The University of Texas at Austin
Guihua Yu’s research goal is to leverage nanotechnology to address issues in energy and water. His highly interdisciplinary team draws from chemistry, physics, materials science and engineering to develop a fundamental understanding of new materials with designed nano-architectures and then applies technological solutions at the energy-water nexus.
Dr. Yu's work has been broadly centered on rational design and synthesis of functional nanomaterials, fundamental understanding of their chemical and physical properties, and development of large-scale assembly and integration strategies for applications in energy, environmental and sustainable technologies.
“We work from the bottom up using nanoscience to create novel structures to make new materials with useful properties,” Dr. Yu said.
His team is experimenting with novel organic nanomaterials for solar water purification and harvesting, including solar seawater desalination and atmospheric water harvesting. In one breakthrough, Dr. Yu has developed a cost-effective, compact technology that uses gel-polymer hybrid materials for solar-powered water purification. In another, his team has created self-watering soil with hydrogels that pull water from air to irrigate plants.
Another area of research focuses on discovering new phenomena and improving fundamental understanding of energy storage mechanisms for future-generation batteries. His lab works with metal sulfides and oxides – inorganic solids – to create self-assembled materials, taking a cue from how nature works. Using this approach, his team has created a battery that combines the benefits of both solid-state and liquid batteries, without many of the drawbacks inherent in these systems.