Miss Qian Sun
Casual Academic

Miss Qian Sun

PhD in School of Chemistry                                         2019/08-2023/07

University of New South Wales, Sydney 2032, Australia

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (GPA: 3.60/4)              January 2019

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, United States

Master of Engineering in Chemical Engineering (GPA: 3.93/4)            July 2016

Northwest University, Xi’an 710069, Shaanxi, China                                                        

Bachelor of Engineering in Applied Chemistry (GPA: 3.46/4)             July 2013

Shaanxi University of Science and Technology, Xi’an 710021, Shaanxi, China

School of Chemistry

Qian Sun is currently a PhD student in Prof Chuan Zhao's group in School of Chemistry, UNSW. Her current research is CO2/CO electroreduction using single atom catalysts, which were evaluated in H-cell, flow cell and membrane electrode assembly. The technology is promising in reducing CO2 concentrations in air by CO2 conversion into valuable chemicals, thus addressing the environmental issues by traditional fossil fuels combustions and alleviating the strong dependence on fossil fuels.
    In January 2019 in America, she got her second master degree in University of Arkansas. During which, she focused on interfacial tailoring of lithium-ion battery using atomic layer deposition. Before coming to America, she worked as a research assistant in Zhejiang University in China (2016/07-2016/12), her job was preparing organic and organic-inorganic hybrid thin-film photovoltaics. In 2016 in China, she obtained her first master degree in Northwest University in China, majoring in chemical engineering, and doing research about fabricating single crystal of coordination complexes.
    Up to date, she has published 17 peer-reviewed papers in high-quality journals, such as Angewandte Chemie, ACS catalysis, Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, Chinese Journal of Catalysis, Chemical Communications, and etc. Besides, she also publised several book chapters in the book of <Lithium-ion Batteries: Materials, Applications and Technology>, <Conversion of Water and CO2 to Fuels using Solar Energy: Science, Technology and Materials>, and <Encyclopedia of Ionic Liquids>, respectively. Her works have been cited more than 200 times.

2022 The Development and Research Training Grant (DTRG), UNSW, Sydney, Australia

  • Outstanding publication award in Prof Chuan Zhao’s group in school of chemistry, UNSW |2022/12/9;
  • Laboratory safety award in Prof Chuan Zhao’s group in school of chemistry, UNSW |2022/12/9;
  • Outstanding publication award in Prof Chuan Zhao’s group in school of chemistry, UNSW |2021/12/17;
  • Laboratory safety award in Prof Chuan Zhao’s group in school of chemistry, UNSW |2021/12/17;
  • Research improvement award in Prof Chuan Zhao’s group in school of chemistry, UNSW |2020/12/04;
  • Laboratory safety award in Prof Chuan Zhao’s group in school of chemistry, UNSW |2020/12/04;
  • Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship for PhD in University of New South Wales 2019/08-2022/12;
  • Outstanding graduate in Northwest University | 2016/04;
  • National Academic Scholarship (10 out of 100) | 2015/10;
  • The Scholarship from the company of Zhong Jiao Tong Li (1 out of 49) | 2014/07;
  • First-Class Scholarship (1 out of 49) | 2014/07;
  • Individual Scholarship in School of Chemical Engineering (7 out of 49) | 2014/07;
  • Outstanding graduate in Shaanxi University of Science and Technology (1 out of 33) | 2013/07;
  • Second-Class Outstanding Academic Scholarship | 2013/07;
  • Third-Class Outstanding Academic Scholarship | 2012/07 & 2011/07;
  • Actively Participate in the Award of the Fifth Session of College Students' Chemical Experiments Invitational Tournament in Shaanxi Province | 2011/08
  • The sunshine project in Shaanxi University of Science and Technology to improve personal capacity-the outstanding students in handicraft training class | 2010/12
  • Third prize for Band C in 2010 National English Contest for College Students | 2010/07;
  • National Encouragement Scholarship (1 out of 30) | 2010/07;
  • The Third Prize for Band C in 2010 National English Contest for College Students| 2010/05.

Research Experiences

CO electroreduction to acetate by the atomic Cu-Au interfaces |2021/09-2022/05

  • Atomic Cu-Au interfaces were constructed for effective CO-to-acetate/C2+ species in alkaline flow cell, attributed to the unique geometric and electronic structure of the catalyst. Gas and liquid products were quantified by GC and NMR, respectively;
  • Density functional theory calculation reveals that the introduced Au atoms into Cu support promotes C-C coupling and thereby improving acetate formation by weakening the binding strength of *CO+*CO on catalyst surface.

