Multifunctional Hydrogels for Energy & Water Sustainability

Nanostructured conductive polymer hydrogels synergize the advantageous features of conventional polymers and organic conductors. We are trailblazing new synthetic methods and modification strategies for nanostructured hydrogels with improved electrical/electrochemical properties as well as mechanical property, and exploring their potential in various technological applications, including: 1. Electrode and binder materials for next-generation energy storage devices owing to large surface area, continuous conductive network and hierarchical porosity; 2. Tunable hydrogels for highly efficient water purification and harvesting technologies, from seawater desalination to atmospheric water harvesting; 3. Scalable, low-cost and versatile biosensor platform for the sensitive and rapid detection of human metabolites owing to high permeability to biosubstrates and rapid electron transfer; 4. Hybrid functional hydrogels with stimuli responsive properties and self-healing abilities.

Rational Design & Synthesis of Hybrid Nanomaterial Systems for Energy Storage

Energy storage devices and systems play an important role in realizing the renewable energy future of the mankind. They are critically important for portable electronics, hybrid and electric vehicles, and for longer term, smart grid. We are working on the development of low-cost, high-performance nanostructured materials which are environmentally friendly and compatible with large-scale processing for energy storage systems including lithium batteries and electrochemical capacitors, as well as fundamental studies of charge separation and energy transfer within these energy storage device systems. Currently, we are actively exploring the following:

A. 3-D Nanostructured Conductive Polymers Based Supercapacitor Electrodes 

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B. Hybrid Inorganic-Organic Nanostructures for High Energy Li-ion Batteries


C. Organic and Carbon Nanomaterials for Energy Storage Devices


D. Fundamental Electrochemistry at the Nanoscale (Tuning charge transfer at electrode/electrolyte interface; core-shell nanostructures for optimized charge transport during electrochemical process)

Materials/Chemistry for Redox Flow Batteries

The synergy between the redox flow batteries and other battery chemistries offers the opportunity towards highly modular electrical energy storage systems. As an emerging battery technology based on lithium chemistry, the Li-redox flow batteries inherit and step further towards the smart features of other battery technologies. Our research effort focuses on the design rationale, fundamentals and characterization of Li-redox flow batteries from a chemistry and material perspective, with particular emphasis on the development of redox-active organic compounds as high-energy liquid electrodes.

Flow battery

2D Energy Materials

Two-dimensional (2D) energy materials exhibit distinctly different characteristics from their bulk counterparts, providing a number of exciting opportunities for fundamental studies and technological applications. We are focusing on rational design and synthesis of new inorganic solids with unique 2D structures to understand their fundamental charge transport/storage characteristics and to enable their promising applications in various energy technologies.


Novel Nanostructured Materials for Efficient Energy Conversion

Harvesting energy from the waste (for instance, waste heat, waste water) is of tremendous scientific and technological interest and can improve the overall efficiency of energy conversion processes. We are focused on two important energy conversion technologies including thermoelectrics and microbial fuel cells, which can convert waste heat and chemical energy to electricity, respectively. Our research aims to develop highly efficient energy conversion devices by engineering new materials with chemically tunable nanostructures to control and optimize carrier transport, reaction kinetics and thermodynamics in materials. This research will in turn offer the guidelines of material and structure design for new-generation, low-cost and high-performance clean energy conversion devices.

A. Designing Nanoscale Heterostructures for Thermoelectrics


B. Nanostructures-based Microbial Fuel Cells


Self-assembly of Nanostructures for Energy & Bioelectronics

Controlled organization of nanomaterials into hierarchically designed structures is a primary focus that scientists have been striving to address for bringing nanoscale science and technology into next level of fully integrated systems. We are particularly interested in exploring the diversity and high selectivity in biological interactions, such as DNA base-pairing and protein-protein interactions, to assemble low-dimensional structures into higher-dimensional ordered arrays and other designed architectures in a controllable and reversible fashion for a range of technological applications in energy and life sciences.

A. Self-assembled Nanoelectronic System for Functional Interface with Biological Systems

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B. Highly Integrated, Multifunctional Energy Systems