear now to the Middle East and talking about the MERC Program. So I hope first to give you a very short background on the program. So, as Hady mentioned, the program started after Camp David agreements in 1979. This is Arab-Israeli cooperation. It starts only with Egypt and Israel and it continued on like that with the United States, of course. The United States was the catalyst, the same catalyst I talked about, see, because a good catalyst will have to bring two people together not just to sit together, to do something useful because normally the people will do the things that’s useful if you bring them or not, but they may not do it. But if you bring them together, so that’s the catalyst.

But now the program actually includes many other countries, so, Jordan, West Bank of Gaza, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Morocco, in addition, of course, all the projects we have to include Israel because this is an Arab-Israeli program. The program receives typically every year about 100 applications and in any given year there is about 30, 40 ongoing projects. The projects can be between two countries or between three or four. You will see examples of that. The areas of research that covers mostly, we have a lot of research in agriculture, water, and health, environment, and some in animal science and geology. Typical grants can go up to $1 million and can last up to five years, but most of the grants are $500,000, which for three years only. Now, if you can see the distribution of grants here, you have Israel, of course, in all the projects, so -- and then you have Jordan next with 25 projects. West Bank Gaza, 17 projects. Egypt -- and of course this varies distribution depending on a lot of factors, so sometimes Egypt can be high in projects or low, depending on many other factors.

So I want to give you a few success stories from this program because actually when I came to interview for Jefferson Science fellow and I was asked why do I want to do that? So I said that I want to come here, work on Middle East, work on Arab-Israeli cooperation, get a Nobel Prize, and then retire. [laughter]

And, of course, I did the first two and then I’m still working on that second two process. So, this actually -- I was fascinated by how successful is this program. And I’ll show you a few examples of success stories. One of the projects deals with water. As we know, water is a very critical there. And it has to do with reverse osmosis using arterial filtration and -- to treat secondly treatment used water. This project involved Israel, Palestinian Authority, and Jordan. This project actually development two scale -- village scale, small scale facilities, one in Israel and one in the West Bank, identical for water treatments. This was all built on MERC funding. As I mentioned, water in -- the Middle East is the most scarce water region in the world. You can see here from the map. So any research on reuse of water, of course, is very critical to the region.

This project, again, it produces water that’s actually potable but most of the water is used for agriculture use. And ongoing work now is to optimize the process and to have larger scale facilities that can cover higher throughout and also effective cost. Another project is also waste water treatment for agriculture application but is focusing on one specific issue, which is the fouling that the membrane can suffer from and that can become very costly and you need to improve that. So, this group is focusing on that fouling mechanism and this includes Israel, Palestinian Authority. This is an example of publications they put and you can see interesting something here that the authors, one from Israel, which is the PI Harrisburg, and another is Arab-Israeli from Israel also, and the other one, other group, is Palestinian from West Bank. So when you see combination of this kind of groups in one research publication, and the important thing is, this is not done because they feel like they have to do this because the Arabs and the Israeli. This is done because this is important research and good research. So that’s why that’s published. So this becomes actually very impressive to see something like that. As a matter of fact, this is a picture in Nablus, West Bank, and this is the PI -- Israeli PI visiting the research institute they are cooperating with, which is the Palestinian and the West Bank.

Third project is a tomato project and this one includes a lot of countries, includes Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, West Bank, and Tunisia. And the issue here is to find a better treatment for tomato yellow virus and also to find a better treatment for salinity and drought and heat. Tomato is very important in the Middle East. If you live in the Middle East, there is no single day that passes without having a tomato, unless it’s a bad day. So it’s very important to have tomatoes there and to have tomatoes that can grow and resist this virus. And this project is working towards that goal.

Project number four has to do with beekeeping and this project between Jordan, Israel, and U.S. And the issues here are dealing with different kinds of bees and their health, diet, genetic, which of course affects the production of honey and beekeeping business. And what’s important about that project here is actually it’s -- about 1,800 beekeepers through an extension agency from 10 different countries were trained in these projects. So, this is very, again, impressive number. A lot of also business opportunities for women; a lot of Iraqi widows benefitted from this project and from the business that came through this project.

So I visited several of these projects and I’m showing you here this one was an agricultural research center in Egypt that’s involved with the tomato and strawberry, and other projects. This one is in the Hebrew University in Israel that’s also involved with agriculture. Aqaba University in Jordan and this is Ben Gurion University close to Bershva. So, that -- what are the new research opportunities for this program? We’re getting actually a new project which is supposed to hopefully start soon. And this is using now a kind of new work that’s not used to MERC projects, so this is a solar power desalination facility of brackish water and using also a nanofiltration technology. And this work will be done in Jordan, West Bank, and Israel.

Many other new ideas and new projects we feel that will be submitted to this program, some of them dealing with photovoltaics, nanostructures, solar cells, and solar fuels. So, this is an image that maybe at one day will become a reality. But, of course, you need a lot of space for these facilities.

So I want to now mention something that Hady mentioned about a new initiative because what we do for the future -- so following the visits I have done to all this MERC projects and to many countries in the region, I realized that actually it’s very important to build now an initiative for new generation, for young scientists because you can see from what’s happening in the Middle East, that young people are now demanding economic and political environment very different from the past. And also you can see that young Arab scientists are really at the lead of the changes and this will be the future leaders in technology and science in the region. So the point is we should focus on this group, on the group of young Arab scientists and the young Israeli scientists, get them together, learn how to work together on good science and then build labs in the Arab areas or in the Palestinian areas that can sustain this kind of research and sustained cooperation for many generations to come. So we’re hopefully working on initiatives like this to make this happen.

