Thank you for visiting our group website! We are the Sustainable Materials and Energy Laboratory (SMEL) in the NanoEngineering department at UC San Diego. Our research group focuses on designing and understanding novel materials and chemical processes for energy and environmental applications. We are particularly interested in the following topics: (1) Energy storage and conversion materials and devices; (2) Batteries for extreme environments; (3) Next-generation battery recycling; (4) Porous materials for charge separation and storage. We are devoted to pushing the limit of scientific knowledge and creating social impact through teaching, research and outreach activities.

Eco-friendly and low-cost recycling of Li-ion battery (LIB) is becoming an urgent need to enable sustainable energy storage. In this video, we outlined the methods for today's recycling technologies and highlighted recent advancement in this field. Check our tutoring video on the left.

Energy generation and storage in the 21st Century presents us with both scientifically complex challenges, and exciting goals at the same time. The Sustainable Power and Energy Center (SPEC) from UC San Diego – is uniquely placed and connected to contribute toward a low-carbon energy future, using cutting-edge research and scientific development, making sustainable energy a conceivable, practical and affordable reality. Check our battery innovation video on the left and learn more about how our students and faculties are tackling these challenges

The major challenge faced in LIB sustainability lies with the fact that the current LIBs are not designed for recycling, making it difficult to engineer recycling approaches that avoid breaking batteries down into their raw materials. Thus, it is prudent to explore new approaches to both fabricate and recycle next-generation batteries before they enter the market. Here, we developed a sustainable design and scalable recycling strategy for next-generation all solid-state batteries (ASSBs).

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is one of the most important chemicals1 that is widely used in disinfection, chemical synthesis, wastewater treatment, and the mining industry. Our lab has developed a portable, more environmentally friendly method to produce H2O2. We reported that direct metal-oxygen coordination can create unique active sites that enable efficient and more practical catalyst for electrosynthesis of H2O2 . Our work could enable hospitals to make their own supply of the disinfectant on demand and at lower cost. Check the video created by Mr. Antonimuthu based on our 2020 Nat. Comm. work.

Recent representative publications from SMEL:

  1. Guorui Cai, John Holoubek, Mingqian Li, Hongpeng Gao, Yijie Yin, Sicen Yu, Haodong Liu, Tod A. Pascal, Ping Liu, Zheng Chen*, Solvent Selection Criteria for Temperature-Resilient Lithium–Sulfur Batteries, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2022, 119 (28) e2200392119.

  2. Qianwan Chang, Youngmin Hong, Hye Jin Lee, Ji Hoon Lee, Damilola Ologunagba , Zhixiu Liang, Jeonghyeon Kim, Mi Ji Kim, Jong Wook Hong, Liang Song, Shyam Kattel*, Zheng Chen*, Jingguang G. Chen*, and Sang-Il Cho*, Achieving complete electrooxidation of ethanol by single atomic Rh decoration of Pt nanocubes, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2022,

  3. Yijie Yin, Yangyuchen Yang, Diyi Cheng, Matthew Mayer, John Holoubek, Weikang Li, Ganesh Raghavendran, Alex Liu, Bingyu Lu, Daniel M. Davies, Zheng Chen, Oleg Borodin & Y. Shirley Meng*, Fire-extinguishing, recyclable liquefied gas electrolytes for temperature-resilient lithium-metal batteries, Nature Energy, 2022, 7, 548–559.

  4. Darren H. S. Tan, Yu-Ting Chen, Hedi Yang, Wurigumula Bao, Bhagath Sreenarayanan, Jean-Marie Doux, Weikang Li, Bingyu Lu, So-Yeon Ham, Baharak Sayahpour, Jonathan Scharf, Erik A. Wu, Grayson Deysher, Hyea Eun Han, Hoe Jin Hah, Hyeri Jeong, Zheng Chen*, Ying Shirley Meng*, Carbon Free High Loading Silicon Anodes Enabled by Sulfide Solid Electrolytes for Robust All Solid-State Batteries, Science, 2021, 373 (6562), 1494-1499.

  5. Guorui Cai,† Yijie Yin,† Dawei Xia,† Amanda A. Chen, John Holoubek, Jonathan Scharf, Yangyuchen Yang, Ki Hwan Koh, Mingqian Li, Daniel M. Davies, Matthew Mayer, Tae Hee Han, Ying Shirley Meng, Tod A. Pascal, Zheng Chen*, Sub-nanometer confinement enables facile condensation of gas electrolyte for low-temperature batteries, Nature Communications, 2021, 12, 3395.

  6. John Holoubek, Haodong Liu, Zhaohui Wu, Xing Xing, Sicen Yu, Yijie Yin, Hongyao Zhou, Tod A. Pascal*, Zheng Chen*, and Ping Liu*, Tailoring electrolyte solvation for Li metal batteries cycled at ultra-low temperature, Nature Energy, 2021, 6, 303-313.

  7. Darren Tan, Abhik Banerjee, Zheng Chen*, and Ying Shirley Meng*, Solid-State Electrolytes Review: From Nanoscale Interface to Sustainable Energy Storage, Nature Nanotechnology, 2020, 15, 170–180. (Invited Perspective)

  8. Zheng Chen, et al, Yi Cui* and Zhenan Bao*, Fast and Reversible Thermo-Responsive Polymer Switching for Safer Batteries, Nature Energy, 2016, 1: 15009.

  9. Qiaowan Chang, Pu Zhang, Amir Hassan Bagherzadeh Mostaghimi, Xueru Zhao, Steven R. Denny, Ji Hoon Lee, Hongpeng Gao, Ying Zhang, Huolin Xin*, Samira Siahrostami*, Jingguang G. Chen* and Zheng Chen*, Promoting H2O2 Production via 2-Electron Oxygen Reduction in Acidic Electrolyte by Coordinating Partially Oxidized Pd with Defect Carbon, Nature Communication, 2020, 11, 2178.

  10. Panpan Xu, Qiang Dai, Hongpeng Gao, Haodong Liu, Minghao Zhang, Yan Chen, Ke An, Ying Shirley Meng, Ping Liu, Yanran Li, Jeffrey S. Spangenberger, Linda Gaines, Jun Lu, Zheng Chen*, Efficient Direct Recycling of Lithium-Ion Battery Cathodes by Targeted Healing, Joule, 2020,