Abbas El Moussawi looks through an apparatus for laser diagnostics in his lab.

Why I do research: Abbas El Moussawi

Tailoring new materials

  • von Birte Vierjahn
  • 24.08.2023

Often, his lab is darkened; those who conduct research there wear special protective goggles: Abbas El Moussawi is a PhD student in the DFG Research Group 2284 at the NanoEnergieTechnikZentrum (NETZ) and works with lasers, mirrors and cameras. He analyzes what happens inside such reactors, that are used to create materials with new, unusual properties. An interview.

What is it that fascinates you about being involved in the production of all-new materials?
This is a research topic that relates to many pressing problems of our time. For many applications, we need new materials because the current ones are not good enough, too expensive or not sustainable. In simple terms, this means that we consider what properties a material must have for a requirement. And then we try to develop it. For this, you have to be able to perfectly adjust the properties of the desired material. And that's where I come in: I use laser beams, or more precisely: the interactions between light and matter, to analyze the formation process in as much detail as possible. Because if I change the settings on the reactor only slightly – pressure, temperature or concentration, for example – the consequences can be enormous: The quality of the material can change. Or it can even result in a completely different material!

What motivates you to come to the lab every morning?
In third grade, we were given a book about science, and I started looking through it right away, looked at the pictures and was immediately fascinated. That very feeling I had back then resurfaced when I first came to NETZ. Something I particularly enjoy as a scientist: I have a challenge I don't yet know how to master. But I know in which direction I can start. Then I break the problem down into pieces and work my way forward step by step. I really enjoy this time when I can fiddle around – at least from the point when I know I'm on the right track.

You recently attended a conference in the USA. What did you gain from this experience as a doctoral student?
That's right, I was at the "Gordon Research Conference on Laser diagnostics in energy and combustion science". I was eager to participate since the conference was postponed during the pandemic. It felt like a scientific boot camp: I learned real-life networking on the fly. All the pioneering researchers in laser diagnostics and so many opportunities to talk with them! It was networking on scientific topics, but with the human touch. I came back with so much new knowledge, new contacts and friendships.

Recent publication:


Materials science in Duisburg-Essen and Bochum

The declared goal of the University of Duisburg-Essen and Ruhr University Bochum is to quickly and sustainably develop new and urgently needed materials for the energy transition, such as precious metal-free catalysts for hydrogen production. The universities have been working closely together strategically within the University Alliance Ruhr (UA Ruhr) since 2007. Outstanding collaborations include the Research Center Future Energy Materials and Systems led by Ruhr University, which emerged from the flagship programme Materials Chain. Since 2018, specialists from both universities have also been conducting research in the joint Transregio 247 (Heterogeneous Oxidation Catalysis in the Liquid Phase).

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