Wenzhen Li


Professor, Herbert L. Stiles Faculty Fellow


2140 Biorenewables Research Laboratory
617 Bissell Rd.
Ames, IA 50011-1098


  • Fellow, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), 2023
  • Bailey Career Development Award, Iowa State University, 2016
  • Outstanding Alumni Lecture, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP), Chinese Academy of Science, 2015, 2017
  • Hai-Tian (Sea-Sky) Visiting Scholar, Dalian University of Technology, 2015-2017
  • Inaugural Richard C. Seagrave Professorship, Iowa State University, 2014-2020
  • ACS Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) Doctoral New Investigator (DNI) Award, 2010
  • SCI Top 1% Cited Paper Award, 2015
  • Packard Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2004
  • President’s Research Excellence Award (top 1%), Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2003


  • Ph.D., Physical Chemistry, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2004
  • B.S. Chemical Engineering, Dalian University of Technology, 1998

Interest Areas

  • Electrocatalysis
  • Electrochemical energy
  • Advanced electrocatalytic materials
  • Electrochemical synthesis and manufacturing
  • Biorenewables
  • Waste nitrogen and carbon upgrading

Our interdisciplinary research is at the interface of electrocatalysis science and engineering. We have a strong interest in elucidating electrochemical reaction pathways and mechanisms, and based on the acquired understanding, we rationally design electrocatalysts and electrochemical processes/devices for important energy, environmental, and agricultural applications. Our current research activities include the development of advanced electrocatalysts, novel electrochemical processes, electroreduction of waste nitrogen to valuable chemicals, carbon dioxide capture and electroreduction, electrosynthesis of nitrogen-based fertilizers, innovative electrolyzers for hydrogen production, and paired electrolyzer design. 


124 peer-reviewed journal papers and 2 book chapters with 17,000+ total citations, h-index: 69.  

Selected Papers (since 2011):

