Chemistry 1 3 175
Zhihai Li

Zhihai Li

Assistant Professor

CP 409N  Phone: 765-285-8086  

Department of Chemistry
Ball State University
Cooper Physical Science Building, room 305
Muncie, IN 47306

Research Assistant Professor, Temple University (2014)
Postdoctoral Associate, Arizona State University (2010)
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Bern, Switzerland (2009)
RWTH Aachen University, Ph.D. (2007)

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Li Research Group

Research interest: nano-materials and devices, electrochemistry, electrochemical scanning probe microscopy (STM) and its applications in energy conversion and surface corrosion, molecular assembly and single molecule electrical properties.

Nano-materials and properties

Monolayer-protected nanoparticles have attracted major interest recently, not only because of their applications to electrocatalysis, biology, sensors, and medicine, but also due to their unique electrical properties as nanoscale building blocks for constructing nano-devices and/or future molecular circuits. In this project, we aim to prepare size-controlled nanoparticles from different metals (Au, Pd, etc.) and further characterize these nanoparticles with UV-vis spectroscopy, TEM, atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), and electrochemical techniques. The electrochemical, mechanical, and electrical properties of these nanoscale entities will be investigated and their applications in molecular electronics and sensors will be explored.

Initial corrosion and surface passivation of metal materials

Electrochemical corrosion of iron (steel) is a ubiquitous phenomenon and the corrosion and aging of iron products can cause severe economic and technical, or even safety problems. Thus, the understanding and further preventing, or at least decreasing the speed of the corrosion processes is vastly important. The study of the initial steps of metal deposition or dissolution on electrodes represents a basic step toward understanding complex surface corrosion and is the key to control corrosion processes. Electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy (EC-STM) is a powerful tool which combines electro-analytical techniques with surface sensitive scanning probe microscopy (SPM) to investigate surface processes and chemical reactivity at the atomic level.

Functional assembly of novel two-dimensional nanomaterials

As the miniaturization of electronic components approaches the nanometer scale, new concepts and strategies are essential to overcome the fundamental physical and economic limitations of conventional inorganic silicon technology. Bottom up assembly of well-defined nanoscale building blocks, such as molecules, quantum dots, and nanowires, having key properties controlled by size, morphology and chemical composition on well-defined surfaces (single crystal electrodes) represent an attractive alternative. We will apply a bottom-up strategy to build a series of functional two-dimensional (2D) nanomaterials based on novel molecular materials. We expect to fabricate large 2D porous nano-sheets, and these functional 2D nanomaterials will be characterized by STM and AFM, and further used as templates to create highly ordered quantum dots.

Electro-catalytic oxidation of CO on platinum electrodes in fuel cells

Direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) have many advantages over traditional batteries, such as portability and they are a clean (environment-friendly) energy resource, and are regarded as a possible future energy device. However, in the fuel cell reaction process, the reaction intermediate, carbon monoxide (CO), strongly binds to the catalyst surface (Pt) and blocks the active sites, so-called poisoning of the anodic catalyst. This poisoning of the catalyst by CO limits the performance of DMFC and challenges the development of platinum catalyst. We aim to explore the mechanism at the molecular or atomic level using electrochemistry and EC-STM techniques. The study may provide valuable information and experimental guidance to develop high-performance anode catalysts and facilitate the application of DMFC.

Selected Publications

  1. Li, Z.; Smeu, M, Arnaud Rives, Maraval, V.; Chauvin, R.; Ratner, M. A.; Borguet, E. Towards graphyne molecular electronics. Nature Communications 6:6321, doi:10.1038/ncomms7321 (2015).
  2.  Li, Z.; Smeu, M.; Park, T-H, Rawson, J.; Xing, Y.; Therien,M.; Ratner, M. A.; Borguet, E. Hapticity-Dependent Charge Transport through Carbodithioate- Terminated [5, 15- Bis (phenylethynyl) porphinato] zinc (II) Complexes in Metal-Molecule-Metal. Nano Letters 14, 5493-5499 (2014). 
  3. Li, Z.; Li, H; Chen,S.; Froehlich, T.; Schönenberger, C.; Calame, M; Decurtins, S.; Liu, S. X.; Eric Borguet, Regulating a Benzodifuran Single Molecule Redox Switch via Electrochemical Gating and Optimization of Molecule/Electrode Coupling, Journal of the American Chemical Society 136, 8867-8870 (2014).
  4. Li, Z.; Smeu, M.; Afsari, S.; Xing, Y.; Ratner, M. A.; Borguet, E. Single Molecule Sensing of Environmental pH – An STM Break Junction and NEGF-DFT Approach. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 53, 1098-1102 (2014).
  5. Li, Z.; Smeu, M.; Ratner, M. A.; Borguet, E. Effect of Anchoring Groups on Single Molecule Charge Transport through Porphyrins JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY C 117, 14890-14898 (2013).
  6. Li, Z.; Borguet, E. Determining Charge Transfer Pathways through Single Porphyrin Molecules Using STM Break Junctions. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY 134, 63-66 (2012).
  7. Li, Z.; Park, T-H.; Rawson, J.; Therien, M. J.; Borguet, E. Quasi-Ohmic Single Molecule Charge Transport through Highly Conjugated meso-to-meso Ethyne-Bridged Porphyrin Wires NANO LETTERS 12, 2722-2727 (2012).
  8. Diez-Perez, I.*; Li, Z.*; Li, J.; Zhang, C.; Yang, X.; Zang, L.; Dai, Y.; Feng, X.; Muellen, K.; Tao, N.J. Gate-controlled Electron Transport in Coronenes As A Bottom-up Approach Towards Graphene Transistors NATURE COMMUNICATIONS (*equal contribution) DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1029 (2010).
  9. Li, Z.; Liu, Y.; Mertens, S.; Pobelov, I.; Wandlowski, Th. From Redox Gating to Quantized Charging JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY 132, 8187-8193 (2010).
  10. Li, Z.; Han, B.; Mészáros, G.; Wandlowski, Th.; Błaszczyk, A.; Mayor, M. Two-dimensional Assembly and Local Redox-activity of Molecular Hybrid Structures in an Electrochemical Environment FARADAY DISCUSSIONS 131, 121-143 (2006).
  11. Li, Z.; Han, B.; Wan, L. J.; Wandlowski, Th. Supramolecular Nanostructures of 1,3,5-Benzene-tricarboxylic Acid at Electrified Au(111)/0.05 M H2SO4 Interfaces: An in situ Scanning Tunneling Microscopy Study LANGMUIR 21 (15), 6915-6928 (2005).
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