Research on Renewable Energy Conversion and Storage
Welcome to my homepage!
We research new catalysts, systems, and processes for the sustainable production of fuels and chemicals powered by renewable sources.
Meeting our future global energy needs in an environmentally responsible way is one of the most significant challenges in the twenty-first century. Currently, fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal satisfy more than 80% of the global energy demand. This results in more than 35 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission annually. It is imperative to harvest renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind) to serve as a way to diversify from traditional fossil fuels for combatting the environmental challenges associated with greenhouse gases. Due to the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources, the development of a cost-effective and sustainable method of storing this vast amount of energy on an industrial scale when supply exceeds demand in the grid is an urgent need. As the cost of renewably derived electricity continues to decrease given the rapid progress in technology and economies of scale, there is a growing interest in fuels and chemicals electrosynthesis. The thrust of my Ph.D. research has focused on developing novel electrochemical technologies to use renewable electricity as an energetic driving force to convert low energy molecules (N2) to high value-added molecules (NH3) that can be utilized as either fuel, energy storage molecules, and/or chemicals. The system yet to be demonstrated on a large scale, could enable us to ship energy in the form of liquid fuel over long distances and addresses the future’s energy and environmental goals.
I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University (CSU). Our research group at CSU focuses on challenges associated with renewable energy utilization, storage, and transport. We aim to contribute to the future electrification, decarbonization, and sustainability of various modern industries, including transportation, chemical, and wastewater treatment, with positive social and economic outcomes. If you are looking for undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral positions in our group, please feel free to reach out to me at (reza.nazemi at colostate.edu).
I was a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Yale University under the direction of Prof. Jaehong Kim (2021-2022). My research at Yale focused on electrochemical wastewater treatment in complex water matrices. Prior to this, I was a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology (2020-2021). I worked on developing electrochemical technologies for ammonia synthesis with the overarching goal of achieving competitive performance with the state-of-the-art thermochemical process (Haber-Bosch). My studies also involved a mechanistic understanding of photoelectrochemical (De) hydrogenation reactions for sustainable fuel and fertilizer production using hybrid plasmonic nanostructures. I was awarded the Georgia Research Alliance phase I grant ($50,000) to explore the commercialization potential of ammonia electrosynthesis, a technology I developed and patented during my Ph.D. studies. I earned my Ph.D. from the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech under the supervision of Prof. Mostafa El-Sayed in May 2020. My Ph.D. dissertation research was recognized by receiving the American Chemical Society Physical Chemistry (PHYS) Division Young Investigator Award in 2021. I was honored to receive numerous awards including grants, fellowships, prize money, and travel awards totaling $53,500 during my graduate studies at Georgia Tech. Most notably, I was awarded the Amazon Catalyst grant ($25,000), for which I was the sole PI as a graduate student and published the outcomes of this project in the Journal of Electrochemical Society as the corresponding author. With my Ph.D. advisor, Prof. El-Sayed, I have co-authored a funded research award from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) on my Ph.D. dissertation topic. I also earned a master of science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Technological University under the guidance of Prof. Mahdi Shahbakhti, where I worked on modeling and analysis of fuel injection parameters on combustion and performance of advanced dual-fuel combustion engines. My academic research experiences have been cross-disciplinary and I am well-suited for scientific collaborations across multiple departments including Chemical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Chemistry.
My Ph.D. research has focused on photo-electrocatalyst design and synthesis, including plasmonic and hybrid plasmonic with semiconductor and transition metal nanomaterials for renewable fuel production in photo-electrochemical systems. These systems have shown great promise to be integrated with intermittent renewable sources (e.g., solar, wind) for grid energy storage. I have been studying operando spectroscopy and microscopy techniques to probe the active site and reaction mechanisms at the solid-liquid interface (electrode-electrolyte), leading to the rational design of more efficient (photo) electrocatalysts for value-added chemicals production. I was the recipient of the TI:GER (Technology Innovation: Generating Economic Results) Fellowship from the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech to work on developing business models and commercial plans for my Ph.D. dissertation technology in the multidisciplinary team consisting of three MBA students (Scheller College of Business-Georgia Tech) and two JD students (School of Law-Emory University). This experience provided me with a unique opportunity to communicate my Ph.D. research effectively with non-technical experts in my field of study and taught me how to manage successful and productive team projects.
My CV is enclosed for more details concerning my education and experience. Please visit different pages on this website and do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or need any information.