  • Manish Mosalpuri, Wenzhen Li, Mark Mba-Wright*, Techno-economic Analysis and Life Cycle Assessment of Hydroxylamine Eco-manufacturing via Wastewater Electrochemical Reduction, ACS Sustainable Chemsitry & Engineering, 2023, 11, 13636-13645. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acssuschemeng.3c03336
  • Hengzhou Liu, Jiaqi Yu, Yifu Chen, Jungkuk Lee, Wenyu Huang, Wenzhen Li*, Cu-Based Bimetallic Catalysts for Electrocatalytic Oxidative Dehydrogenation of Furfural with Practical Rates, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2023, 15, 37477-37485 https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsami.3c06783
  • Basil Rawah, Mohammad Albloushi, Wenzhen Li*, Electro-Synthesis of Pure Aqueous H2O2 on Nitrogen-Doped Carbon in a Solid Electrolyte Flow Cell withouth Using Anion Exchange Membrane, Chemical Engineering Journal, 2023, 466, 143282. https:doi.org/10.1016/j.cej.2023.143282
  • Yifu Chen, Pouya Ammari-Azar, Hengzhou Liu, Jungkuk Lee, Yu Xi, Michael Castellano, Shuang Gu*, Wenzhen Li*, Sustainable Waste-Nitrogen Upcycling Enabled by Low-Concentration Electrodialysis and High-Performance Ammonia Electrosynthesis, EES Catalysis, cover feature article, 2023, 1, 504-515. https://doi.org/10.1039/D3EY00058C
  • Ting-Han Lee, Michael Forrester, Tung-ping Wang, Liyang Shen, Hengzhou Liu, Dhananjay Dileep, Baker Kuehl, Wenzhen Li, George Kraus, Eric Cochran*, Dihydroxyterephthalate — a Trojan Horse PET Counit for Facile Chemical Recycling, Advanced Materials, cover feature article, 2023, 35, 221015. https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.20221015
  • Tianlei Li, Hengzhou Liu, Jiaqi Yu, Yifu Chen, Wenyu Huang, Wenzhen Li*, MOF-derived Co3O4/Nitrogen-doped carbon for efficient Chlorine-mediated Ethylene Oxidation, Green Chemistry, 2023, 25, 1982-1990. DOI: 10.1039/D2GC0458G
  • Hengzhou Liu, Yifu Chen, Jungkuk Lee, Shuang Gu, Wenzhen Li*, Ammonia-Mediated CO2 Capture and Direct Electroreduction into Formate, ACS Energy Letters, 2022, 7, 4483-4489. 10.1021/acsenergylett.2c02247
  • Hengzhou Liu, Deep Patel, Yifu Chen, Jungkuk Lee, Ting-Han Lee, Sarah D Cady, Eric Cochran, Luke Roling*, Wenzhen Li*, Unraveling furfural electro-reductive mechanisms via tailoring interfacial environments, ACS Catalysis, 2022, 12(22), 14072-14085. https://doi.org/10.1021/acscatal.2c03163
  • Jungkuk Lee, Hengzhou Liu, Wenzhen Li*, Tailoring Microenvironment in Bilayer Electrode with Copper and Silver Nanocatalysts for Bicarbonate Electroreduction to Multicarbon Products, ChemSusChem, 2022, cover feature article, 10.1002/cssc.202201329
  • Yifu Chen, Shuang Gu, Wenzhen Li*, Solid-electrolyte interphases enable efficient Li-mediated ammonia electrosynthesis, Joule, 2022, 6, 1973-1976.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joule.2022.08.013
  • Hengzhou Liu, Naveen Agrawal, Arna Ganguly, Jungkuk Lee, Yifu Chen, Jiaqi Yu, Wenyu Huang, Mark Mba-Wright*, Michael Janik*, Wenzhen Li*, Ultra-low voltage bipolar hydrogen production from aldehydes and water, Energy & Environmental Science, 2022, 15, 4175-4189. DOI: 1039/D2EE01427K
  • Fan Yang, A Lusi, Harish Radhakrishnan, Hengzhou Liu, Wenzhen Li, Hantang Qin, Shan Jiang, Xianglan Bai, Shan Hu*, Hierarchical Nickel-Iron Phosphide Nanosheets for Efficient Conversion of Lignin to Electricity by a Direct Lignin Fuel Cell, Sustainable Energy & Fuels, 2022, 6, 4866-4872. https://doi.org/10.1039/D2SE00930G
  • Usman Shahid, Yifu Chen, Shuang Gu*, Wenzhen Li*, Minhua Shao*, Electrochemical nitrogen reduction: An intriguing but challenging quest, Trends in Chemistry, 2022,4, 142-156. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trechm.2021.11.007
  • Basil, Rawah, Mohammad Albloushi, Wenzhen Li*, Electrocatalytic H2O2 synthesis from oxygen reduction enabled by metal-free amino acid glycerine-derived nitrogen-doped ordered mesoporous carbon, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 2022, 10, 5453-5462. https://doi.org/10.1021/acssuschemeng.1c08285
