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Research

Nanostructured Materials for Energy, Environment, and Electronics 

Electrochemical energy conversion devices including fuel cells, electrolyzers, flow batteries, and solar hydrogen generators: Energy has been central to human civilization. The availability of cheap and abundant fossil energy is primarily responsible for the fastest ever human progress for the past 100+ years. With the depletion of fossil energy, the increase of world population, the improvement of living standard in large population centers, and the concern of the air quality and climate change, one of the grand challenges facing humanity today is the development of an alternative energy system that is clean, safe, and sustainable and where combustion of fossil fuels no longer dominates. Fuel cells, electrolyzers, solar hydrogen, and redox flow batteries when combined could represent such as system. For our fuel cell efforts, we have been focusing on developing catalyst and membrane materials that will help to solve the cost and durability problems. Our fuel cell work began with the exploration of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) as durable catalyst supports. We later explored the concept of platinum nanotubes (PtNTs) catalysts that were shown to have significantly improved durability and activity for the oxygen reduction reaction in proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). This catalyst platform has the potential to meet the mass and specific activity targets for vehicle applications specified by the US Department of Energy. We have also studied hydrogen generation by photocatalytic water splitting. Our most recent work includes hydroxide exchange membrane (HEMs). HEMs, when used in fuel cells (HEMFCs), allow the platinum catalysts to be replaced by non-platinum-group-metals such as nickel and silver while the expensive fluorinated polymer membrane substituted by a hydrocarbon membrane, thus drastically reducing the cost of fuel cells and making them potentially economically viable. HEMs can also be used in electrolyzers and solar hydrogen generators or redox flow batteries for hydrogen generation and large scale solar/wind electricity storage.

Selected publications

15.   Correlating hydrogen oxidation and evolution activity on platinum at different pH with measured hydrogen binding energy
Sheng, Wenchao; Zhuang, Zhongbin; Gao, Minrui, et al
NATURE COMMUNICATIONS 6, p. 5848, 2015

14.   Electrochemical Energy Engineering: A New Frontier of Chemical Engineering Innovation
Gu, Shuang; Xu, Bingjun; and Yan, Yushan
ANNUAL REVIEW OF CHEMICAL AND BIOMOLECULAR ENGINEERING 5, pp. 429-54, 2011

13.   Efficient Water Oxidation Using Nanostructured alpha-Nickel-Hydroxide as an Electrocatalyst
Gao, Minrui; Sheng, Wenchao; Zhuang, Zhongbin; et al
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY 136 19, pp. 7077-84, 2014

12.   Non-precious metal electrocatalysts with high activity for hydrogen oxidation reaction in alkaline electrolytes
Sheng, Wenchao; Bivens, Adam P.; Myint, MyatNoeZin; et al
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 7 5, pp. 1719-24, 2014

11.   Correlating the hydrogen evolution reaction activity in alkaline electrolytes with the hydrogen binding energy on monometallic surfaces
Sheng, Wenchao; Myint, MyatNoeZin; Chen, Jingguang G.; et al
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 6 5, pp. 1509-12, 2013

10.   Self-crosslinking for dimensionally stable and solvent-resistant quaternary phosphonium based hydroxide exchange membranes
Gu, Shuang; Cai, Rui; Yan, Yushan
CHEMICAL COMMUNICATIONS 47 10, pp. 2856-2858, 2011

9.  Porous Platinum Nanotubes for Oxygen Reduction and Methanol Oxidation Reactions
Alia, Shaun M.; Zhang, Gang; Kisailus, David; Li, Dongsheng; Gu, Shuang; Jensen, Kurt; Yan, Yushan
ADVANCED FUNCTIONAL MATERIALS 20 21, pp. 3742-3746, NOV 9 2010

8.  Quaternary Phosphonium-Based Polymers as Hydroxide Exchange Membranes
Gu, Shuang; Cai, Rui; Luo, Ting; Jensen, Kurt; Contreras, Christian; Yan, Yushan
CHEMSUSCHEM 3 5, pp. 555-558, 2010
(Cover picture)

7.  A Soluble and Highly Conductive Ionomer for High-Performance Hydroxide Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells
Gu, Shuang; Cai, Rui; Luo, Ting; Chen, Zhongwei; Sun, Minwei; Liu, Yan; He, Gaohong; Yan, Yushan
ANGEWANDTE CHEMIE-INTERNATIONAL EDITION 48 35, pp. 6499-6502, 2009
(Cover picture, significant press coverage)

6.  Supportless Pt and PtPd nanotubes as electrocatalysts for oxygen-reduction reactions
Chen, Zhongwei; Waje, Mahesh; Li, Wenzhen; Yan, Yushan
ANGEWANDTE CHEMIE-INTERNATIONAL EDITION 46 22, pp. 4060-4063, 2007
(Frontpiece cover picture)

5.  Reversible conversion of conducting polymer films from superhydrophobic to superhydrophilic
Xu, LB; Chen, W; Mulchandani, A; Yan, YS
ANGEWANDTE CHEMIE-INTERNATIONAL EDITION 44 37, pp. 6009-6012, 2005

4.  Photocatalytic activity enhancing for titanium dioxide by co-doping with bromine and chlorine
Luo, HM; Takata, T; Lee, YG; Zhao, JF; Domen, K; Yan, YS
CHEMISTRY OF MATERIALS 16 5, pp. 846-849, MAR 9 2004

3.  Carbon nanotube film by filtration as cathode catalyst support for proton-exchange membrane fuel cell
Li, WZ; Wang, X; Chen, ZW; Waje, M; Yan, YS
LANGMUIR 21 21, pp. 9386-9389, OCT 11 2005

