In Iranian culture, it is very normal to live with your parents until marriage when you move into the marital home. It’s an awesome deal economically and especially if you have a good relationship with your parents; but I wanted to go away from the family home, somewhere abroad to prove to myself that I can survive alone and that I can support others. My family were not surprised and were supportive; my mum has said that from 2 years old I wanted to be independent and do things on my own.

Then again, by sheer luck, there was a conversation between my mum and her cousin who resides in Gothenburg, Sweden. She told my mum about Sweden and the conditions; and at that time, it was free of charge for international students. This conversation was in September so I had 2-3 months to study for the toefl exam (tests the ability to communicate in English; specifically academic, university and classroom-based settings), pass the exam and apply for the university. I did it! So the next year I came to Sweden and I fell in love with Stockholm and then with KTH.

I studied my masters in sustainable energy engineering and worked on my master thesis on solid oxide fuel cells and their integration with micro gas turbines for polygeneration applications. It sparked my interest, I always wanted to know more, I became a bookworm. I acquired an unreasonable amount of notebooks and pens. Stationary and books are my weakness. I love it.

It was natural for me to go for a PhD and with the encouragement of my father; I chose the Erasmus Mundus PhD programme. I did half of my PhD in Italy and the other half at KTH. I wanted to keep my ties with KTH, I love KTH even though it frustrates me at times. I love my colleagues and ultimately I am happy here.

I also wanted to broaden my horizons and chose to study electrolysis and biomass gasification. The topic; Producing synthetics fisher trope diesel from the excess electricity of solar and wind power plants and biomass gasification. In this design, the syngas needed for the fisher tropsch was produced from both co-electrolysis of steam and carbon dioxide and the gasification of cellulosic biomass. The good thing about it; is that it could increase the capacity of the  Fischer-Tropsch plant and therefore making it a more economically viable as well as adding the possibility of internal use of carbon dioxide produced during gasification among other benefits. Results showed that in some occasions having a negative emission was a possibility.

Ordinarily using gasification only would not be sufficient to meet the road transportation demand. We also will need a source of hydrogen to meet the required hydrogen to carbon ratio for FT diesel. To tackle such issues, I considered adding co-electrolysis of steam and carbon dioxide, in other words, theoretically and in my simulations, I was producing Hydrogen and CO. gasification and electrolysis process  help each other by compensating for others shortcomings; wherever the gasification process or the gasifier system is lacking, electrolysis can have some benefit and vice versa. They have a good synergy to be mixed. At the time I did this, there were not many publications on this type of system. I was one of the first to investigate this way of processing. Now that I have finished my PhD, electro fuel is becoming more and more attractive.

Early Career Researcher

My PhD landed me in BRISK2 and Biomass. Prior to that, I did not have a great interest in Biomass / Bio Energy. My passions were in Hydrogen and fuel cell electrolysers and I am still very passionate about those areas; but now that I know more about biomass and biofuels, I have become more passionate about them too.

After my PhD, waiting for my supervisors to read and correct my dissertation I spoke with Andrew Martin (Brisk2 Project Co-ordinator) and asked for an opportunity in KTH, I was looking for things to do because I was bored and going out of my mind waiting for administration process. Andrew told me about BRISK and mentioned that my predecessor was leaving for another job so, potentially; I could cover that role on a temporary basis. I worked in that role for 2 months and Andrew recognised my work ethic. I worked hard and invested into the project, which in turn released Andrew to focus on other areas. Andrew saw the benefit of having me in his team and therefore made my position permanent as a Post Doc and now I am here as a researcher.

Is Bio-Energy the Solution?

The issue with the new alternative, whatever name it will go by; sustainable, renewable, bio-energy, bio-fuel, electro-fuel is there is no one stop solution / replacement for fossil fuels. When we talk about the energy network all around the world, people and politicians, want a simple and straightforward solution.

We have diesel and fossil fuels as the answer for everything but with new technologies, this is not the case. No person or organisation can claim a singular technology is the answer to everything, and if they do, they are likely of a marketing or financial background; not the researchers who have a greater understanding of the product or processes. Researchers will tell you there are many options and it depends on what you want to do, where you are and what resources you have available. Unfortunately, I feel that lack of understanding prohibits the integration of alternative fuels into society.

When talking to someone who has minimal knowledge of the vast world of alternative energy sources they question the complexity of the solutions. Why are you working on this when Tesla or Mercedes all have electric vehicles? Why do you want to power transport in other ways?