Fight climate change via Gas Separation

New assistant professor Nima Rezaei is excited about CST’s septech prowess – and eager to pursue collaborations with the locals

Carbon capture and utilization (CCU) requires urgent attention due to its global impact on climate change and global warming, says Nima Rezaei, Assistant Professor of Gas Separation at LUT.


In fact, Rezaei believes that gas separation has been “revitalized” due to climate change:


“While renewable energy resources are on the rise, we acknowledge that other tools are needed, too. Carbon capture, utilization and storage can help cut down the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere by up to 15%,” he says, adding that CCU can be performed through direct air capture, or, preferably, from industrial gas streams where it’s more effective.


“Utilization of carbon means that we can convert carbon to methanol, for instance.”


Nima Rezaei is the latest “climate warrior” at CST, having arrived in Lappeenranta in October 2020. He is excited to link his CCU expertise with LUT’s strong climate portfolio.


“I’m very happy to be part of the CST team and to help tackle these challenges.”


Beyond CO2, Rezaei sees other gases that need to be addressed: attention to other greenhouse gases, such as methane, NOx, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) will be required in the future.


Eye on Hydrogen 


What else is gas separation good for? Well, according to Rezaei, another trending application of gas separation is in the production and storage of hydrogen from renewable resources.


“Production of biohydrogen from algae is an interesting technology as it consumes CO2 and produces hydrogen which is not a pollutant,” he says, adding that the most important technological hurdle with hydrogen energy involves its safe and economic storage.


Additionally, with the recent breakthroughs in material science and nanotechnology, the applications of engineered materials in gas separation have become a force to be reckoned with.


“With a technology breakthrough, economic production of materials for large-scale gas separation application will become possible. For example, materials such as graphene, photocatalysts, functional polymers, ionic liquids, deep eutectic solvents, and metal organic frameworks (MOFs) will have a significant role in the advancement of gas separation technologies.”


North Star Calling


A native of Iran, Rezaei got his PhD degree from the Canadian University of Waterloo in 2011 and has worked as a post-doctoral fellow, lecturer and assistant professor at several universities and academic institutions in the U.S., Canada, Iran and Kuwait. But what brought the globetrotting scholar to LUT?


“I discovered that we share the same interests,” he says with grin.


“There is a strong focus on separation science here, and air, water and energy are the main research themes,” Rezaei says, confident that he can expand that knowledge base with his gas separation expertise.


Power of Partnerships


For Rezaei, seeking science collaborations is second nature: his partner network extends to academic institutions in North America, Europe and the Middle East. In Lappeenranta, he’s eager to build collaborations with Finnish companies, too.


“The Finnish business scene seems extremely interesting, having many links to scientific research. In Finland, the connection between business and universities is very important: it’s a lot more than a mere academic curiosity,” he says.


“Looking into the future, I’m definitely open to collaboration ideas with local companies.”