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USU Chem Lab Receives International Recognition for Innovative Research

Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018

USU chemist Yujie Sun

Research by USU chemist Yujie Sun and his team is highlighted in the international report 'Research Fronts 2017' as part of the world’s top emerging research. Sun and his students are investigating low-cost electrocatalysts for water splitting.

USU chemists in lab

Sun, left, mentors students. Members of his lab range from postdoctoral fellows to high school students. The faculty member in USU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is a 2017 recipient of an NSF CAREER award.

Research conducted by Utah State University chemist Yujie Sun and his team is front and center in the fourth annual Research Fronts 2017,” a global scientific report compiled and published by Philadelphia-based analytics and intellectual property company, Clarivate Analytics, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The report lauds the Sun Lab’s research in low-cost electrocatalysts for water splitting, which is among 143 research “fronts,” or cutting-edge specialties emerging from clusters of highly cited scientific papers, highlighted in the 2017 evaluation.

“The performance of Utah State University is outstanding,” the report reads. “Four of the six core papers (identifying the emerging front) feature authors from USU.”

The report notes the Sun Group’s paper on novel findings on earth-abundant, bifunctional electrocatalysts for overall water splitting, published as the cover feature in Angewandte Chemie in April, 2015, as the front’s most-cited paper, with nearly 300 citations. The paper was authored by USU doctoral students Nan Jiang and Meili Sheng, postdoctoral fellow Bo You and Sun.

“Interest in our research is high because it’s an emerging pathway to widespread, affordable energy production from clean, sustainable energy inputs, such as solar and wind,” says Sun, assistant professor in USU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Water splitting, the separation of water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, is simple on an experimental basis, he says, but difficult and expensive on a large-scale basis.

“Finding and creating inexpensive and effective catalysts is key to this process,” says Sun, a 2017 recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER grant. “The right catalyst will unlock the potential of abundant, carbon-neutral energy production.”

In addition to the paper in Angewandte Chemie, the Sun Group’s highly cited publications include recent articles in Advanced Energy Materials and the American Chemical Society’s ACS Catalysis, ACS Letters and Chemistry of Materials.

Along with graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, Sun has mentored a number of USU Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities (URCO) grant recipients and summer undergrad interns in his lab, as well as high school students participating in the annual USU Biotechnology Summer Academy and other teen outreach programs led by the USU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Sun has also hosted undergrad researchers participating in USU’s Native American STEM Mentorship Program.

Related Links
“Exploring an Energy Game-Changer: USU Chemist Yujie Sun Receives Prestigious NSF CAREER Grant,” Utah State Today 
“Change Agents: USU Chemists Publish Innovative Catalyst Research,” Utah State Today 
“Splitting the Difference: USU Chemists Advance Water Catalysis Research,” Utah State Today 
USU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry 
USU College of Science 

Contact: Yujie Sun, 435-797-7608,
Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

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