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Yingwen Cheng

Materials Chemistry; Electrochemistry; Energy Chemistry

Our research lies at the interface between surface science, materials chemistry, electrochemistry and nanoscience. The goal is to develop advanced materials for sustainable energy storage and chemical conversion. This will be done through two focus areas: 1) fundamental understanding on the role of interfacial properties on the formation and phase transition of energy materials, and developing innovative approaches to synthesize materials with structure and property controlled across multiple length scale; 2) general reaction mechanisms for applications of these novel materials toward the next generation batteries, fuel cells and catalysts, and significantly improve the performance of the state‐of‐the‐art technology.

Research Directions

Efficient energy storage is critical for practical adoption of renewable energy and deployment of electric vehicles. Current technologies, such as lithium ion and lead–acid batteries, have intrinsic limitations and the need for the next‐generation batteries is urgent. Our research in this topic focuses on developing new technologies through fundamental understanding and controlling ion transport across electrochemical interfaces and within the host materials. The emphasis is to develop advanced battery materials and efficient artificial interfaces. Specific systems for the near future are 1) multi‐valent batteries, particularly those involve Mg metal; and 2) batteries with water based electrolytes, with water working as either the main solvent or an additive.

Interface stabilized advanced electrocatalysts for efficient chemical conversion

One of the key challenges in electrochemical/photochemical chemical conversion is the design of catalytic materials with earth‐abundant elements featuring high product selectivity and stability. We aim to develop novel nanostructured materials with desired electronic and geometric properties. We will apply these materials for catalytic reactions that are relevant to a cleaner and sustainable environment, particularly oxygen reduction reaction for fuel cells, oxygen evolution reaction for reverse fuel cells (electrolyzer), and electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide and methane to energy dense liquid fuels. We are also interested in designing catalyst support materials with improved electrochemical durability especially during transient operation conditions. We will synthesis a series of nanomaterials with defined structure and compositions, including mixed oxides, carbides, nitrides and their composites. The fundamental binding properties of catalysts with these supports with respect to catalyst particle size, distribution, reactivity and stability will be systematically analyzed and optimized.

Representative publications

  1. Cheng, Y.; Luo, L.; Zhong, L.; Chen, J. Li, B.; Wang, W.; Mao, S.; Wang, C.; Sprenkle, V.; Li, G. and Liu, J. “Highly Reversible Zinc–ion Intercalation into Chevrel Phase Mo6S8 Nanocubes and Applications for Advanced Zinc ion Batteries”, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2016, 8, 13673–13677.
  2. Cheng, Y.; Choi, D.; Han, K.; Mueller, K.; Zhang, J.; Sprenkle, V.; Liu, J. and Li, G. “Toward the Design of High Voltage Hybrid Magnesium–Lithium Batteries” Chemical Communications, 2016, 52, 5379–5382.
  3. Cheng, Y.; Shao, Y.; Ruju, V.; Ji, X.; Mehdi, L.; Han, K.; Engelhard, M.; Li, G.; Browning, N.; Mueller, K. and Liu, J. “Molecular Storage of Mg ions with Vanadium Oxide Nanoclusters” Advanced Functional Materials, 2016, 26, 3446–3453
  4. Cheng, Y.; Shao, Y.; Parent, L.; Sushko, M.; Li, G.; Sushko, P.; Browning, N.; Wang, C. and Liu, J. “ Interface Promoted Reversible Mg Insertion in Nanostructured Tin–Antimony Alloys” Advanced Materials, 2015, 27, 6598–6605.
  5. Cheng, Y.; Stolley, R.; Han, K. S.; Shao, Y.; Arey, B.; Washton, N.; Mueller, K. T.; Helm, M.; Sprenkle, V.; Liu, J. and Li, G. “Highly Active Electrolytes for Rechargeable Mg batteries Based on [Mg2(μ‐Cl)2]2+ Cation Complex in Dimethoxyethane” Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 2015, 17, 13307–13314.
  6. Cheng, Y.; Parent, L.; Shao, Y.; Wang, C.; Sprenkle, V.; Li, G. and Liu, J. “Facile Synthesis of Chevrel Phase Nanocubes and Their Applications for Multivalent Energy Storage” Chemistry of Materials, 2014, 26, 4904–4907.
  7. Cheng, Y.; Liu, T.; Shao, Y.; Engelhard, M.; Liu, J. and Li, G. “Electrochemically Stable Cathode Current Collectors for Rechargeable Magnesium Batteries” Journal of Materials Chemistry A, 2014, 2, 2473–2477.
  8. Cheng, Y.; Zhang, H.; Varanasi, C. and Liu, J. “Highly Efficient Oxygen Reduction Electrocatalysts based on Winged Carbon Nanotubes” Scientific Reports, 2013, 3, 3195.
  9. Cheng, Y.; Zhang, H.; Varanasi, C. and Liu, J. “Improving the Performance of Cobalt–Nickel Hydroxide‐based Self‐Supporting Electrodes for Supercapacitors Using Accumulative Approaches” Energy & Environmental Science, 2013, 6, 3314–3321.
  10. Cheng, Y.; Lu, S.; Zhang, H.; Varanasi, C. and Liu, J. “Synergistic Effects from Graphene and Carbon Nanotubes Enable Flexible and Robust Electrodes for High‐Performance Supercapacitors” Nano Letters, 2012, 12(8), 4206–4211.
  11. Cheng, Y.; Yin, L.; Lin, S.; Wiesner, M.; Bernhardt, E. and Liu, J. “Toxicity Reduction of Polymer‐Stabilized Silver Nanoparticles Suspensions by Sunlight” Journal of Physical Chemistry C 2011, 115, 4425–4432.

Yingwen Cheng

Assistant Professor
La Tourette Hall 411
(815) 753‐7033

Educational Background

PostDoc, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, 2013–2017

Ph.D. (Chemistry), Duke University, 2013

B.S. (Chemistry) and B.Eng. (Chemical Engineering). Shandong University, 2008

Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

Development of novel electrode materials and electrolytes for stronger and more reliable beyond lithium–ion batteries. Novel electrocatalysts for efficient conversion of electricity into chemicals and energy‐dense liquid fuels. Materials synthesis with structure‐properties controlled across multiple length scales. In‐situ and ex‐situ advanced characterization.