Sustainable Production of Fuels and Chemicals via Designing New Catalysts and Processes
As the cost of renewably derived (e.g., solar and wind) electricity continues to decrease given the rapid progress in technology and economies of scale, there is a growing interest in fuels and chemicals electrosynthesis in a clean, sustainable, and distributed manner. This approach can provide an alternative pathway to the traditional fossil fuel-driven processes as well as the storage of surplus renewable energy in the form of fuel at times of excess supply in the grid. Electrification of fuels and chemicals on a large scale requires an effective electrocatalyst that generates fuel/chemicals with a high yield and efficiency.
(photo) electrochemical nitrogen reduction reaction (NRR) for ammonia synthesis provides an attractive alternative to the long-lasting thermochemical process (Haber-Bosch) in a clean, sustainable, and decentralized way if the process is coupled to renewably derived electricity sources. Ammonia is a critical agrochemical and essential precursor for pharmaceutical and industrial products. Ammonia is also an attractive carbon-neutral liquid fuel to store intermittent renewable energy sources when supply exceeds demand in the grid as well as for power generation due to the compound’s high energy density (5.6 MWh ton-1) and hydrogen content (17.6 wt.%). Electrification of ammonia synthesis on a large scale requires an effective electrocatalyst that converts N2 to NH3 with a high yield and efficiency. The selectivity of N2 molecules on the surface of the catalyst has been demonstrated to be one of the major challenges in enhancing the rate of photo-electrochemical NRR in an aqueous solution under ambient conditions. Improving the design of electrocatalysts, electrolytes, and the electrochemical cell is required to overcome the selectivity and activity barrier in electrochemical NRR.
The scientific thrusts of my research to address a critical obstacle to achieving the overarching goal of distributed ammonia synthesis will be built upon nanomaterials synthesis for catalyst discovery of NRR in photo-electrochemical apparatus and ex-situ and operando spectroscopy and microscopy investigations to pinpoint underlying mechanisms in catalysis.
Thrust 1: Discovery of new photo-electrocatalyst materials for selective and efficient catalysis of NRR.
Thrust 2: Design and fabrication of advanced reactors that enable us to study redox processes in photo-electrochemical systems.
Thrust 3: ex-situ and operando spectroscopy and microscopy to probe the reaction mechanism and intermediate species relevant to NRR at the electrode-electrolyte interfaces.
Our research program in this field of study is currently funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA). We gratefully acknowledge our past and current funding agencies and sponsors.
Invention Disclosures and Patents
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed, “Systems and Methods for Forming Nitrogen-Based Compounds”, Patent pending, U.S. Patent Application 16/788,656.Link
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed, “Photo-Electrochemical Ammonia Synthesis: Nanocatalyst Discovery, Reactor Design, and Advanced Spectroscopy” CRC Press, 2021. Link
M. Nazemi, S. R. Panikkanvalappil, C.-K. Liao, M.A. Mahmoud, M. A. El-Sayed, “Role of Femtosecond Pulsed Laser-Induced Atomic Redistribution in Bimetallic Au-Pd Nanorods on Optoelectronic and Catalytic Properties” ACS Nano, 15, 10241–10252, 2021. Link
M. Nazemi, P. Ou, A. Alabbady, L. Soule, A. Liu, J. Song, T. A. Sulchek, M. Liu, M. A. El-Sayed, “Electrosynthesis of Ammonia using Porous Bimetallic Pd-Ag Nanocatalysts in Liquid- and Gas-Phase Systems” ACS Catalysis, 10, 10197−10206, 2020. Link
M. Nazemi*, L. Soule, M. Liu, M. A. El-Sayed, “Ambient Ammonia Electrosynthesis from Nitrogen and Water by Incorporating Palladium in Bimetallic Gold-Silver Nanocages” Journal of The Electrochemical Society, 167(5), p. 054511, 2020. (JES focus issue on “Heterogeneous Functional Materials for Energy Conversion and Storage”). Link
M. Nazemi, M. A. El-Sayed, “Plasmon-Enhanced Photo (electro) chemical Nitrogen Fixation under Ambient Conditions Using Visible Light Responsive Hybrid Hollow Au−Ag2O Nanocages” Nano Energy, vol. 63, 103886, 2019.Link
M. Nazemi, M. A. El-Sayed, “The Role of Oxidation of Silver in Bimetallic Gold–Silver Nanocages on Electrocatalytic Activity of Nitrogen Reduction Reaction” The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 123, 18, 11422-11427, 2019. (Invited special issue article) Link