  • Jungkuk Lee, Hengzhou Liu, Yifu Chen, Wenzhen Li*, Electroreduction of CO2 to formate over insitu generated Bi nanosheets, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2022, 14, 14210-14217. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acsami.1c25217
  • Joel Kirner, Yifu Chen, Hengzhou Liu, Junhua Song, Jinyun Liao, Wenzhen Li, Feng Zhao*, Exploring Electrochemical Flow-Cell Designs and Parameters for CO₂ Reduction to Formate Under Industrially Relevant Conditions, Journal of the Electrochemical Society, 2022, 05451. https://doi.org/10.1149/1945-7111/ac6bc1
  • Ting-Han Lee, Hengzhou Liu, Michael Forrester, Liyang Shen, Tung-ping Wang, Huangchao Yu, Jia-Hao He, Wenzhen Li, George Kraus, Eric Cochran*, Next-Generation High-Performance Biobased Naphthalate Modified PET for Sustainable Food Packaging Applications, Macromolecules, 2022, 55, 7785–7797. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.macromol.2c00777
  • Ting-Han Lee, Huangchao Yu, Michael Forrester, Tung-ping Wang, Liyang Shan, Hengzhou Liu, Jingzhe Li, Wenzhen Li, George Kraus, Eric Cochran*, Next-Generation High-performance Bio-Based Naphthalate Polymers Derived from Malic Acid for Sustainable Food Packaging, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 2022, 10, 2624-2633.  https://doi.org/10.1021/acssuschemeng.1c06726
  • Ji Qi, Ziying An, Chuang Li, Xiao Chen, Wenzhen Li, Changhai Liang*, Electrocatalytic selective oxidation of ethylene glycol: a concise review of catalyst development and reaction mechanism with comparison to thermocatalytic oxidation process, Current Opinion in Electrochemistry, 2022, 32, 100929. 10.1016/j.coelec.2021.100929
  • Hengzhou Liu, Jaeryul Park, Yifu Chen, Yang Qiu, Yan Cheng, Kartik Srivastava, Shuang Gu, Brent H. Shanks, Luke T. Roling*, Wenzhen Li*, Electrocatalytic Nitrate Reduction on Oxide-Derived Silver with Tunable Selectivity to Nitrite and Ammonia, ACS Catalysis, 2021, 11, 8431-8442.  DOI: acscatal.1c01525
  • Hengzhou Liu, Wenzhen Li*, Recent Advances in Paired Electrolysis of Biomass-derived Compounds Towards Co-generation of Value-added Chemicals and Fuels, Current Opinion in Electrochemistry, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coelec.2021.100795
  • Hengzhou Liu, Ting-Han Lee, Yifu Chen, Eric Cochran*, Wenzhen Li*, Paired and tandem electrochemical conversion of 5(hydroxymethyl)furfural using membrane-electrode-assembly-based electrocatalytic systems, ChemElectroChem, 2021, DOI: 10.1002/celc.202100662
  • Hengzhou Liu, Ting-Han Lee, Yifu Chen, Eric Cochran*, Wenzhen Li*, Paired electrolysis of 5-(hydroxymethyl)furfural in flow cells with high-performance oxide-derived silver cathode, Green Chemistry, 2021, 23, 5056-5063. DOI: 10.1039/D1GC00988E
  • Yang Qiu, Xiaohong Xie, Wenzhen Li*, Yuyan Shao*, Electrocatalysts development for hydrogen oxidation reaction in alkaline medial from mechanism understanding to materials design, Chinese Journal of Catalysis, 2021,  DOI: 10.1016/S1872-2067(21)64088-3
  • Basil Rawah, Wenzhen Li*, Electrosynthesis of H2O2 over cobalt embedded -N-doped carbon black catalyst (Co-N-C), Chinese Journal of Catalysis, 2021, DOI: 10.1016/S1872-2067(21)63804-4
  • Yifu Chen, Hengzhou Liu, Shuang Gu*, Stuart Licht*, Wenzhen Li*, Revealing nitrogen-containing species in commercial catalysts used in ammonia electrosynthesis, Nature Catalysis, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41929-020-00527-4
  • James Gerken, Colin Anson, Yulia Preger, Peter Symons, David Geners, Yang Qiu, Wenzhen Li, Thatcher Root, Shannon Stahl*, Comparison of quinone-based catholytes for aqueous redox flow batteries and demonstration of long-term stability with tetrasubstituted quinones, Advanced Energy Materials, 2020, doi: aenm. 202000340. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aenm.202000340
