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Tianbiao Liu

Tianbiao Liu

Inorganic Chemistry

Assistant Professor

Contact Information

CallPhone: 435-797-2267
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Ph.D., 2009, Texas A&M University (Prof. Marcetta Y. Darensbourg)M.S., 2004, Dalian University of Technology, China (Prof. Licheng Sun and Prof. Mei Wang)B.S., 2000, Hubei University of Technology, China


Staff Scientist, 2013-2015, Division of Energy and Materials Process, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Postdoc Associate, 2009-2013, Center for Molecule Electrocatalysis (DOE ERFC), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Dr. Daniel L. DuBois and Dr. R. Morris Bullock)


The Liu research group focuses on electrochemical energy storage, electrocatalysis, and homogenous catalysis employing earth abundant element based catalysts and materials to achieve sustainable, economical, and environment-benign energy and chemical transformations. Our research is highly multidisciplinary embracing inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, material science, and electrochemical engineering. Students (undergraduate and graduate) and postdoc scholars in our group will receive comprehensive trainings for career development.

To tackle the increasing global energy challenges, our group adopts two complementary approaches to harnessing renewable energy (e.g. solar, wind, and hydroelectric): rechargeable batteries and electrocatalysis. The battery program develops novel battery technologies beyond traditional Li ion and lead acid batteries to seek applications in renewable energy integration, portable electronic devices, and electric vehicles. We primarily emphasize the development of multivalent metal batteries (Zn, Al, Ca, and Mg) and redox flow batteries while we are also interested in discovering new technologies to advance Li ion batteries. The electrocatalysis program encompasses synthesis and electrochemical tests of bio-inspired (e.g. hydrogenase and nitrogenase) molecular catalysts and hybrid organic/inorganic nano-catalysts for chemical fuel production (H2, CO, alcohols, and hydrazine) using earth abundant materials (H2O, CO2, and N2) and renewable energy sources, and also electrochemical consumption of chemical fuels. At the fundamental level, we want to manage multi-proton-multi-electron transfers to facilitate catalytic energy conversion at optimal rate and energy efficiency. Additionally, we are extremely enthusiastic in fabricating energy device prototypes (electrolyzers and fuel cells) for technical implementation.

The third theme in our group is directed on the development of well-defined molecular catalysts based on inexpensive metals (e.g. Mn, Fe, Ni, Co, W, Mo) to handle homogenous catalysis that is traditionally achieved by precious metal (e.g. Rh, Ir, and Pd) based catalysts. To realize “cheap metals for noble tasks”, we pay particular attention to ligand design and take fully advantage of the ligand second coordination sphere effect and the metal-ligand cooperation effect for highly efficient bond activation and formation, and their uses in catalytic synthesis of valuable organic products.
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Openings Available

The Liu Group has openings for undergraduates assistants, graduate students, and postdoc researchers. Motivated students and PhD chemists are welcome to join our research program.  Send applications to