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Xiulei David Ji in front of black backdrop

Chemistry professor receives NSF CAREER Award

Xiulei David Ji, assistant professor in chemistry

Video of Dr. Ji talking about his path in science.

Congratulations to Xiulei (David) Ji, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, has been granted a five-year $530,000 National Science Foundation CAREER Award for his project, “Carbon Anodes in Potassium-Ion Batteries.”

The NSF CAREER award is the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award given to junior faculty members for outstanding and innovative research and the effective application of that research in university teaching and education. NSF CAREER awards enable promising young researchers and scientists to achieve scientific leadership in “integrating education and research” in their field.

“I am extremely proud of David. The NSF CAREER Award is a prestigious award that supports the work of outstanding young faculty,” said College of Science Dean Sastry G. Pantula.

“David is committed to excellent research in addition to education and student success. This recognition is a testament to our commitment to recruit and mentor our outstanding faculty.”

Ji joins five other College of Science faculty currently supported by NSF CAREER Awards: Chong Fang (Chemistry), Debashis Mondal (Statistics), Paul Cheong (Chemistry) as well as Ethan Minot and Davide Lazzati (both in Physics).

Ji and his research team—comprising graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and undergraduate researchers—are working toward more sustainable energy storage and conversion devices that are environment-friendly, and possess better safety, energy density and power density.

Specifically, Ji’s lab conducts research to understand basic structure-property relationships at atomic and nanometric scales for short-range ordered materials. Currently, the team is focused on designing new carbon-based materials for sustainable energy storage and conversion.

In 2015, Ji and his students made a revolutionary discovery when they showed a broad array of bulk carbon structures can reversibly accommodate K-ions with high capacities and long cycling life. This lays the foundation for futuristic potassium-ion batteries to replace the expensive lithium-ion batteries. Ji’s scientific advance overturned the decades long assumption that potassium couldn’t work with graphite or other bulk carbon anodes in a battery.

The CAREER award will support Ji’s research on designing carbon anodes through a better understanding of structure-property relationships in potassium-ion batteries. This will generate invaluable knowledge on improving the electrochemical performance of carbon anodes to support a new era of high-power, low cost and environment-friendly batteries.

“The CAREER award will help us continue to uncover the fundamental principles that will guide us to design the structures for desirable properties of a family of under-explored materials—short-range ordered bulk carbons," said Ji.

"These materials will most likely be enablers for future sustainable non-Li alkali metal-ion batteries. It is exciting to work in this area with my student colleagues, and it is wonderful that our effort is supported.”

Ji’s project will advance STEM learning in Oregon and at OSU.

“The project will bring state-of-the-art knowledge of energy storage to underserved students in rural Oregon by developing a new Science-Tour program,” said Ji.

His research program will also expose and train high school and undergraduate students in the science behind the construction of more energy efficient batteries.

Last year, Ji won the University Venture Development Fund (UVDF) award for making a fascinating breakthrough in the use of gaseous carbon dioxide to make advanced energy-storage devices that could power everything from hybrid cars to digital cameras. This environmentally benign, low-cost version of carbon known as “nanoporous graphene” is far more efficient at conducting heat and electricity than the form of carbon traditionally available in supercapacitators—devices that can store energy and release it rapidly.

Oregon’s university development venture fund, available to researchers at the seven Oregon University System (OUS) campuses and Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), supports development of innovative high-impact research projects, such as that of Ji, which can be transferred into commercially viable and economically progressive ventures.

Ji joined the Oregon State chemistry faculty in 2012 after completing a Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He completed his undergraduate studies at Jilin University in China and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, Canada.