Effective electroreduction of diluted CO2 by single Ni atoms with nanoconfined ionic liquids |2020/09-2021/09

  • Nanoconfined ionic liquids are introduced into porous atomically dispersed nickel-nitrogen-carbon (Ni-N-C) catalysts to enrich local CO2 concentration and increase the CO2 electrochemical reduction (CO2RR) reaction kinetics. The nanoconfined ILs play multiple roles as a CO2 concentrator, a co-catalyst, and a hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) suppressor. Besides, nanoconfined ILs also solves the high viscosity and low conductivity issues of the bulk IL electrolytes.
  • A series of ILs with different combinations of cations and anions were employed and their effects on CO2RR are studied. The optimized Ni-N-C/[Bmim][PF6] composite exhibited promising catalytic performances for electroreduction of CO2 to CO at low concentration, demonstrating great potentials of the Ni-N-C/ILs composites for future industrial CO2 electroreduction applications.

Gram-scale produced single-atom catalysts for CO2 electroreduction |2019/08-2020/09

  • Nickel-nitrogen-carbon (Ni-N-C) catalysts were developed and used for electroreduction of CO2, which delivered high Faradaic efficiency for CO2-to-CO conversion and good stability;
  • Gram-scale preparation of Ni single atom catalyst for CO2 electroreduction. 

Interfacial tailoring of lithium-ion batteries by atomic/molecular deposition |2017/01-2019/12

  • Lithium metal anode was stabilized by depositing ALD Al2O3, the ALD Al2O3 works as protection layer to inhibit the lithium dendrite growth;
  • Si/Graphite electrode was protected by ALD deposited materials, it is demonstrated to effectively protect the Si/G electrode.

Single crystal of coordination complexes is made, and the structure is characterized using XRD method, thermal behavior is analyzed using DSC and TG/DTG methods |2013/09-2016/07

  • Single crystal of metal complexes is made through solution evaporation method, usually, the solution is methylamine, ethylamine, ethanediamine and ammonia solution;
  • Crystal structure is characterized by XDR method, the obtained data is analyzed using Shelx, the 2D and 3D structures are drawn using Diamond;
  • The melting point of the product is characterized, after that, DSC and TG/DTG are measured to analyze thermal behavior.  


Academic meetings and others

  1. Oral presentation in Royal Australian Chemical Institute National Congress 2022 (RACI 2022) in Brisbane. Presentation title “CO2 electroreduction at single atom catalysts with nanoconfined ionic liquids”, Australia | 2022/07/03-08.
  2. Postgraduate Research Showcase (1MT Competition), UNSW | 2022/06/23.
  3. Quantitative X-ray diffraction a 5-day course by the Mark Wainwright Analytical Center, UNSW | 2021/05/24-27.
  4. Oral presentation in Satellite 9th Australasian Symposium of Ionic Liquids in Monash University. Presentation title “Single atom catalysts with nanoconfined ionic liquids for enhanced CO2 electroreduction”, Australia | 2020/12/01-02.
  5. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy a 5-day short course on surface analysis using XPS by the Mark Wainwright Analytical Center in University of New South Wales, Australia | 2019/12/01.
  6. Emerging energy and environmental technologies (young academic forum), Australia | 2019/12/04-06.
  7. Custom Officer in Registered Student Organizations Electrochemical Society-University of Arkansas, America| 2018/04-12.
  8. 2018 Arkansas NSF EPSCoR Annual meeting. Write an abstract and make a poster with the title of “Controllable surface functionalization by atomic layer deposition and molecular layer deposition” | 2018/06/11-2018/06/12.
  9. Center for Advanced Surface Engineering (CASE) Retreat, Arkansas National Science Foundation (NSF). EPSCoR Make a poster with the title of “Functional surfaces by atomic layer deposition” | 2018/01/04-2018/01/05.
  10. The 5th National Symposium on Thermal Analysis Kinetics and Thermo kinetics of Chinese Chemical Society in Yan’an, China. Publish an academic paper with the title of “Study on combustion heat and specific heat capacity of FOX-7 and its five derivatives” in Chinese | 2015/04/24-2015/04/26.



