Research Interests

Our research aims to tackle challenges in organic/ceramic materials at the energy-environment nexus by precise molecular design and understanding the mechanics of polymer/composite materials.

Keywords: Organic and Polymer Synthesis; Battery Materials; Nanocomposites; Polymer Binders and Polyelectrolytes; Ceramic Engineering.

Of special interest are areas including:

(a) Polymer electrolytes for energy storage and conversion

Clean energy storage and production devices, such as rechargeable or flow batteries, electrolyzers, fuel cells, are believed to replace fossil fuels and address the critical sustainability and environmental issues in the near future.The upgrading of these systems usually requires high performing solid electrolytes to replace conventional liquid electrolytes, for better safety, longer lifespan and improved electrochemical performance. Among solid electrolytes, polymer electrolytes are largely explored as functional materials for broad usages in the area of biomedical, membranes and energy devices. Charge transport (both electron and ion) phenomena in polymer materials play a crucial role in energy storage devices and biological systems. Enhancing the charge transport properties requires the optimization of molecular structures and in depth understanding of transport mechanisms.

Relevant work: a. Nano-Micro Letters 2024, 16, 22. b. Nat. Energy 2023, 8, 129. c. ACS Mater. Lett. 2021, 3, 799.

(b) Polymer and composite gels towards clean water harvest

Water and energy systems are interdependent. The atmosphere is a sustainable source for fresh water supply, which has received renewed attention due to the potential to alleviate clean water scarcity with low power input. In recent years, liquid or solid desiccants, like hygroscopic polymer gels and metal organic frameworks, have been developed to capture water from humid air and desorb water for collection. Such process is more advantageous than reverse osmosis in that it relies on low-grade energy, can potentially use solar energy, and is much more tolerant to intake quality.

Relevant work: a. ACS Macro Lett. 2020, 9, 1255.

(c) Syntheis and recycling of polyolefin alternatives

Plastics are virtually ubiquitous for any technology in our life, from packaging to biomedical applications. Among them, polyolefins represent the world’s most manufactured plastics. However, plastic pollution becomes a global concern, in terms of sustainability, economic and environmental impact. Polyethylene (PE) represents the widest utilized synthetic polymer consisting of only inert hydrocarbon units, but its inert nature makes the recycling of PE a significant challenge. Progress has been made to introduce of reactive polar groups in the backbone through catalytic copolymerization with carbon monoxide, which is believed to overcome some environmental persistence and enhance values of post-consumed PE.

Relevant work: a. ACS Sustain. Chem. Eng. 2023, 11, 8208. b. Nat. Commun. 2019, 10, 1315.