The Qi Lu Research Group focuses on the investigation of (electro)chemical catalysis addressing global challenges in the areas of renewable energy storage and utilization. Our strategy is to use the interplay of first principles-based calculation and well-defined experimental modeling to search and investigate the optimal material interface for the reaction of interest, based on which high-performance applicable materials and reaction systems are designed, developed, and characterized. Combining our expertise in reactor design and reaction mechanism investigation, our group has established three unique research thrusts: (1) Mechanistic investigations of the (electro)catalytic reactions; (2) Development of novel reaction system; (3) Advancement of the reaction scheme for practical applications.
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Mechanistic Investigation on (Electro)catalytic Reactions
The (electro)catalytic reactions, such as CO₍₂₎ reduction, are investigated in well-defined experimental model systems (e.g. thin films or particles) with surface or bulk properties predicted from theoretical calculations. Through kinetic and spectroscopic studies, we gain in-depth insights into the reaction processes and mechanisms at the molecular level. These findings are integrated with theoretical models, enhancing our understanding of the structure-performance relationship in catalysis. Additionally, our research delves into the interplay of various components at the electrochemical interface, identifying key factors that dictate the outcomes of electrocatalytic transformations.
Development of Novel Reaction System
In line with the fundamental insights gained from mechanistic investigations, our group is envisioned to design and implement innovative reaction systems that specifically tailored to facilitate key chemical bond rearrangements, such as C-H activation and C-N formation. In our recent advancements, we employ commercially available metal catalysts to efficiently convert light alkanes under mild conditions. In another recent breakthrough, we achieve significant cyanate electrosynthesis through the strategic electrochemical coupling of bulk chemicals. The ongoing efforts are focused on exploring mechanistic details to optimize the catalytic performance and assessing the scalability for practical applications.
Advancement of the Reaction Scheme for Practical Applications
CO₂ electrolysis offers a viable path towards carbon neutrality; however, its industrial application is hindered by challenges related to durability and scalability. Building upon our fundamental understanding of CO₂ electroreduction, our group is currently dedicated to tackle these challenges, thus facilitating the widespread industrial implementation of this crucial carbon-neutral technology. To date, we have developed an anti-flooding gas-diffusion electrode configuration and innovated in large-scale CO₂ electrolyzer system design. Notably, we have successfully demonstrated the durable operation of a kilowatt-scale multi-cell stack for thousands of hours. Looking ahead, our collaborations are underway with industrial partners to realize pilot-scale demonstrations in the coming years.