The Ye-lab synthesizes functional materials, with a particular interest in the purview of energy. The research topics include the rational design of catalysts that reduce the reaction barriers and improve the energy conversion efficiency, and the development of new methodologies for materials synthesis that simplify the manufacturing process and reduce the cost without compromising the functions.

1. Catalysis                                                                                                                                 (updated in Dec 2018)



The development of renewable energy abounds with worldwide research effort. Chemical bonds present as powerful intermediates for the storage and relaxation of excess energy from intermittent sources such as wind and solar. In pursuit of high energy conversion efficiency, the development of catalysts minimizing the energy barriers is essential. Our lab seeks active electrocatalysts for the synthesis of valuable fuels and chemicals with renewable energy as the driving force. This includes water splitting, CO2 reduction and chemical commodities production (i.e. Adv. Mater. 2016, 28, 1427-1432; Adv. Mater. 2017, 29, 1702211; ACS Energy Lett. 2018, 3, 1381-1386). For the relaxation of energy, we aim at developing earth-abundant materials as substituents for the scarce and expensive platinum catalyst in fuel cell technology. This includes alcohol oxidation and oxygen reduction reactions (i.e. ACS Nano 2015 9, 9244-9251; ACS Nano 2014 8, 10837-10843; Carbon 2018, 132, 623-631). 

In the Ye-lab, we not only are interested in improving the catalytic performance, but also emphasize the mechanistic understanding of the reactions. We use advanced instrumentation such as STEM, XANES, and in situ spectroscopic to understand the catalyst structure and reaction interfaces, and rationalize the mechanism with first principle calculation.

2. Methodology



The development of facile and cost-effective methods for the production of materials is essential to meet the mass and volume demands in practical applications. Two techniques have been developed and we continue to research on the methodologies for the synthesis of functional materials.  

Laser-induced Graphene Laser-assisted processing techniques have emerged as powerful tools in various applications ranging from materials manufacturing to surgical pathology. In 2014, it was reported that commercial polymers can be converted into porous graphene by direct laser scribing with a CO2 infrared laser. This technique simplifies the 3D graphene preparation and reduces the cost. Starting from polyimide, it has been extended to various substrates and found broad applications in electronics, catalysis, water treatments, sensors and so on (i.e. Adv. Mater. 2017, 29, 1702211; ACS Nano 2018, 12, 2176-2183). By tuning the lasing method, the formation of carbon allotrope other than graphene can be achieved (i.e. ACS Nano 2018, 12, 1083-1088). More information can be found in our recent review articles (Acc. Chem. Res.; Adv. Mater. Publications item 2018-6 and -8)

Graphene Quantum Dots Coal is one of the most abundant energy resources in the world. yet it is readily burnt as fossil fuel due to its structural characteristics. In 2013, we successfully developed a facile method to synthesize graphene quantum dots from various coal sources. By manipulating the properties of graphene quantum dots via defects and sizes engineering, applications in fluorescence, catalysis and biomedical are investigated (i.e. Nat. Commun. 2013, 4, 2943; ACS Applied Mater. Interfaces 2015, 7, 7041-7048; ACS Nano 2014, 8, 10837-10843).