2.  Durability investigation of carbon nanotube as catalyst support for proton exchange membrane fuel cell
Wang, Xin; Li, Wenzhen; Chen, Zhongwei; Waje, Mahesh; Yan, Yushan
JOURNAL OF POWER SOURCES 158 1, pp. 154-159, JUL 14 2006

1.  Proton exchange membrane fuel cells with carbon nanotube based electrodes
Wang, C; Waje, M; Wang, X; Tang, JM; Haddon, RC; Yan, YS
NANO LETTERS 4 2, pp. 345-348, FEB 2004

Zeolite thin films: Zeolites are a class of crystalline oxides with uniform molecular-sized pores (3 to 12 Å). Although natural zeolites were first discovered in 1756, it was not until the 1950s that synthetic zeolites with high purity and controlled chemical composition became available. Since then zeolites in powder or powder composite form have been developed for major commercial applications in catalysis, adsorption, and ion exchange. In the last 20 years, researchers have investigated zeolite thin films, but mostly for applications such as separation membranes and membrane reactors. We were the first to propose, study, and demonstrate that zeolite thin films can have diverse and economically significant applications that others had not previously considered. These new applications include insulators for computer chips, corrosion resistant coatings for aerospace aluminum alloys, and hydrophilic and antimicrobial coatings for water separation in space. We have also explored zeolite coatings and polymer zeolite composite membranes for biomedical, antifouling, biofuel purification, fuel cell and sea water desalination applications.

Selected publications

12.  Designed synthesis of large-pore crystalline polyimide covalent organic frameworks
Fang, Qianrong; Gu, Shuang; Kaspar, Robert; et al
NATURE COMMUNICATIONS 5, 2014
11.  3D Microporous Base-Functionalized Covalent Organic Frameworks for Size-Selective Catalysis
Fang, Qianrong; Gu, Shuang; Zheng, Jie; et al
ANGEWANDTE CHEMIE-INTERNATIONAL EDITION 53 11, pp. 2878-82, MAR 2014
10.  Zeolite Thin Films: From Computer Chips to Space Stations
Lew, Christopher M.; Cai, Rui; Yan, Yushan
ACCOUNTS OF CHEMICAL RESEARCH 43 2, pp. 210-219, FEB 2010
(Invited review) 
9.     High-Performance Zeolite NaA Membranes on Polymer-Zeolite Composite Hollow Fiber Supports
Ge, Qinqin; Wang, Zhengbao; Yan, Yushan
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY 131 47, pp. 17056-+, DEC 2 2009

8.     High Performance Zeolite LTA Pervaporation Membranes on Ceramic Hollow Fibers by Dipcoating-Wiping Seed Deposition
Wang, Zhengbao; Ge, Qinqin; Shao, Jia; Yan, Yushan
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY 131 20, pp. 6910-+, MAY 27 2009

7.     On-Wafer Crystallization of Ultralow-kappa Pure Silica Zeolite Films
Liu, Yan; Lew, Christopher M.; Sun, Minwei; Cai, Rui; Wang, Junlan; Kloster, Grant; Boyanov, Boyan; Yan, Yushan
ANGEWANDTE CHEMIE-INTERNATIONAL EDITION 48 26, pp. 4777-4780, 2009

6.     Ionothermal synthesis of oriented zeolite AEL films and their application as corrosion-resistant coatings
Cai, Rui; Sun, Minwei; Chen, Zhongwei; Munoz, Ronnie; O'Neill, Cory; Beving, Derek E.; Yan, Yushan
ANGEWANDTE CHEMIE-INTERNATIONAL EDITION 47 3, pp. 525-528, 2008
(Very Important Paper or VIP, top 5% manuscripts, inside cover picture, highlighted in Angew. Chem.C&EN of ACS, Tech Beat of Tribology and Lubrication Technology, China Press)
5.     Mechanical and dielectric properties of pure-silica-zeolite low-k materials
Li, Zijian; Johnson, Mark C.; Sun, Minwei; Ryan, E. Todd; Earl, David J.; Maichen, Wolfgang; Martin, Jeremy I.; Li, Shuang; Lew, Christopher M.; Wang, Junlan; Deem, Michael W.; Davis, Mark E.; Yan, Yushan
ANGEWANDTE CHEMIE-INTERNATIONAL EDITION 45 38, pp. 6329-6332, 2006
(Very Important Paper or VIP, top 5% manuscripts)
4.     TEM investigation of formation mechanism of monocrystal-thick b-oriented pure silica zeolite MFI film
Li, S; Li, ZJ; Bozhilov, KN; Chen, ZW; Yan, YS
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY 126 34, pp. 10732-10737, SEP 1 2004

3.     Molecular sieving in a nanoporous b-oriented pure-silica-zeolite MFI monocrystal film
Li, S; Wang, X; Beving, D; Chen, ZW; Yan, YS
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY 126 13, pp. 4122-4123, APR 7 2004

2.     Synthesis of template-free zeolite nanocrystals by using in situ thermoreversible polymer hydrogels
Wang, HT; Holmberg, BA; Yan, YS
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY 125 33, pp. 9928-9929, AUG 20 2003

1.     Fabrication of ordered porous structures by self-assembly of zeolite nanocrystals
Huang, LM; Wang, ZB; Sun, JY; Miao, L; Li, QZ; Yan, YS; Zhao, DY
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY 122 14, pp. 3530-3531, APR 12 2000

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