Meet the Researcher : Farhad Moghadam

We meet Farhad Moghadam, a researcher at Imperial. He tells us how his interest for nanoporous materials and membranes stemmed from a fascination for transport phenomena and where he sees the potential for application of membrane research.

Image of a man smiling at the camera. He is wearing a lab coat and holding a white cylinder

Can you summarise your current research interest? 

I am interested in the design and synthesis of new nanoporous materials with tailored pore size, chemical functionality, and good structural stability that can be utilized to develop thin-film composite (TFC) membranes for various applications such as organic solvent nanofiltration (OSN), water desalination, and CO2 capture.

Why is membranes research an interesting area to be involved with?

Membrane technology represents an energy-efficient and environmentally benign alternative to conventional separation processes. Membranes offer sustainable solutions to global environmental challenges such as CO2 emissions, water treatment, and separation of chemical mixtures. The primary objectives of current research initiatives are the design and synthesis of new membrane materials with high selectivity and permeability and the development of feasible and industrially scalable fabrication methods. So, membrane scientists and engineers are positioned to play a pivotal role in addressing current global environmental challenges by providing sustainable solutions.

What advice would you give to people considering becoming an engineer or researcher? 

The first piece of advice is to follow your passion. Passion is a driving force behind success and fulfillment in any career, including engineering and research. Maintain a curious mindset and continuously seek to learn and explore new ideas. Focus on developing strong technical skills in your field, including mastering fundamental principles, staying up-to-date with advancements and cutting-edge achievements, and improving problem-solving abilities.

Recognize the importance of collaboration and teamwork in engineering and research. Working with diverse teams allows you to effectively leverage different perspectives and expertise to tackle complex problems and challenges.

Earlier in life, did you envision yourself in your current position?

Yes, I did. My journey began during my undergraduate studies, where I developed a strong interest in courses related to transport phenomena, such as mass transfer and fluid mechanics. This fascination led me to engage in a research project focused on ceramic membranes for gas separation as a junior student. As I immersed myself in this research, my attraction to the field of membrane technology grew stronger, and I pursued my studies as a Master’s student, where I continued to specialize in membrane research. Upon completing my Master’s degree, I clearly envisioned myself as a future membrane scientist and engineer.

Will an increased focus on sustainability in the future be compatible with your research?

Yes, an increased focus on sustainability in the future aligns perfectly with my research. By focusing on sustainability, I aim to contribute to developing innovative membrane materials and processes that promote efficient resource utilization, minimize waste generation, and mitigate environmental impact. Therefore, any initiatives or policies oriented toward sustainability would complement and further enhance the relevance and impact of my research endeavors.

When a company has an issue that could be solved with membranes, are membranes usually the primary choice, or are there other technologies that offer similar benefits?

Membrane technology offers an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional separation processes like thermal distillation, chemical absorption, adsorption, and cryogenic distillation. Membrane-based units have the potential to replace conventional distillation units for separating mixtures with similar boiling points, chemical absorption plants for CO2 capture, or cryogenic distillation for olefin/paraffin separation. However, companies may hesitate to replace familiar conventional and established plants with new membrane-based ones. Therefore, it’s crucial for us to strengthen our connections with industry to demonstrate the benefits of membrane technology.

Do membranes today have more potential than they did ten years ago?

Yes, membranes today have greater potential than they did ten years ago. There is still significant room for market expansion within current applications, and potential opportunities have emerged in areas such as olefin/paraffin separation, carbon capture from power plant flue gas, and the extraction of valuable rare-earth elements. Therefore, the primary focus for membrane researchers and engineers is to design and develop new membrane materials capable of breaking through in these emerging markets.


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