  • Xiaotong Chadderdon, David Chadderdon, Toni Pfennig, Brent Shanks and Wenzhen Li*, Paired Electrocatalytic Hydrogenation and Oxidation of 5-(Hydroxymethyl)furfural for Efficient Production of Biomass-derived Monomers, Green Chemistry, 2019, DOI: 10.1039/C9GC02264C
  • Kwiyong Kim, Yifu Chen, Jong-In Han, Hyung Chul Yoon, and Wenzhen Li*, Lithium-mediated Ammonia Synthesis from Water and Nitrogen: A Membrane-free Approach Enabled by Immiscible Aqueous/Organic Hybrid Electrolyte System, Green Chemistry, 2019, 21, 3839–3845, DOI: 10.1039/C9GC01338E
  • David J. Chadderdon, Li-Pin Wu, Zachary A. McGraw, Matthew G. Panthani*, Wenzhen Li*, Heterostructured Bismuth Vanadate/Cobalt Phosphate Photoelectrodes Promote TEMPO-Mediated Oxidation of 5 Hydroxymethyl-furfural,  ChemElectroChem, 2019, 6, 3387– 3392. DOI: 10.1002/celc.201900482
  • Yang Qiu, Le Xin, Yawei Li, Ian T. McCrum, Fangmin Guo, Tao Ma, Yang Ren, Qi Liu, Lin Zhou, Shuang Gu, Michael J Janik, Wenzhen Li*,  BCC-Phased PdCu Alloy as a Highly Active Electrocatalyst for Hydrogen Oxidation in Alkaline Electrolytes,  Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2018, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b08356. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jacs.8b08356
  • Xiaotong H. Chadderdon, David J Chadderdon, John E Matthiesen, Yang Qiu, Jack M. Carraher, Jean-Philippe Tessonnier, and Wenzhen Li*, “Mechanisms of Furfural Reduction on Metal Electrodes: Distinguishing Pathways for Selective Hydrogenation of Bioderived Oxygenates,” Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2017, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jacs.7b06331
  • Neeva Benipal, Ji Qi, Ryan F. McSweeney, Changhai Liang, Wenzhen Li*, “Electrostatic oxidation of meso-erythritol in anion-exchange membrane alkaline fuel cell on PdAg/CNT catalyst,” Journal of Power Sources, 2017, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378775317308650
  • Neeva Benipal, Ji Qi, Jacob C. Gentile, Wenzhen Li*, Direct Glycerol Fuel Cell with Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) Thin Film Separator, Renewable Energy, 2017, 105, pp 647-655.
  • Yang Qiu, Le Xin, Fan Jia, Jian Xie, Wenzhen Li*, “Three-Dimensional Phosphorus-droped Graphitic-C3N4 Self-assembly with NH2-functionalized Carbon Composite Materials for Enhanced Oxygen Reduction Reaction,” Langmuir, 2016, 32 (48), pp 12569-12578 DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.6b02498
  • Neeva Benipal, Ji Qi, Patrick A. Johnston, Jacob C. Gentile, Robert C. Brown, Wenzhen Li*, Fuel, “Direct fast pyrolysis oil fuel cell,” Fuel, 2016, 85-93. DOI: 10.1016/j.fuel.2016.07.09
  • Le Xin, Fan Yang, Somaye Rasouli, Yang Qiu, Zhe-Fei Li, Aytekin Uzunoglu, Cheng-Jun Sun, Yuzi Liu, Paulo Ferreira, Wenzhen Li, Yang Ren, Lia A Stanciu, Jian Xie*, “Understanding Pt nanoparticle anchoring on graphene supports through surface functionalization,” ACS Catalysis, 2016, 6, 2642-2653. DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.5b02722
  • Ji Qi, Neeva Benipal, Changhai Liang, Wenzhen Li*, “PdAg/CNT Catalyzed Alcohol Oxidation Reaction for High-Performance Anion Exchange Membrane Direct Alcohol Fuel Cell (Alcohol = Methanol, Ethanol, Ethylene Glycol and Glycerol),” Applied Catalysis B Environmental, 2016,199, 494-503. DOI: 10.1016/j.apcatb.2016.06.055
  • Yang Qiu, Jiajie Huo, Fan Jia, Brent. H. Shanks, Wenzhen Li*, “N- and S- Doped Mesoporous Carbon as Metal-Free Cathode Catalysts for Direct Biorenewable Alcohol Fuel Cells,” Journal of Materials Chemistry, A, 2016, 4, 83-95. DOI: 10.1039/C5TA060
  • David J Chadderdon, Le Xin, Ji Qi, Brian Brady, Julie A Miller, Kai Sun, Michael J. Janik*, Wenzhen Li*, “Selective Oxidation of 1,2-propanediol in alkaline anion-exchange membrane electrocatalytic flow reactors: experimental and DFT investigations,” ACS Catalysis, 2015, 5, 6926–6936.  DOI: 10.1016/j.car
