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Research

Overview

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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.

Our group works at the interface of chemical engineering, materials science, and electrochemisty to accelerate the realization of energy and environmental sustainability. We design and synthesize materials at the molecular and the microscopic level, develop novel electrochemical processes using our functional materials, and use advanced characterization tools to correlate microscopic phenomena with macroscopic performance. Specifically, we are interested in exploring the following themes:

  1. Redox-active materials for carbon capture and its subsequent utilization in electrosynthesis

  2. Molecularly-precise electrochemical interfaces for separations in water remediation & chemical manufacturing

  3. Imaging platform for visualizing electrochemical processes at high temporal/spatial resolution and chemical specificity

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Electrochemically-Mediated Carbon Capture

 

Carbon capture and utilization is a crucial strategy to mitigate climate change caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions. However, the incumbent technology for carbon capture, chemical amine scrubbing, is challenged by its high energy intensity and large footprint.

 

Recently, electrochemical carbon capture is emerging as a more versatile and economical alternative. In this separation scheme, we explore the vast chemical space of redox-active materials that can reversibly bind and release CO2 upon applying electrochemical potentials, and put these materials into prototypical separation devices. 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. 

 

We are also interested in developing electrochemical methods to transform CO2 into value-added chemicals.

Electrochemically-Mediated Separations in Liquid Phases

 

Selective separations are pivotal for the chemical industry, where they can account for 40–70% of total capital and operating expenses, as well as for environmental remediation and water purification. We design molecularly-precise, redox-active sorbents & membranes for chemical separations in liquid phases with applications such as remediation of water micropollutants, enantioseparation, and resource mining from water systems.

Compared to conventional separation methods, electrochemically-mediated separations have the potential advantages of fast separation kinetics, simple instrumentation, high sorbent reusability, the absence of chemical regeneration steps, etc. All these advantages also lead to modularity and ease of scale-up.

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 Imaging Platform for the Characterization of Electrochemical Systems

 

Interrogating electrochemical phenomena under realistic operating conditions employing advanced characterization tools, especially those with high spatial and/or temporal resolution, can critically inform materials design, reveal degradation mechanisms, and ultimately improve the overall performance of electrochemical systems. We aim to develop an optical imaging-based diagnostic platform that can provide a unique perspective to elucidate puzzling questions in electrochemistry (batteries, electrocatalysis, separations, etc.).