In December of last year, the Physics World 2020 Breakthrough of the Year was given to Elham Fadaly and her team at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, making her the first Egyptian ever to receive such an award. This was due to their revolutionary creation of a silicon-based material to emit light at wavelengths used for optical telecommunications. Its applications could change the fields of computing, autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars), solar energy, biological sensing, medical sensing, solar cells, and more.
Such a major breakthrough is celebrated greatly in the fields of physics and electronics. This is because so many previous failed trials made scientists resort to more expensive and readily available elements.
Despite being an important material, silicon’s flawed nature which has an indirect electronic bandgap is a great obstacle, and the process of creating a direct bandgap requires the integration of silicon and other materials which is a very difficult and expensive process. The family and her team had to find an alternative way and that was growing crystals of silicon-germanium alloy with a hexagonal crystal structure, rather than the usual diamond-like structure. Thus, this will open a new era for silicon devices.
The team began their research in 2012. This is the first phase of the research where they were able to prove the concept, and the next phase is to apply it by fabricating a light source from silicon and employing it in optoelectronic devices.
Fadaly is now one of Egypt’s pillars of science and technology which makes her not only a role model to girls but also to anyone who strives to succeed and make a name for themselves. Fadaly was born in Bani Sweif where she completed her education in Arabic schools. Due to her academic excellence, she was awarded a full scholarship from the USAID-funded Leadership for Education and Development (LEAD) program at the American University in Egypt. And in 2013, she received her Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering. She then traveled to the USA to resume her graduate studies. And in 2017, she joined the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands where she’s a Ph.D. candidate now in the Applied Physics Department with the Advanced Nanomaterials and Devices Group.
If you want to learn more about this breakthrough, you can check Fadaly’s episode on the Eindhoven University of Technology podcast, ‘Science is Here’:
Light is essential for life 🌳, but our digital future depends on new materials that can manipulate light.
In Episode 1 of the podcast "Science is here", @BarryWScience chats with Adriana Creatore & Elham Fadaly about their work on light.
— TU Eindhoven (@TUeindhoven) July 20, 2020
You can also check her Ph.D. Defense below:
Studying mass communication by day, having tea with Murakami by night. Nour goes back and forth between Cairo and Dubai which makes her curious about the diverse cultures in the world!