Gonghu Li

Assistant Professor

Physical Chemistry
Materials Chemistry
Department of Chemistry
University of New Hampshire
Durham, NH 03824-3598 U.S.A.

Li Group Web Page

Education and Achievements

  • B.S., 1997, Hubei Normal University, China
  • M.S., 2000, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Ph.D., 2005, University of Iowa
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, 2005-2007, Northwestern University
  • Postdoctoral Associate, 2007-2009, Yale University
  • Assistant Professor, 2009-current, University of New Hampshire

Research Interests

We utilize our expertise in surface chemistry and materials chemistry to develop innovative catalysts for sustainable energy applications.  A process of particular interest is solar fuel generation by CO2 reduction on surface molecular catalysts.  Our projects rely heavily on spectroscopic (FTIR, EPR, UV-vis) and electrochemical techniques to characterize the catalysts and establish structure-function relationships.  In addition, we integrate education with research by organizing solar energy workshops for K-12 science teachers.

Project #1: Hybrid Catalysts for Solar CO2 Reduction

In this project, we combine molecular catalysts with nanostructured surfaces to fabricate robust catalysts for efficient solar CO2 reduction.  We have successfully grafted a series of molecular CO2-reduction catalysts on mesoporous silicas (Figure 1).  The molecular catalysts include diimine-tricarbonyl Re(I) and Mn(I) complexes and macrocyclic Co(II) and Ni(II) compounds, which are known to be active in CO2 reduction.  One goal of this project is to template intermolecular reactivity and enable cooperative activation of CO2 via low-energy pathways.  Theoretical investigation of CO2 reduction on transition metal centers is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Richard Johnson of UNH Chemistry.


Li Figure 1

 Figure 1. Structures and pictures of different hybrid catalysts for CO2 reduction.

Project #2: Coupling Catalysts with Energy Sources for Sustainable CO2 Utilization

This project is closely associated with Project #1, but is focused on coupling well-defined catalytic sites with energy sources (photosensitizers and/or electrodes).  For example, we have deposited a macrocyclic Co(III) catalyst on TiO2 nanoparticles (UV photosensitizers) to achieve CO2-to-CO conversion upon UV irradiation (Figure 2a).  We are investigating the TiO2-based system in collaboration with Dr. Tijana Rajh of Argonne National Lab and Dr. N. Aaron Deskins of WPI.  In another system, we couple molecular CO2-reduction catalysts with nanostructured Si photoelectrodes and study interfacial electron transfer in collaboration with Dr. Dunwei Wang of Boston College (Figure 2b).

Li Figure 2

Figure 2. (a) Photocatalytic CO2 reduction on Co(cyclam)X/TiO2; (b) photoelectrochemical CO2 reduction on a surface-functionalized Si photoelectrode.

Project #3: Hybrid Photocatalysts for Organic Transformations

We are interested in carrying out organic transformations using hybrid photocatalysts based on earth-abundant elements.  The photocatalysts are prepared by grafting transition metal catalysts onto nanostructured surfaces.  Currently we are investigating selective oxidation of different organic compounds on hybrid photocatalysts using molecular oxygen as the primary oxidant.

Project #4: Biofuel Production via Microbial CO2 Fermentation

In collaboration with Dr. Louis Tisa of UNH MCBS and Dr. Kang Wu of UNH Chemical Engineering, we are studying microbial CO2 fermentation for efficient biofuel production.  The microorganisms of interest include acetogenic bacteria, which utilize the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway to generate energy for growth by reducing CO2 into acetate, ethanol and cellular carbon.


 He, H.; Liu, C.; Louis, M.E.; Li, G. “Infrared Studies of a Hybrid CO2-Reduction Photocatalyst Consisting of a Molecular Re(I) Complex Grafted on Kaolin,” J. Mol. Catal. A 2014, in press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.molcata.2014.08.020

 Jin, T.; Liu, C.; Li, G. “Photocatalytic CO2 Reduction Using a Molecular Cobalt Complex Deposited on TiO2 Nanoparticles,” Chem. Commun. 2014, 50, 6221-6224    * One of the Hot ChemComm articles for May 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/C4CC00503A

Dubois, K.D.; Liu, C.; Li, G. “Involvement of Surface Adsorbed Water in Photochromism of Spiropyran Molecules Deposited on NaY Zeolite,” Chem. Phys. Lett. 2014, 598, 53-57. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cplett.2014.03.014

Durrell, A.C.; Li, G.; Koepf, M.; Negre, C.F.; Allen, L.J.; McNamara, W.R.; Song, H.; Batista, V.S.; Crabtree, R.H.; Brudvig, G.W. “Photoelectrochemical Oxidation of a Turn-On Fluorescent Probe Mediated by a Surface MnII Catalyst Covalently Attached to TiO2 Nanoparticles,” J. Catal. 2014, 310, 37-44. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcat.2013.07.001

Louis, M.; Li, G. “Nanostructured Photocatalysts for Solar Water Splitting,” in Nanoscience. Ed. Paul O’brien, The Royal Society of Chemistry.  2014, 2, 81-97. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/9781849737623-00081

Dubois, K.D.; Li, G. “Innovative Photocatalysts for Solar Fuel Generation by CO2 Reduction,” in New and Future Developments in Catalysis: Solar Photocatalysis. Ed. Steven L. Suib, Elsevier: Amsterdam.  2013, 219-241

Liu, C.; Dubois, K.D.; Louis, M.E.; Vorushilov, A.; Li, G. “Photocatalytic CO2 Reduction and Surface Immobilization of a Tricarbonyl Re(I) Complex Modified with Amide Groups,” ACS Catal. 2013, 3, 655-662. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/cs300796e

He, H.; Liu, C.; Dubois, K.D.; Jin, T.; Louis, M.E.; Li, G. “Enhanced Charge Separation in Nanostructured TiO2 Materials for Photocatalytic and Photovoltaic Applications,” Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 2012, 51, 11841-11849. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ie300510n

Dubois, K.D.; He, H.; Liu, C.; Vorushilov, A.; Li, G. “Covalent Attachment of a Molecular CO2-Reduction Photocatalyst to Mesoporous Silica,” J. Mol. Catal. A 2012, 363-364, 208-213. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.molcata.2012.06.011

Dubois, K.D.; Petushkov, A.; Cardona, E.G.; Larsen, S.C.; Li, G. “Adsorption and Photochemical Properties of a Molecular CO2 Reduction Catalyst in Hierarchical Mesoporous ZSM-5: An In Situ FTIR Study,” J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2012, 3, 486-492. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jz201701y

Agarwal, J.; Johnson, R.P.; Li, G. “Reduction of CO2 on a Tricarbonyl Rhenium(I) Complex: Modeling a Catalytic Cycle,” J. Phys. Chem. A 2011, 115, 2877-2881    * One of the top 10 most read articles for Q2 2011 for J. Phys. Chem. A. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jp111342r


Updated: 8/25/14