2018 Winner Xile Hu
Resonate Award recipient for developing abundant and non-precious metal catalysts for sustainable synthesis of added-value chemicals and cost-effective production of solar fuels.
Xile Hu is a Professor of Chemistry in the Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). He is the founder and director of the Laboratory of Inorganic Synthesis and Catalysis. His laboratory specializes in the development of catalysts made of earth-abundant elements for chemical transformations pertinent to synthesis, energy, and sustainability.
Hu was born in a small village in Putian, southeastern China. He studied chemistry at Peking University (BS, 2000). Shortly thereafter, he moved to the United States and began his doctoral study under the guidance of Prof. Karsten Meyer at the University of California, San Diego. After receiving a PhD in inorganic chemistry (2004), he became a postdoctoral scholar in the group of Prof. Jonas C. Peters at Caltech, where he worked on the development of molecular hydrogen evolution catalysts.
Xile is known for creatively applying his knowledge of inorganic chemistry to significant problems in electrocatalysis and solar energy. He has discovered many new classes of catalysts and established a highly innovative, visible and impactful research program. His group is unifying concepts and methods in homogeneous, heterogeneous, and enzyme catalysis to obtain new fundamental understanding of catalysis as well as catalysts with superior properties to those in current use.
Renewable energies such as solar and wind are intermittent and require efficient storage solutions before they can be implemented on a massive scale. Water splitting is widely proposed as an attractive method to store energy in the form of hydrogen fuel. Efficient electrocatalysts for both the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) and the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) are needed for water splitting, and currently the best catalysts are made of precious metals. In order to match the scale of global energy consumption, catalysts should be made of Earth-abundant elements.
Xile Hu has made many original and innovative contributions to the development of abundant and non-precious metal water splitting catalysis. He discovered many new classes of catalysts including amorphous molybdenum sulfide, molybdenum boride, molybdenum carbide for HER as well as nickel phosphide and nickel iron selenide precatalysts for OER. He championed the use of amorphous electrocatalysts and pioneered the studies of single-layered metal oxides in OER catalysis. He derived new techniques to integrate electrocatalysts with photo absorbers, reaching benchmark efficiencies.
Through continued innovations and scholarly work in electrocatalysis, Xile Hu's group is well poised to create superior electrocatalysts for not only water splitting, but also CO2 reduction and fuel cell reactions. These electrocatalysts will enable efficient renewable energy conversion and storage devices, addressing a grand challenge towards a sustainable society.