Li focuses on the development and application of clean energy around "carbon neutrality." He has made significant achievements in the field of catalytic materials and process engineering for the conversion of CO2 into value-added products through electrochemical reduction.
Li has developed a novel molecular modulation strategy for the design of novel organic-inorganic hybrid materials for the electrocatalytic activation of carbon dioxide and the synthesis of ethylene. Using electrochemistry and in situ spectroscopy, he investigated the effect of a series of aromatic pyridine organics on the catalytic selectivity of copper-metal catalysts, revealed the mechanism of the role of adsorption morphology of key reaction intermediates on the regulation of the reaction pathway, and established the conformational relationship for the CO2-catalyzed synthesis of ethylene. Based on this discovery, he designed and synthesized a novel copper catalyst modified with aryl pyridine oligomers in collaboration with Caltech. The research was patented in the USA and published in Nature. The paper was published and received widespread attention from international peers.
Based on this molecular modulation strategy, he further discovered that a phthalocyanine metal organocomplex could modulate the concentration and adsorption strength of a key intermediate (adsorbed CO) in the CO2 reduction reaction on the copper metal surface, thereby modulating the selectivity of the reaction from ethylene to ethanol.
Li has promoted the application of in situ electrochemical-spectroscopy in the study of surface and interfacial chemistry of catalytic materials. He has focused on the chemical and structural properties of catalyst materials and the adsorption behavior of reactants and reaction intermediates on material surfaces. These studies have deepened the understanding of the reaction kinetics and catalyst dynamic reconstructions for complex reactions involving multiple electron/proton transfer steps (e.g. CO2 reduction, nitrate reduction).
In addition, he has promoted process integration and process innovation in chemical reactions for CO2 capture and conversion. He successfully operated an electrically driven CO2-ethylene catalytic conversion reaction by integrating an organic-inorganic composite catalyst into a membrane electrode assembly (MEA). The reactor operated continuously and efficiently for up to 200 hours. Reaction system stability and energy efficiency were the highest reported in the literature to date. He has also invented a cascade electrochemical CO2 electroreduction system that reduces the additional costs caused by product separation and CO2 recovery.
Overall, Li's research is of great importance for the future of clean energy development and utilization. He is committed to producing 'green', inexpensive chemical products and power fuels with the ultimate goal of replacing fossil fuels and achieving carbon neutrality.