Tao Li

Synthesis of Bio‐inspired Functional Nanomaterials for Medical and Energy Applications

My long‐term research objective is to develop a highly fundable bio‐inspired interdisciplinary program to design and synthesize novel hierarchically structured functional nanomaterials with wide‐range applications in nanomedicine and energy‐related fields. My research plan is rationally and progressively prioritized into three phases.

Part A: Developing Multi‐Functional Biomaterials for Drug/Gene Delivery

Development of synthetic materials such as colloids and nanomaterials that could stabilize, organize, and control the activity of proteins/enzymes has been intensely investigated in the fields of medicine and energy technology, but with limited success. I aim to develop a method through the precise control the interaction between polymer and proteins/enzyme to stabilize and preserve their conformation and functionality. My goal is to adapt this technology to generate protein‐based materials (Figure 1) for protein/gene delivery, bio‐imaging, and energy conversion and storage.

Part B: Developing High‐Performance Nano‐Catalysts for Energy Conversion

Carbonaceous feeds, such as oil, gas, and coal, can be catalytically converted to useful products. Many of these reactions are conducted under harsh conditions, where the metal catalysts will rapidly sinter and the reactivity is reduced quickly. My goal is to fabricate the high performance stable catalyst with nano‐porous structures including encapsulating the catalyst in the porous structures and depositing nano‐pores on catalyst (Figure 2). One approach will be used to encapsulate the catalyst inside the porous structures such as metal organic framework (MOF). Another approach will take advantage of colloid chemistry and atomic layer deposition method to stabilize the catalyst with metal oxide layer such as Al2O3, TiO2, and ZrO2. Upon calcination or etching, such materials will become porous structure.

Part C: Developing Advanced Characterization Tools for In Situ and Operando Characterization of Catalytic Materials

Understanding the performance of catalyst under technologically realistic conditions remains big challenge. My goal is to use the advanced characterization tools, especially synchrotron X‐ray techniques for the operando study. Synchrotron X‐ray techniques such as Small‐angle X‐ray Scattering (SAXS), X‐ray Diffraction (XRD), X‐ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) will be utilized for the characterization, especially in‐situ characterization. The simultaneous XAS and SAXS will ensure the exact sample volume is evaluated at the same time with two techniques, which facilitate direct correlation of oxidation state and aggregations state. From the in‐situ XAS/SAXS experiment, we not only can probe the local structures of the metal catalyst, but also obtain how the metal catalysts interact with the solvent and with each other. Such technique could also be used for the nanoparticle growth and assembly.

Figure 1Figure 1. Schematic representation of protein‐based functional materials.

Figure 2Figure 2. Schematic representation of catalyst stabilized by nano‐porous structures.


Tao Li

Assistant Professor
La Tourette Hall 416
815‐753‐7003
tli4@niu.edu
Group Site


Educational Background

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Argonne National Laboratory, 2010–2013

Ph.D. University of South Carolina–Columbia, 2009

B.S. East China University of Science and Technology, 2003


Research Interests

Nanocatalysts, electrolytes, nanoparticle synthesis and assembly, drug/protein delivery, enzyme immobilization and synchrotron characterization.


Representative publications

  • X. Feng, R. Zhang, Y. Li, Y. Hong, D. Guo, K. Lang, K. Wu, M. Huang, J. Mao, C. Wesdemiotis, Y. Nishiyama, W Zhang, T. Miyoshi,* T. Li, * and Stephen Z. D. Cheng.* “Geometric Shape Directed Nano‐Scaled Supralattice Sequence in Precisely Constructed Giant Mul>ecules”. ACS Central Science 2017, 3 (8), 860–867.
  • S. Seo, T. Li, A. Senesi, Chad A. Mirkin,*, B. Lee* († co‐first author) “Accounting For the Repulsive Interactions in Colloidal Crystal Engineering With DNA”. Journal of the American Chemical Society 2017, 139(46), 16528–16535.
  • T. Li, S. Karwal, B. Aoun, H. Zhao, R. Yang, C. Canlas, J. Elam, and R. Winans*. “Exploring Pore Formation of Atomic Layer Deposited Overlayers by In Situ Small‐ and Wide‐ Angle X‐ray Scattering”. Chemistry of Materials 2016, 28, 7082–7087.
  • T. Li, A. Senesi, B. Lee* “Small Angle X‐ray Scattering for Nanoparticle Research”. Chemical Review 2016, 116, 11128–11180.
  • B. Cormary, T. Li, N. Liakakos, T. Blon, A. Kropf, B. Chaudret, J. Miller, E. Mader*, K. Soulantica*. “Concerted Growth and Ordering of Cobalt Nanorod Arrays as Revealed by Tandem In Situ SAXS–XAS Studies”. Journal of the American Chemical Society 2016, 138(27), 8422–8431.
  • J. Lee, D. Jackson, T. Li, R. Winans, J. Dumesic, T. Kuech, G. Huber*. “Stabilization of Cobalt Catalysts by Atomic Layer Deposition for Aqueous‐Phase Reactions”. Energy and Environmental Science 2014, 7, 1657–1660.
  • J.R. Gallagher, T. Li, H.Y. Zhao, J.J. Liu, Y. Lei, J.W. Elam, R.J. Meyer, R.E. Winans and J.T. Miller. “In‐situ diffraction study of highly dispersed supported platinum nanoparticles”. Catalysis Science & Technology 2014, 4, 3053–3063.
  • A. Alba–Rubio, B. O'Neill, F. Shi, C. Akatay, C. P. Canlas, T. Li, R. Winans, J. Elam, E. Stach, A.; J. Dumesic, “Pore Structure and Bifunctional Catalyst Activity of Overlayers Applied by Atomic Layer Deposition on Copper Nanoparticle”. ACS Catal., 2014, 4, 1554–1557.
  • N. Suthiwangcharoen†, T. Li †, H. B. Reno, T. Preston, Y. Shao, Q. Wang*. “A facile co‐assembly process to generate high‐density coating of functional proteins around polymeric nanoparticles”. Biomacromolecules († shared the same contribution) 2014. 15, 948–956.
  • T. Li, X. Zang, Q. Wang*, R. Winans, B. Lee*. “Superlattice Assembled and Tuned by Stimulus‐Responsive Polymer”. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52, 6638–6642.