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Conversation with a Hindawi Editor: Prof. Hao Li

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International Journal of Photoenergy: Lead Guest Editor Q&A

We spoke with Prof. Hao Li about his role as Lead Guest Editor of the Special Issue ‘Photocatalytic Nanomaterials for Energy Conversion and Storage 2021’ in the International Journal of Photoenergy. Prof. Li is currently based at the Advanced Institute for Materials Research (AIMR), Tohoku University, Japan.


Prof. Hao Li is a Jr Principal Investigator and Associate Professor at Advanced Institute for Materials Research (AIMR), Tohoku University, Japan. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in Physical Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin (2015-2019). In Fall 2017, he was a visiting research fellow of the NSF Institute for Pure & Applied Mathematics, University of California, Los Angeles. He was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physics, Technical University of Denmark. His primary research interests consist of i) development of catalysis theory, ii) computational methodology development based upon AI, and iii) design of effective catalysts for industrially important reactions.

He has authored more than 110 refereed articles and has received more than 20 scientific honours and awards, such as the Surface Science Young Investigator (ACS Meeting 2022), AIChE Best Fundamental Paper Award (2020), and Emerging Investigators in Materials Chemistry (RSC, 2019).

1. What is your background and how did you become a researcher in your field?

I learned chemistry during my undergraduate study. At that time, I also learned programming and machine learning by myself because I believed interdisciplinary research would be the mainstream in future science. After obtaining my bachelor's degree, I went to the University of Texas at Austin to pursue my Ph.D. in physical chemistry. My primary research was to develop catalysis and material theory using first principle calculations and machine learning. After that, I became a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physics, Technical University of Denmark. Now I'm an Associate Professor at Tohoku University in materials theory and data science. I chose to become a researcher in this field because I believe using and developing new mathematical and computational tools can help us better understand materials, which will help avoid the time- and budget-consuming trial-and-error process in experiments.

2. International Journal of Photoenergy consolidates research activities in photochemistry and solar energy utilization into a single and unique forum for discussing and sharing knowledge. What are some of the key developments in this area that you’ve observed in the past few years?

I believe the role of mathematical methods such as data science, data mining, and machine learning has become more and more essential in this field. On the one hand, these methods can help us find out the performance trends across different materials to understand the reaction mechanism. On the other hand, these methods can help us provide precise predictive guidelines for new functional materials in photochemistry and solar energy utilization. 

3. What is the importance of your chosen Special Issue topic, ‘Photocatalytic Nanomaterials for Energy Conversion and Storage 2021’?

First of all, energy conversion and storage are essential topics because they are the keys to realizing a sustainable future. Meanwhile, photocatalytic nanomaterials will play an important role in future sustainable engineering because they can fully use green energy sources and convert cheap feedstocks into value-added products. Meanwhile, compared to larger-scale materials, nanomaterials usually have larger surface areas and tunable properties that can realize a higher performance in industrial applications. 

4. Can you tell us a bit more about your experience editing this special issue, and share what you consider to be the key benefits of being part of the Guest Editorial Team?

When editing this special issue, I invited some experts from different areas to work with me. I invited experimental scientists in slightly different fields to make our editorial team more comprehensive. As an early career PI, these editorial experiences made me more familiar with the editing processes of a journal so that I could share these experiences with my groupmates. These can help us better prepare a scientific manuscript in the future.

Read articles in ‘Photocatalytic Nanomaterials for Energy Conversion and Storage 2021’ now >>


This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Illustration adapted from Adobe Stock by David Jury.

Article of the Year Award: Outstanding research contributions of 2021, as selected by our Chief Editors. Read the winning articles.