M. Nazemi, M. A. El-Sayed, “Electrochemical Synthesis of Ammonia from N2 and H2O under Ambient Conditions Using Pore-Size-Controlled Hollow Gold Nanocatalysts with Tunable Plasmonic Properties” The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, vol. 9, pp. 5160-5166, 2018. Link
M. Nazemi, S. R. Panikkanvalappil, M. A. El-Sayed, “Enhancing the Rate of Electrochemical Nitrogen Reduction Reaction for Ammonia Synthesis under Ambient Conditions Using Hollow Gold Nanocages” Nano Energy, vol. 49, pp. 316-323, 2018.Link
M. Nazemi, J. Padgett, M.C. Hatzell, “Acid/Base Multi-Ion Exchange Membrane-Based Electrolysis System for Water Splitting” Energy Technology, 5(8), pp.1191-1194, 2017. Link
M. Nazemi, J. Zhang, M.C. Hatzell, “Harvesting Natural Salinity Gradient Energy for Hydrogen Production through Reverse Electrodialysis (RED) Power Generation”, Journal of Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage, vol. 14, p. 020702, 2017. Link
M. Nazemi, M. Shahbakhti, “Modeling and Analysis of Fuel Injection Parameters for Combustion and Performance of an RCCI Engine”, Applied Energy, Vol. 165, pages 135-150, 2016. Link
M. Nazemi, H. Saigaonkar, M. Shahbakhti, “Thermo-kinetic Modeling of Variable Valve Timing Effects on HCCI Engine Combustion”, Int. Journal of Automotive Engineering and Technologies, Vol. 4, Issue 1, pp. 54 – 62, 2015. Link
Refereed Conference Papers
M. Nazemi, J. Zhang, M.C. Hatzell, “Harvesting Natural Salinity Gradient Energy for Hydrogen Production through RED Power Generation”, Proceedings of the ASME 2016 Power and Energy Conference, June 26-30, 2016, Charlotte, NC, USA. Link
H. Saigaonkar, M. Nazemi, M. Shahbakhti, “Sequential Model for Residual Affected HCCI with variable valve Timing”, 2015 SAE World Congress, SAE Paper No. 2015-01-1748, Apr. 21-23, 2015, Detroit, MI, USA. Link
M. Nazemi, H. Saigaonkar, M. Shahbakhti, “Thermo-kinetic Modeling of Variable Valve Timing Effects on HCCI Engine Combustion”, Int. Conference on Advanced Technology & Sciences, 6 pages, August 12-15, 2014, Antalya, Turkey. Link
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed. “The role of femtosecond pulsed laser induced atomic redistribution in bimetallic Au-Pd nanorods on optoelectronic and catalytic properties” (Invited award talk) ACS Fall 2021, August 22-26, 2021.
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed. “(Amazon Catalyst at ECS Grant Winner) Enhancing the Rate of Electrocatalytic Conversion of N2 to NH3 Using Bimetallic Au-Pd Nanoparticles” (Invited award talk) Meeting Abstracts. The Electrochemical Society, October 13-17, 2019, Atlanta, GA.
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed. “Mechanistic understanding of electrochemical nitrogen reduction reaction on hybrid plasmonic nanostructures using operando surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy” ACS Spring 2021, April 5-30, 2021. (Link to the online video of the talk)
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed. “Electrochemical Reduction of N2 to NH3 Using Porous Bimetallic Pd-Ag Nanoparticles in Liquid and Gas Phase Systems” Virtual AIChE Annual Meeting, November 16-20, 2020.
M. Nazemi. “Electro-Synthesis of Value-Added Chemicals via Designing New Catalysts, Systems, and Processes” Virtual AIChE Annual Meeting, November 16-20, 2020. (Meet the Faculty Candidates Poster Session)
M. Nazemi.“Electrochemical Production of Ammonia via Designing New Catalysts and Processes” Virtual AIChE Annual Meeting, November 16-20, 2020. (Electrochemical Fundamentals: Faculty Candidate Session) (Link to Youtube video of the talk)
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed. “Photoelectrochemical Nitrogen Fixation for Ammonia Synthesis Using Hybrid Plasmonic Nanostructures” Meeting Abstracts. The Electrochemical Society, October 4-9, 2020, Honolulu, Hawaii. (presented virtually due to COVID-19) (Link to the online video of the talk)
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed. “Enhancing the rate of electrochemical nitrogen reduction reaction for ammonia synthesis under ambient conditions by incorporating Pd in bimetallic Au-Ag nanocages” 259th ACS National Meeting & Exposition, March 22-26, 2020, Philadelphia, PA. (canceled due to COVID-19 and presented at the ACS virtual poster session)
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed. “Green Ammonia Production from Air and Water using Plasmonic Nanocages: A Medium for Renewable Energy Storage” Career, Research, and Innovation Development Conference (CRIDC), January 2020, Georgia Tech, Atlanta.