  1. Sun, Q.; Zhao, Y.; Tan, X.; Jia, C.; Su, Z.; Meyer, Q.; Ahmed, M.; Zhao, C. Atomic Cu-Au interfaces for effective electrocatalytic conversion of CO into acetate. (ACS catalysis accepted 2023)
  2. Sun, Q.; Dastafkan, K.; Zhao, C. Electrocatalytic reduction of CO2 to value-added chemicals and fuels, Conversion of Water and CO2 to Fuels using Solar Energy: Science, Technology and Materials, 2023. (Finished replying the comments from reviewers and editor, the revised manuscript was sent back to the editor)
  3. Sun, Q.; Jia, C.; Zhao, C. Ionic liquids for electrochemical CO2 reduction, Encyclopedia of Ionic Liquids, 2022 Springer Nature Singapore, 1-22.
  4. Sun, Q.; Jia, C.; Zhao, C. Single atom-based catalysts for electrochemical CO2 reduction, Chinese Journal of Catalysis, 2022, 43(7), 1547-1597.
  5. Sun, Q.; Zhao, Y.; Ren, W. H.; Zhao, C. Electroreduction of low concentration CO2 at atomically dispersed Ni-N-C catalysts with nanoconfined ionic liquids, Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, 2022, 304, 120963.
  6. Ren, W. H.; Tan, X.; Jia, C.; Krammer, A.; Sun, Q.; Qu, J. T.; Smith, S. C.; Schueler, A.; Hu, X.; Zhao, C. Electronic regulation of nickel single atoms by confined nickel nanoparticles for energy-efficient CO2 electroreduction, Angewandte Chemie, 2022, 61, e202203335.
  7. Sun, Q.; Ren, W. H.; Zhao, Y.; Zhao, C. Gram-scale synthesis of single-atom metal–N–CNT catalysts for highly efficient CO2 electroreduction, Chemical Communications, 2021, 57(12), 1514-1517.
  8. Zhao, C.; Ren, W. H.; Sun, Q. A catalyst, Australia patent, P0036167AU, 2021.
  9. Sun, Q.; Meng, X. Inhibiting lithium dendrite growth for lithium batteries: Challenges and Strategies, Nova Sciences, 2018, ISBN: 978-1-53613-498-8.
  10. Sun, Q.; Lau, K. C.; Geng, D.; Meng, X. Atomic and molecular layer deposition for superior lithium-sulfur batteries: strategies, performance, and mechanisms, Batteries & Supercaps, 2018, 1, 41-68.
  11. Cai, J.; Sun, Q.; Meng, X. Nanostructured materials by atomic and molecular layer deposition, AIMS Materials Science, 2018, 5(5), 957-999.
  12. Ullah, F.; Sun, Q.; Yang, W. T.; Shah, M. N.; Zhang, Z. Q.; Chen, H. Z.; Li, C. Z. Donor-acceptor (D-A) terpolymers based on alkyl-DPP and t-BocDPP moieties for polymer solar cells. Chinese Chemical Letters 2017, 28, 2223-2226.
  13. Shah, M. N.; Zhang S. H.; Sun, Q.; Ullah, F.; Chen, H. Z.; Li, C. Z. Narrow bandgap semiconducting polymers for solar cells with near-infrared photo response and low energy loss. Tetrahedron Letters 2017, 58, 2975-2980.
  14. Sun, Q.; Wang, X. H.; Xu, K. Z.; Li, Y. F.; Song, J. R.; Zhao, F. Q. Crystal structure and thermal behavior of potassium dinitromethane. Chinese Journal of Energetic Materials 2016, 24, 874-879.
  15. Sun, Q.; Zhang, Y.; Xu, K. Z.; Ren, Z. Y.; Song J. R.; Zhao, F. Q. Studies on thermodynamic properties of FOX-7 and its five closed-loop derivatives. Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data 2015, 60, 2057-2061;
  16. Sun, Q.; Li, Y. F.; Xu, K. Z.; Song, J. R.; Zhao, F. Q. Crystal structure and enthalpy of combustion of AEFOX-7. Chinese Journal of Energetic Materials 2015, 23, 1235-1239.
  17. Gong, X.; Sun, Q.; Xu, K. Z.; Song J. R.; Zhao, F. Q. Kinetics, specific heat capacity and adiabatic time-to-explosion of Cu(pn)2(FOX-7)2. Chinese Journal of Energetic Materials 2015, 23, 1181-1185.
  18. Zhang, Y.; Sun, Q.; Xu, K. Z.; Song, J. R.; Zhao, F. Q. Reviews on the reactivity of 1,1-diamino-2,2 dinitroethylene(FOX-7). Propellants, Explosives, Pyrotechnics 2015, 41, 35-52.
  19. Wang, X. J.; Xu, K. Z.; Sun, Q.; Wang, B. Z.; Zhou, C.; Zhao, F. Q. The insensitive energetic material trifurazano-oxacycloheptatriene (TFO): synthesis and detonation properties. Propellants, Explosives, Pyrotechnics 2015, 40, 9-12.
  20. Sun, Q.; Li, Z.; Gong, X.; Gao, Z.; Xu, K. Z.; Song J. R.; Zhao, F. Q. Synthesis and characterization of a new cadmium complex based on 1,1-diamino-2,2-dinitroethylene. Journal of Coordination Chemistry 2014, 67, 2576-2582.


Members in Research Societies:

Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI, Australia)

Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC, UK)

American Chemical Society (ACS, United States)


Qualified to have PD tests in the Australian Synchrotron

My Teaching

First-year demonstrator (2022/05/30-2022/08/25)

School of chemistry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

  • Work 4-5 hrs per week for CHEM1011 course;
  • Demonstrate basic chemical experiments (titration, base-acid balance, intermolecular forces…) to first-year students;
  • Grading students’ experimental report.


Teaching assistant (2018/07-2018/12)

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, United States

  • Work 20 hrs per week;
  • Grading students’ homework for course MEEG 3113 MDC taught by Dr Uche Wejinya.