The overarching goal of our research is to develop novel chemical processes and materials for solving urgent energy, environmental, and sustainability challenges. In particular, we recognize the severity of the global waste issue and resource shortage, as well as the pressing needs for industrial decarbonization and green manufacturing. Taking advantage of the increasingly available renewable electricity, we leverage and advance a range of electrothermal and electrochemical techniques for chemical synthesis and material upcycling.
Electrified Plastic Upcycling
Plastics have been instrumental to the development of our society. However, they also pose a global waste problem that requires urgent solutions. Taking advantage of the great programmability of electrified techniques, we explore a portfolio of dynamic reaction protocols (i.e., pulsed temperatures and voltage, transient timescales, ultrafast heating and cooling rates, etc.) for the valorization of plastic waste. In addition, we develop efficient heterogeneous catalysts to tailor reactivities of various plastic species, especially under dynamic reaction conditions. The knowledge can be generalized to many other applications such as agricultural waste upgrading.
Electrified Greenhouse Gas Conversion
Carbon dioxide and methane are two major greenhouse gases whose anthropogenic emissions have significantly exacerbated global warming. In our lab, we are interested in non-equilibrium and dynamic chemical processes coupled with novel catalyst and reactor designs for efficient synthesis of value-added chemicals using greenhouse gases. Synergistically, we explore the dynamic catalysis phenomena during the temporal and spatial temperature evolution under non-equilibrium conditions, which affect the surface strain, catalyst/support interaction, active sites etc. The knowledge can be extended to many thermochemical reactions such as hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxides conversions.
Electrified Battery Recycling
The exponential demand for lithium batteries has made critical elements such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel a sustainability priority. However, compared to conventional lead acid batteries, whose recycling rate is ~99%, only ~5% of lithium ion batteries are recycled due to a lack of effective approaches. In our lab, we are interested in electrified pyrometallurgy and electrometallurgy for efficient lithium recovery and selective transition metal separation. In addition, we study electrified techniques for regenerating and recycling electrodes from spent Li-ion or other battery forms.