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed. “Green Ammonia Synthesis from Air, Water, and Electricity using Hybrid Plasmonic Nanostructures” Ammonia Energy Conference, November 12-14, 2019, Orlando, FL.
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed. “Plasmon-Enhanced Photofixation of Dinitrogen for Ammonia Synthesis Using Visible Light Responsive Hybrid Hollow Au-Ag2O Nanocages” Meeting Abstracts. The Electrochemical Society, October 13-17, 2019, Atlanta, GA.
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed. “Evaluation of (Photo) Electrocatalytic Conversion of N2 to NH3 under Ambient Conditions Using Hybrid Hollow Plasmonic Nanostructures” Gordon Research Conference, Nanomaterials for Applications in Energy Technology. February 24-March 1, 2019, Ventura, CA.
M. Nazemi, M.A. El-Sayed, “Renewable Ammonia Production from Air, Water, and Electricity using Plasmonic Nanocages” Career, Research, and Innovation Development Conference (CRIDC), February 2019, Georgia Tech, Atlanta.
M. Nazemi, M. Shahbakhti, “Development of a New Generation of Combustion Engines to Reduce CO2 Emissions” Gordon Research Conference, Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage. June 11-16, 2017, New London, NH.
M. Nazemi, A. Agles, K. Dobson, and M. C. Hatzell, “Evaluating the Potential for Hydrogen Production with Donnan-Driven Multi-Ion Exchange Membrane Based Systems” Meeting Abstracts. The Electrochemical Society, October 1-5, 2017, National Harbor, MD.
M. Nazemi, J. Padgett, M.C. Hatzell, “Hydrogen Production through a Multi-Ion Exchange Membrane Based Electrolysis System” Meeting Abstracts. The Electrochemical Society, October 2-7, 2016, Honolulu, Hawaii.
M. Nazemi, S. Polat, M. Shahbakhti, “Advanced combustion model of RCCI Engines” CONVERGE User Group Meeting, September 23-25, 2014, Madison, WI, USA.
Throughout my graduate studies at Georgia Tech, I have been heavily involved with outreach programs within and outside of Georgia Tech. In Jan. 2017, I joined the “Engineers for a Sustainable World Education Outreach” team in an effort in tutoring students at Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta. The goal of this program is to help prepare minority high school students with their exams and classes. I became involved as an officer in student chapter organizations, including the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) (2017-2018) and Electrochemical Society (ECS) student chapter (2017 to present) at Georgia Tech where I contributed to organize various on-campus events to highlight research and teaching methods in STEM education. In my current role as the president of the ECS Georgia Tech student chapter, I have been leading various outreach activities to promote and encourage the culture of diversity and inclusion in the STEM program. We frequently participate in various outreach programs and demonstrate tangible electrochemistry-related systems for K-12 students in the Atlanta metropolitan area. For example, I led a group of engineers and scientists at Georgia Tech to demonstrate a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technology. These programs were targeted to promoting STEM education for diverse student groups with a particular emphasis on historically underserved and underrepresented minorities. In addition, on September 27, 2019, I co-organized the ECS local conference at Georgia Tech with participants from Auburn University, South Carolina, Pine Instruments, and Georgia Tech. Our organization activities are usually highlighted in the ECS interface magazine (please visit the Spring 2020 issue of interface magazine at this link, pp. 84-85).
I led a group of Georgia Tech students to host an exhibit table at Saint Philip’s career resource ministry’s 12th Annual Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Service (STEMS) career fair for lower, middle, and high school students in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The event hosted 50 exhibitors and 300+ students in all grades. The focus was on hands-on activities in the exhibit hall.
As a student researcher at Laser Dynamics Laboratory (LDL) at Georgia Tech, we have been frequently holding lab tours to highlight our research activities in the lab with underrepresented high school students in the Atlanta area. Our research group has been very active in educating under-represented minority students. We typically attract and train 2-3 undergraduate students in the NNIN or REU NSF summer program. More than half of these students are females or African-Americans. Groups from high schools around the Atlanta metropolitan area that serve the minority communities frequently come to our lab to learn about lasers and nanotechnology. We showcase our nanotechnology-related work with middle school and high school minorities. One of the goals of these activities is to encourage middle and high school underserved and underrepresented minorities to pursue a college degree and later graduate degrees at Georgia Tech.