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Professor Liming Dai

+61-2-9385 7544

Professor Liming Dai is a UNSW Scientia Professor and an ARC Laureate Fellow. He is also Funding Director of the Centre for Advanced Carbon Materials at UNSW. Previously, he was a Principal Research Scientist in CSIRO at Clayton (1992-2002), an Associate Professor of Polymer Engineering at the University of Akron (2002-2004), the Wright Brothers Institute Endowed Chair Professor of Nanomaterials at the University of Dayton (2004-2009), and the Kent Hale Smith Professor in the Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering at Case Western Reserve University (2009-2019).

Professor Dai’s expertise covers the synthesis, functionalization, and device fabrication of conjugated polymers and carbon nanomaterials for energy-related and biomedical applications. Among his many pioneering scientific achievements, he is widely recognised as a pioneer and leading scientist in the research and development of carbon-based metal-free electrocatalysts for renewable energy technologies. He has published more than 500 journal publications with citations over 83,000 and an h-index of 146 (as of Aug 2020, Google Scholar). He has also published a researchonograph on intelligent macromolecules and 5 edited/co-edited books on carbon nanomaterials for advanced energy systems and biomedical applications, including 2-volume edited book on Carbon-based Metal-free Catalysts by Wiley-VCH. He is a Clarivate Analytics World’s Highly Cited Researcher (both in Materials and Chemistry). He serves as an Associate Editor of Nano Energy and editorial board member of more than 10 international journals.  

Professor Dai has been honoured with many awards and accolades, most recently receiving the 2019 IUMRS-Somiya Award from the International Union of Materials Research Societies, the 2019 Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship, and the 2018 Advanced Materials Hall of Fame. He also severs as an Advisory Committee Member of the American Carbon Society. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), Fellow of the International Association of Advanced Materials, Fellow of the (US) National Academy of Inventors and Fellow of the European Academy of Sciences.

Research activities

Professor Dai’s research work spans from polymer and carbon nanomaterials design and synthesis to device applications for real-world impact. His group’s multidisciplinary research activities cover the following  areas: 


Metal-Free Carbon Catalysts 

Green and renewable energy technologies, such as fuel cells, water splitting, metal-CO2 batteries, hold great promise to solve the world’s energy and environmental challenges. However, to achieve this, high-cost noble-metal-based catalysts are required. Various carbon nanomaterials have shown potential as catalysts for applications in energy due to their: 

  • Earth-abundance 

  • Good electrical conductivity 

  • High tunability of structures at the atomic/morphological level 

  • Free from metal dissolution and poisoning 


To address this, our team develops the design principles, novel precision synthesis, and in-situ operando characterization methods to understand, control and direct the catalytic activities of carbon-based metal-free electrocatalysts for key electrochemical reactions involved in energy conversion and storage. 

Multifunctional Nanomaterials 

We develop synthetic methods for the preparation of nanomaterials with well-defined structures. Our focus is on the synthesis and functionalization of vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes (VACNT), VACNT-graphene 3D hierarchical architectures and size-/shape-controlled graphene sheets and nanodiamonds for various applications, ranging from multifunctional nanocomposites to energy-/bio-related devices. 

Optoelectronic Macromolecules 

We synthesise conjugated macromolecules of well-controlled optoelectronic properties for light-emitting diodes, field-effect transistors, batteries, supercapacitors, photovoltaic cells, and chemical/biological sensors. Functional nanomaterials, including carbon nanotubes, quantum dots, and DNA thin films, are used as the photon/electron/hole mediators. We also use a combined experimental and theoretical approach  to understand and optimize the materials structure and device performance. 

Biomaterials and Biomimicking Systems 

To ascertain the potential hazards of nanomaterials to humans (particularly in bio-related systems), we investigate the surface and size effects on the cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of nanomaterials with and without surface functionalization. Our findings are used to guide the design and develop functional nanomaterial for bio-related applications, including multifunctional biosensing, controlled drug delivery, photodynamic therapy, and catalytic medicine. We also undertake bioinspired approaches for designing and synthesizing materials with functional structures and smart features (e.g. DNA-directed self-assembling, Gecko-foot-mimetic dry adhesion). 

Selected Publications

Journal articles

Cui Y; Tan X; Xiao K; Zhao S; Bedford NM; Liu Y; Wang Z; Wu KH; Pan J; Saputera WH; Cheong S; Tilley RD; Smith SC; Yun J; Dai L; Amal R; Wang DW, 2020, 'Tungsten Oxide/Carbide Surface Heterojunction Catalyst with High Hydrogen Evolution Activity', ACS Energy Letters, vol. 5, pp. 3560 - 3568,