Dr Umair Shamraiz

Age: 32

My research areas: Multifunctional electro-catalysts for energy storage and conversion

Research period at the TU Darmstadt: August 2022 to July 2024

Programme: Georg Forster Research Fellowship Programme for Postdocs

Dr Umair Shamraiz

My field of research is fascinating. The best way to explain it to non-specialists is…

The research I am doing right now is fascinating and necessity for the humanity. The research is focused on the conversion of CO2 to useful products. As CO2 is a greenhouse gas and any increased amount of CO2 liberated into the atmosphere will directly increase the temperature of the earth and atmosphere around us. The impact of increased temperature is that it will results in the melting of glaciers and as a result floods will arise, and a devastation could be possible. In some parts of the world the duration of summer and winter may change because of the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

What research questions are you currently working on?

I will be working on to convert CO2 into useful products like ethanol and ethylene, which are industrial products used as fuel and start-up reactants for many reactions. Important research question here is how to reduce the overpotential of CO2 reduction. Overpotential is the amount of potential, which is needed to initiate any reaction, hence energy is required for this purpose. My goal will be to prepare catalysts which could possibly reduce the overall overpotential of CO2 reduction. The next question I would like to deal is the separation of different conversion products as a result of CO2 reduction.

My most important success in research to date is…

The most important success I achieved so far is the one I did on fuel cells. I have synthesized cost effective electrocatalysts to produce energy from alcohols commonly known as alkaline fuel cells. To prepare electrocatalysts for fuel cells I have used the most commonly available earth abundant Ca, Sr, and Ba doped with extremely low amounts of Pd. Along with this I have also worked on oxygen evolution reactions, where I designed one pot synthetic method for the synthesis of layered double hydroxides for water splitting.

Will the results of your research have a concrete impact on our everyday lives now or at some later date?

Yes, the proposed research will have a direct impact on the humanity. The conversion of CO2 to useful products is the utmost need of the globe. Right now, it is not the problem of a single country, whole world is facing the consequences of global warming, hence I believe the results of our research will be beneficial to the humanity.

What innovative developments are you expecting in your field of research in the next few years?

CO2 conversion the hot topic of research now a days. Both industry and academia are investing a lot of money and efforts in order to tackle the problem. We will fabricate electrocatalysts which could be easily accessible by the developed and developing countries as well, so we can eliminate the harmful effects of CO2 generated by the anthropogenic sources.

Dr Umair Shamraiz (right) with his host Professor Bastian J.M. Etzold (centre) in the lab.
Dr Umair Shamraiz (right) with his host Professor Bastian J.M. Etzold (centre) in the lab.

I became a researcher because…

From my childhood, I was fascinated by the science and scientific facts. Being a brilliant student at school, my teachers always motivated me to think out of the box. I was fascinated by the natural phenomenon happening around me. However, when I joined college at that time Pakistan was severely struggling with energy and pollution (greenhouse) related problems. This ignited my will to become a researcher to tackle the common problems of my country. Later on, I have chosen chemistry and started working in the field of energy and pollution. With this hope I have applied for the prestigious Alexander Von Humboldt postdoc fellowship, and I was lucky to get the award letter.

I have chosen TU Darmstadt because…

TU Darmstadt is famous for its name not only in energy production from renewables but also in material synthesis, heterogeneous catalysis, and electrocatalysis. Recently, TU has established a link between the sustainable energy and chemical industry which is required for the interaction of electrochemical and classical heterogeneous catalysed processes. TU has an outstanding ranking when we compare it with the other universities around the globe.

More specifically the group of Professor Etzold fascinated me to join TU Darmstadt, because they work on the fields which fascinated me during my childhood to become a researcher. They have broad research experience that is divided into three subcategories i.e., advanced catalytic material synthesis, electrochemical energy conversion process, and heterogeneous catalysis and process. From the perspective of chemical engineering, a multidisciplinary approach is employed to provide scientific solutions for these challenges, especially for the complex interplay of catalytic materials within a full processor device. In the scientific approach, generic experiments play a dominant role. Thus, this provides the ideal background to extend my material chemistry profile in a broad and interdisciplinary way to make optimum use of sustainable energy to hopefully help to fight energy crises and CO2-related pollution relevant to Pakistan

What reputation does German research enjoy in your home country?

Without a shadow of doubt, it is well established fact that Germany is the best country in the world as for as chemistry is concerned. Every Pakistani scientist wishes to spend some time during their research in Germany to polish their knowledge of chemistry. Higher Education Commission of Pakistan initiated an exchange research program under the name of “International Research Initiative Program” (IRSIP) to allow enrolled PhD students to go abroad and get handsome knowledge. I have witnessed that most of the Pakistani students have priority to spend their IRSIP program in Germany. Germans are known for their targeted research which inspire many Pakistani students and scientists to work in Germany.

What lasting impressions will you take back home with you from your time in Darmstadt and Germany?

This project will expand my exposure into multidisciplinary projects between different on-going fields like carbon capture, carbon storage, electrocatalysis, gas diffusion-based reactions, characterizations, and simulation tools that are being used in Etzold’s group enabling me to serve at different departments such as chemical engineering, material science, energy industry instead of only chemistry. My stay will allow acquiring in-depth knowledge of modern electrocatalytic techniques, gas diffusion reactions, and interpretation of electrochemical data. In particular, the quantification of the formation of specific C2+ products and interpretation of transmission electron micrograph, X-ray photo electrographs, and in-situ infrared data will be important.

Questionnaire for the host

Professor Dr Bastian J.M. Etzold
Professor Dr Bastian J.M. Etzold

Guest of: Professor Dr Bastian J.M. Etzold

Department: Department of Chemistry

What did you appreciate most about your guest, or what is it that impressed you most favorably…

I am impressed by the great synthesis skills of Dr Shamraiz and his excellent talent in combining the needed functions in electrocatalytic materials. Thereby, he has the need of the later on technical application of these materials clearly in mind and balances competing material properties accordingly. I appreciate that these synthesis and optimization goes hand in hand with deducing fundamental understanding of the underlying phenomena.

You, your team, and TU Darmstadt benefit from your guest’s…

My team clearly benefits from the synthesis expertise of Dr Shamraiz and the aim of developing CO2 reduction electrocatalysts. These complements excellent with our expertise on modification of the local microenvironment of electrocatalyst, developing electrochemical testing methods for technical relevant conditions and processes for CO2 utilization. Despite the methodological and scientific diversity brought into your labs by Dr Shamraiz, the team benefit from the cultural richness which increases with every international guest. Also his research fits perfectly to the chemistry departments research area ‘Sustainable Catalysis’ and we expect a stimulus not only in our team but for the whole research area.