Mohamed El-Naggar has done much since graduating Lehigh with a MechE degree in 2001. In 2010, El-Naggar received a prestigious Department of Defense Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award, from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. And now in 2012, he was named one of Popular Science's "Brilliant 10", the magazine's annual honor roll of the 10 most promising young scientists whose innovations will change the world.
Scientists have known for decades that garden-variety anaerobic bacteria can move electrons to solid rock and that this transfer results in a tiny electrical charge. But exactly how they do so was poorly understood until three years ago, when El-Naggar discovered just how the bacteria grow protein nanowires to shuttle electrons to their surroundings.
Currently, El-Naggar’s lab is trying to harness the microbes’ metabolism to power electrical devices and build new nanostructures. They have already tapped into microbes’ ability to use electrons from both arsenic and sulfur to make primitive arsenic-sulfide semiconductors. A next goal is to use the bacteria’s metabolism to build semiconductors for clean-energy technologies such as solar cells.
It is exciting that El-Naggar’s research to be reported about Popular Science because the scope of the audience is much greater than that of the academic journals that bio-scientists are usually featured in. El-Naggar is currently an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Southern California. In addition to his research interests, El-Naggar is passionate about STEM education and outreach. Catch up with El-Naggar in the Lehigh's Alumni Bulletin.