  • Ji Qi, Neeva Benipal, Hui Wang, David J. Chadderdon, Yibo Jiang, Wei Wei, Yun Hang Hu*, Wenzhen Li*, “Metal-Catalyst-Free Carbohydrozide Fuel Cells with Three-Dimensional Graphene Anodes,” ChemSusChem, cover article, 2015, 8, 1147-1150.  DOI: 10.1002/cssc.20140
  • Yang Qiu, Le Xin, Wenzhen Li*, “Electrocatalytic oxygen evolution over supported small amorphous Ni-Fe nanoparticles in alkaline electrolyte,” Langmuir, 2014, 30, 7893-7901.  DOI: 0.1021/la501246e
  • David Chadderdon, Le Xin, Ji Qi, Karren More, Wenzhen Li*, “Electrocatalytic selective oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl-2-furfural to 2,5-furandicarboxalic acid on supported Au-Pd alloyed nanoparticles,” Green Chemistry, 2014, 16, 3778-3786. DOI:10.1039/C4GC00401A
  • Yang, Qiu, Le Xin, David Chadderdon, Ji Qi, Changhai Liang, Wenzhen Li*, “Integrated electrocatalytic processing of levulinic acid and formic acid to biofuel intermediate valeric acid,” Green Chemistry, 2014, 30, 7893-7901. DOI:10.1039/C3GC42254B
  • Zhiyong Zhang, Le Xin, David J. Chadderdon, Ji Qi, Kai Sun, Kayla M. Warsko, and Wenzhen Li*, “Selective electro-oxidation of glycerol to tartronate or mesoxalate on Au nanoparticle catalyst via electrode potential tuning,” Applied Catalysis B Environmental, 2014, 147, 871-878. DOI: 10.1016/j.apcatb.2013.10.018
  • Le Xin, Zhiyong Zhang, Ji Qi, David Chadderdon, Yang Qiu, Kayla Warsco, Wenzhen Li*, “Electricity storage in biofuels: Electrocatalytic conversion of levulinic acid to valeric acid and γ-valerolacetone,” ChemSusChem, 2013, 6, 674-686.  DOI: 10.1016/j.apcatb.2013.10.018
  • Ji Qi, Le Xin, Zhiyong Zhang, Kai Sun, Haiying He, Fang Wang, David Chadderdon, Yang Qiu, Changhai Liang, Wenzhen Li*, “Surface dealloyed Pt nanoparticles supported on carbon nanotubes: facile synthesis and potential applications for direct crude glycerol anion-exchange membrane fuel cell,” Green Chemistry, 2013, 15,1133-1137. DOI:10.1039/C3GC36955
  • Le Xin, Zhiyong Zhang, Ji Qi, David Chadderdon, Wenzhen Li*, “Electrocatalytic oxidation of ethylene glycol (EG) on supported Pt and Au catalysts: Reaction pathway investigation in three-electrode cell and fuel cell reactors,” Applied Catalysis B Environmental, 2012, 125, 85-94.  DOI: 10.1016/j.apcatb.2012.05.024
  • Le Xin, Zhiyong Zhang, Zhichao Wang, Ji Qi, Wenzhen Li*, “Simultaneous generation of mesoxalic acid and electricity from glycerol on Au anode catalyst in anion exchange membrane fuel cells,” ChemCatChem, 2012, 4, 1105-1114. DOI:10.1002/cctc.201200017
  • Zhiyong Zhang, Le Xin, Wenzhen Li*, Supported gold nanoparticles as anode catalyst for anion exchange membrane – direct glycerol fuel cell (AEM-DGFC), International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 2012, 37, 9393-9401. DOI:10.1016/j.ijhydene.2012.03.019
  • Zhiyong Zhang, Le Xin, Wenzhen Li*, “Electrocatalytic oxidation of glycerol on Pt/C in anion exchange membrane fuel cell: Cogeneration of electricity and valuable chemicals,” Applied Catalysis B Environmental, 2012, 119, 40-48.  DOI:10.1016/j.apcatb.2012.02.009
  • Zhiyong Zhang, Le Xin, Kai Sun, Wenzhen Li*, “Pd-Ni electrocatalysts for efficient ethanol oxidation reaction in alkaline electrolyte,” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 2011, 36, 12686-12697.  DOI:10.1016/j.ijhydene.2011.06.141
  • Zhiyong Zhang, Karren L. More, Kai Sun, Zili Wu, Wenzhen Li*, “Preparation and characterization of PdFe nanoleaves as electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction,” Chemistry of Materials, 2011, 23, 1570-1577. DOI: 10.1021/cm1034134
  • Olumide Winjobi, Zhiyong Zhang, Changhai Liang, Wenzhen Li*, “Carbon nanotube supported platinum-palladium nanoparticles for formic acid oxidation,” Electrochimica Acta, 2010, 55, 4217-4221.doi.org/10.1016/j.electacta.2010.02.062
  • Zhiyong Zhang, Meijun Li, Zili Wu, Wenzhen Li*, Ultra-thin PtFe-nanowires as durable electrocatalysts for fuel cells, Nanotechnology, 2011, 22, 015602. DOI: 10.1088/0957-4484/22/1/015602

Primary Strategic Research Area

Advanced Materials & Manufacturing