Materials Design and Electrochemical Engineering at the Energy-Environment Nexus
Environmental issues and economic forces are reshaping the way we generate and consume energy on a global scale. The rapidly growing availability of cheap electricity from renewable sources has given us unprecedented opportunities to revolutionize traditional engineering processes using electrochemistry, thereby offering solutions to some of the grand challenges faced by our society. Correspondingly, I aim to leverage my multidisciplinary expertise to build a research program that intersects the fields of electrochemistry, materials science, chemical engineering, and advanced characterizations to accelerate the realization of energy and environmental sustainability.
Specifically, my laboratory will be interested in exploring the following themes:
Redox-active materials for carbon capture and its subsequent utilization in electro-organic synthesis.
Molecularly-precise electrochemical interfaces for energy-efficient chemical separation in pharmaceutical manufacturing and environmental remediation.
Super-resolution imaging platform for operando visualization of electrochemical processes with high temporal/spatial resolution and chemical specificity.
Materials Innovations and Fundamental Understandings for Energy Storage
Lithium-ion batteries have had a profound impact on our daily life, but their capacity is approaching the theoretical limits with narrow room to satisfy our unprecedented demand. Thus, battery chemistries beyond Li-ion need to be developed.
Li metal is the ultimate anode of choice due to its highest theoretical capacity (more than ten times the value of the state-of-art graphite) and lowest electrochemical potential among all the candidates. Despite five decades of research, there remained no workable solution to the challenges of the Li metal anode, the major two of which are its high reactivity and infinite relative volume change during cycling.
Correspondingly, my PhD research focuses on tackling the key challenges of Li metal anode from the following perspectives:
1) Minimizing the volume change by rationally-designed Li-scaffold composite.
Surface characterizations and modifications are explored to manipulate the scaffolds' wetting properties by molten Li.
2) Control and homogenize the surface reactivity of Li via artificial solid-electrolyte interface (SEI) designs.
3) Exploring novel electrolyte additives to modify the SEI formation process and its fundamental understanding
based on electrochemical, surface-sensitive and microscopy techniques.
Electrochemically-Mediated Carbon Capture
Anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions present a serious challenge to our society. One of the foremost mitigation strategies involves carbon capture, particularly from large stationary emission sources, followed by sequestration or utilization. The incumbent technology for carbon capture is wet chemical amine scrubbing, which is challenged by its high energy-intensity and large foot print.
Electrochemically mediated separations offer a low-temperature, ambient-pressure alternative for carbon capture, representing a promising yet largely uncharted research area. By being electrically driven, these systems can be controlled precisely to reduce energy losses, are modular and thus easy to implement, and possess great adaptability to the multi-scale nature of carbon capture.
For my postdoc research, I am exploring different redox chemistries that can reversibly bind and release CO2 upon apply electrochemical potentials. I am also interested in designing a continuous, membrane-based process for electrochemically-mediated carbon capture. In such device, a pattern of cells with opposite polarity, gated by smart gating membranes that can dynamically control gas passage, allows an effectively continuous operation of carbon capture and release for process intensification, bringing new opportunities to acid gas separation.