( We are open to any kinds of research collaborations and also active to look for possible funding opportunities, please contact us directly at your convenience. )
With the ever-growing global population and energy demand, it is extremely urgent to develop renewable energy carriers to achieve sustainable energy supply. Renewable solar energy is believed to be a potential solution to energy sustainability. For example, solar panels can convert solar energy into electricity and the generated electricity can be further stored in energy storage devices for other applications. In addition, inspired by natural photosynthesis, artificial photosynthesis to generate hydrogen fuel or hydrocarbons is another promising approach to store solar energy in the form of chemical bonds. The stored chemical energy in hydrogen or hydrocarbons can be further released in fuel cell devices. Thus, the development of efficient energy conversion and storage approaches is the main topic of our lab. The following scheme simply illustrates the missions of our research.
Our research focus on the development of functional nanomaterials and explore their potential applications in these energy-related devices. Our research can be divided broadly into the following categories.
1. Chemically modified nanostructured semiconductors for efficient artificial photosynthesis of chemical fuels
Artificial photosynthetic hydrogen and hydrocarbons represents a promising approach to solve the more and more severe energy and environment crisis in today's society. Semiconductors to harvest solar energy is the central component of the artificial photosynthesis system. However, the current efficiency of solar to fuel conversion is quite low, due to some intrinsic limitation of existing semiconductors such as bandgap, diffusion distance, lifetime of photoexcited carriers and photostability. In this part, we will employ a series of chemical modification strategies including morphology engineering, surface doping, defect engineering, heterojunction design, plasmon mediation, co-catalyst modification and integration with other systems to promote the photosynthetic efficiency of semiconductor materials. Besides, we are also devoted to develop new semiconductor materials and explore their potential for photosynthetic applications.
2. Functional nanomaterials for electrochemical catalysis
Catalysts can lower the activation barrier and increase the rate of chemical reactions. In this part, we will focus on the development of functional nanomaterials for electrochemical catalysis such as water splitting, CO2 reduction, O2 reduction, fuel oxidation, N2 fixation and pollutant degradation. More importantly, the developed catalysts can also be readily used for artificial photosynthesis by coupling with semiconductors to increase photochemical reaction rate and selectivity.
3. Low dimensional materials for flexible energy storage devices
The increased demand for next generation portable and flexible electronic devices has stimulated extensive research interest/efforts to develop portable and flexible energy supply for these electronic devices. Flexible supercapacitors and lithium ion batteries with high power and energy density have attracted increasing interest. The performance of such flexible energy storage device mainly depends on the electrode materials' compositions, sizes, and structures. In this part, we will employ chemical synthesis method to fabricate electrode materials with controlled size, morphology and composition, and further combine our developed surface engineering strategies such as doping and defects to modulate the electronic properties of electrode materials to develop high performance energy storage devices.