Professor Liming Dai 

Liming Dai is a Scientia and Sharp Professor and an ARC Laureate Fellow in School of Chemical Engineering at University of New South Wales (UNSW). He is also Director of the Centre of Advanced Science and Engineering for Carbon (CASEC) at UNSW. He is a pioneer and leading scientist in the fields of carbon nanomaterials and carbon electrocatalysis. His expertise covers the synthesis, functionalization, and device fabrication of conjugated polymers and carbon nanomaterials for energy-related and biomedical applications.

Research interests 

Professor Dai’s research work spans from polymer and carbon nanomaterials design and synthesis to device applications for real-world impact. His group’s multidisciplinary research activities cover the following areas:

Metal-free carbon catalysts

Green and renewable energy technologies, such as fuel cells, water splitting, metal-CO2 batteries, hold great promise to solve the world’s energy and environmental challenges. However, to achieve this, high-cost noble-metal-based catalysts are required. Various carbon nanomaterials have shown potential as catalysts for applications in energy due to their:

  • Earth-abundance 
  • Good electrical conductivity 
  • High tunability of structures at the atomic/morphological level 
  • Free from metal dissolution and poisoning 

To address this, our team develops the design principles, novel precision synthesis and in-situ operando characterization methods to understand, control and direct the catalytic activities of carbon-based metal-free electrocatalysts. They are used for key electrochemical reactions involved in energy conversion and storage. 

Multifunctional nanomaterials

We develop synthetic methods for the preparation of nanomaterials with well-defined structures. Our focus is on the synthesis and functionalization of vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes (VACNT), VACNT-graphene 3D hierarchical architectures and size-/shape-controlled graphene sheets and nanodiamonds for various applications, ranging from multifunctional nanocomposites to energy-/bio-related devices. 

Optoelectronic macromolecules

We synthesise conjugated macromolecules of well-controlled optoelectronic properties for light-emitting diodes, field-effect transistors, batteries, supercapacitors, photovoltaic cells, and chemical/biological sensors. Functional nanomaterials, including carbon nanotubes, quantum dots, and DNA thin films, are used as the photon/electron/hole mediators. We also use a combined experimental and theoretical approach  to understand and optimize the materials structure and device performance. 

Biomaterials and biomimicking systems

To ascertain the potential hazards of nanomaterials to humans (particularly in bio-related systems), we investigate the surface and size effects on the cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of nanomaterials with and without surface functionalization. Our findings are used to guide the design and develop functional nanomaterial for bio-related applications, including multifunctional biosensing, controlled drug delivery, photodynamic therapy, and catalytic medicine. We also undertake bioinspired approaches for designing and synthesizing materials with functional structures and smart features (e.g. DNA-directed self-assembling, Gecko-foot-mimetic dry adhesion).