Prof. Sulaiman Al-Zuhair

Prof. Sulaiman has been working on the development of liquid biofuels since 2004.

He explains, “It all started after completing my PhD, in Biochemical Engineering from the University of Malaya, in 2003. My PhD thesis was on the kinetics of enzymatic hydrolysis of vegetable oils. The enzyme used for oil hydrolysis is the very one used for oil transesterification in biodiesel production. Therefore, it was just a matter of time before I was drawn into the biodiesel research. Working with enzymes has also introduced me to bioethanol (another liquid biofuel) production from lignocellulosic biomass.” 

He began studying the kinetics of enzymatic reaction of straight vegetable oils, and his first publication in this field was back in 2006, just before joining UAEU. Since then, his research has focused on using waste biomass, such as waste cooking oils and animal fats for biodiesel production, and lignocelluloses for bioethanol production. 

In 2010, he started working with microalgae, which have proved to be good source of oils with several favorable features. Above all, these microorganisms are capable of growing in saline water, which reduces the freshwater loading, and their cultivation does not require agricultural land development. Prof. Sulaiman and his team developed an enzymatic pretreatment process for effective oils extraction from wet microalgae biomass, without the need for drying. The team also studied the oil extraction and reaction using supercritical CO2. The team was able to enhance the oils content in microalgae by several folds by media manipulation, and developed a technique for simultaneous extraction-reaction system from wet biomass.

Concurrently with biodiesel production, the team used microalgae for CO2 removal from flue gas, and for industrial wastewater treatment. They also developed a novel process of using microalgae to regenerate amine solutions saturated with COthat comes out from a conventional gas sweetening absorption unit. 

As a result of his obsession with enhancing oil content in the microalgae, he came to realize that the proteins, which have been suppressed in favor of enhancing the oils, could be more valuable than the oils which led him to start work on protein extraction and testing for antioxidant and antitumor activities.

Beside biofuels, he works on other fields of research, but biofuels is what he is passionate about. He has published 75 journal papers to date, and authored a book and three book chapter on biofuels. He was also granted a US Patent on using supercritical CO2 in biodiesel production.

Away from academia, he is an avid football fan while his other hobbies include swimming and playing squash.  

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Jul 8, 2018