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Tao Li

Representative publications

  1. 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 Molecules”. ACS Central Science 2017, 3 (8), 860–867.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. T. Li, A. Senesi, B. Lee* “Small Angle X‐ray Scattering for Nanoparticle Research”. Chemical Review 2016, 116, 11128–11180.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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 has been intensely investigated in the fields of medicine and energy technology, but with limited success. Successful development of such materials includes strategies to reduce or prevent chemical degradation, denaturation, aggregation and other structural changes of the proteins. Prevailing methods rely on chemical conjugation or protein adsorption, which require multiple synthetic procedures with complex chemistry followed by extensive purification protocols that may result in a loss of structure or functionality. I aim to provide an alternative method by exploring the use of synthetic materials such as colloids to mimic nature's ability to stabilize and preserve protein conformation and functionality in the aqueous solution. 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. These efforts will involve:

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

The decreasing availability and increasing cost of fossil fuels and the growing concerns on environmental problems resulting from their combustion are two critical challenges. Conversion of biomass to chemical fuels, called biofuel, is a future direction because they represent another energy source, and they produce no net increase in CO2 emissions. Due to the higher cost of biomass derived fuels, it is necessary to develop high‐performance nanomaterials that can substantially improve the efficiency of biomass conversion. Among all nanomaterials, nano‐catalysts play a vital role in converting and upgrading biomass to fuels, and thus need to be studied extensively. My goal is to develop high‐performance nano‐catalysts for improving the efficiency of producing useable fuels from biomass.

Biomass reactions mostly occur in aqueous solutions. The catalyst will be degraded by a substance known as “supercritical water,” which quickly oxidizes the metal surface of a catalyst. My goal is to fabricate the high performance catalyst with nano‐porous structures including encapsulating the catalyst in the porous structures and depositing nano‐pores on catalyst (Figure 2). One example will be using protein cage as the template. For example, apoferritin (Apo), consists of 24 identical subunits and has a spherical shape with an inner cavity of 8 nm. The cavity can be used as the location for a “nano‐reactor” in which to synthesize the metal nanoparticles. The junction between the subunits consists of 14 empty channels, each 3–4 Å in diameter. These serve as a pathway between the exterior and interior of the protein core. Similar 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

Basic Energy Sciences Workshop report on “Basic Research Needs Catalysis for Energy” pointed out that “Success in the design and controlled synthesis of catalytic structures requires characterization of catalysts as they function, including evaluation of their performance under technologically realistic conditions”. To probe this mission, I plan to use the advanced characterization tools, especially synchrotron X‐ray techniques. I will test the real catalytic system at the beamlines of APS. Synchrotron X‐ray techniques such as Small‐angle X‐ray Scattering (SAXS), X‐ray Diffraction (XRD), X‐ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS), including Near Edge Structure (XANES) and Extended X‐Ray Absorption Fine Structure (EXAFS) will be utilized for the characterization, especially in‐situ characterization.

To date, most in‐situ catalyst characterization has probed gas/solid systems. The study of catalyst at the liquid/solid interface is underestimated. I am particularly interested in heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysts in liquid environments, which present special challenges for nanoparticle growth. The combination of SAXS and XAS will provide correlated kinetics from both scattering and spectroscopic perspective. 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.


Tao Li

Assistant Professor
La Tourette Hall 416
(815) 753‐7003
tli4@niu.edu


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.




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


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