Now, I want to summarize by just giving you three points. I hope you will take back lessons about MERC Program. Number one that MERC could result in joint meetings and workshops between Arab and Israeli researchers. You see many of these meetings here.

Message number two, that MERC results in joint research publication. And this is very important because without good science at the bottom of the line -- if you don’t have good science and good research, actually all the others, although are good objectives, cooperation itself without basis for the cooperation is not a very good idea. So, this program I believe satisfies that. You can see a lot of publications and, as I said, involve for example here, Egypt, Israel. Here you have Egypt, Jordan, and Israel on one project and one important project that solves problems, not just cooperation.

So, the third lesson is that MERC actually results in real development. You can see the picture I chose here, this if before and this is after. So, I think there is a bit difference. And, of course. We want to be on the second one.

So, I would like to acknowledge now my research group at VCU. They are working very hard. They’re telling me that they do much better work when I’m in Washington --[laughter]-- and I don’t know if I believe them, but they assure me of that. So I thank them for their work. And of course I’d like to thank MERC and the USAID starting with David O’Brien who is sitting here, he’s the director of MERC; Hady Amr who is deputy assistant administrator; and Alina Romanowski which couldn’t come today. She’s acting assistant administrator. And Mara Rudman, she was a former assistant administrator. And, of course, I’d like to thank Bill Coglazier for the great opportunity of the Jefferson fellowship. And thank you all for your attention.

WILLIAM COLGLAZIER: We can take questions. And if you would go to one of the microphones in the back to ask your question --

QUESTION: Hello. I’m Jennie. And I have a really quick question. I’ve heard the term solar waste and I’m not sure if you can elaborate more on what solar waste is, and if it can undermine the advantages of solar power that you’re promoting?

SAMY EL-SHALL: Well, with solar power there are -- the major objectives is to use light, solar to electricity, that’s photovoltaics, or for chemical conversion. For example, you can take CO2, hydrogen and water and make methane, methanol and alcohol as fuels. And there is a project like that funded by DOE centers. So -- or solar -- thermal solar. In terms of solar waste, I’m not exactly familiar with the concept here of the solar -- is it a waste of the energy or a waste of the materials?

QUESTION: [inaudible]

SAMY EL-SHALL: Oh, okay. Right. Right. This is completely different, yes. Okay, from the solar panels, of course, that’s why a new technology needs to be adopted and used. There are many problems, of course, that could result from this, especially with nanostructured materials, as I showed you, very high efficiency, more than now 50 percent, 60 percent, even 70 percent. A lot of the nanoparticles, it is true if you allow, you know, them to interact with bodies and water, it can be harmful. But there is also a lot of research on this area, so this is not a concept that will terminate this kind of work because -- but definitely you have to be very careful to use nanomaterials and nanoparticles because of the size of the particles that they can -- so these issues, they have to be considered, but it’s not the bottom line that will terminate this kind of work, at all. This is -- can easily -- and everybody who works on semiconductor nanomaterials, actually even without solar panels, the semiconductor industry, you know, computers, electronics, has the same issues. So it’s an issue of chemical waste or -- it’s going to be there, whether it’s solar or not. So -- but there are ways to deal with that.

ALAN HURD: Thank you very much for a clear and inspirational message. I’m Alan Hurd from the Science Advisers’ Office. I’m wondering how -- if you have any thoughts on measuring the diplomatic value of a program like MERC. One I was thinking of, you made a strong message about the recruitment of young scientists into the program. Would they participate if it weren’t explicitly a joint program, Arab-Israeli?

SAMY EL-SHALL: Okay, to be clear, there are a lot of political issues that must be considered. Definitely a political climate can influence the choices of young people, but the point is if it was not cooperation for research because it’s easier and more achievable to get people together in one specific area of research because the last thing they ask about is political views. So -- and this is typically done. I mean, it’s not unusual, whatever you’re cooperating in project with that involves Arab-Israeli or not, to actually work with Arab-Israelis and in meetings and publications. So for scientists, this is the easy part. So the question is how to generalize this, or how to make this transferable to other areas that does not involve research. And I think there are lessons that can be learned and you have -- my view, my personal view is you have to get people the benefit of doing what they will do rather than just cooperation. If there is achievable results, scientifically, if it’s the projects that produce -- solve a problem, if it’s a development that will benefit people, people would be motivated to join. If the idea is we’re going to just get together and talk about peace, I think you’ll find that they have other things to do. So -- but, what I’m saying is not a bad image that it’s better to engage people through activities that can benefit both and through real activities, whether it’s research or not research.

ALAN HURD: Just a quick follow-up, then. Do you have an example where someone in government in the Middle East has paid attention to the scientific results or the promise of them?

SAMY EL-SHALL: We’re trying actually to focus on this now, the second stage of research results and the applications of that, especially in the Palestinian areas and the West Bank. For example in water, if we’ll get the government to adopt the new methodology or the new standards for water treatment, that can be very achievable. So we’re trying to involve government and to get the authority to adopt and there are some workshops that actually specifically deal with this. How to bring research results to applications involving people who have decisions like a government organization, and also society. So this is not an easy problem, but this is one of the things that we’re trying to do and it’s a problem.

Thank you.