Zhihai Li
Zhihai Li
Associate Professor of Chemistry


Room:FB 402

About Me

I was born in a small village where everybody knows everybody. The peaceful country life brought me a lot of beautiful memories. I became quite interested in nature during my childhood. When I was a student, my favorite subjects were physics and chemistry and my deep enjoyment then was playing equations, formula and doing calculation and studying science. I feel fortunate that I can work on what I love – teaching chemistry and doing scientific research at Ball State.

My College Experience

I received my Ph.D. from RWTH Aachen University (Germany) in Prof. Thomas Wandlowski group. Then I worked as a postdoc at Arizona State University, and then at Temple University in Prof. Borguet lab before I joined Ball State University. My research belongs to analytical, materials, and physical chemistry, with a focus on the electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy and its applications in molecular assembly and devices, nanomaterials, energy conversion.

What I have Learned

During my life journey and career path, I came a long way and learned a lot, often by lessons. The most important thing I learned is never giving up. Once you know your dream and your love, pursuing it with your whole heart.  Second, be prepared. The opportunity is only waiting for the people who are well-prepared. Third, be interested and curious.  Interest is the best teacher (Albert Einstein), especially true for science.

Degree History

Research Assistant Professor, Temple University (2014)
Postdoctoral Associate, Arizona State University (2010)
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Bern, Switzerland (2009)
RWTH Aachen University, Ph.D. (2007)

Research Interests

Li Research Group

Nano-materials and devices (photovoltaic or solar cells), electrochemistry, electrochemical scanning probe microscopy (STM) and its applications in energy conversion, atomic force microscopy (AFM) lithography, molecular assembly and single-molecule electrical properties.

Preparation of semiconductor nanomaterials and applications in energy conversion

Semiconductors have demonstrated great capacity for applications in energy storage devices, solar light conversion, and water-splitting. Semiconductors utilized in these applications must hold appropriate physio-chemical properties including suitable band gap, proper mechanical and electrochemical resistance, and relatively stable excitation state among others. Promoting the desired properties could be achieved by structural doping of the materials with certain elements, substitution of rare and costly elements with less expensive ones, application of novel methods for tuning particle distribution, etc. In this project, a variety of semiconductor nanomaterials will be prepared and these materials will be applied to photovoltaic cells, energy storage, water splitting, and environmental remediation.

EC-STM study of the adsorption and molecular assembly of organic molecules at electrode-electrolyte interfaces

Adsorption and self-assembly of organic molecules on metal surfaces or at the metal-electrolyte interfaces is a fundamentally important topic because the study of the interactions between adsorbates (molecules) and metal substrates can provide valuable information to other chemical reactions and processes such as surface corrosion, asymmetric heterogeneous catalysis, electrochemical sensors, degradation of organic pollutants, surface-catalyzed reactions, and charge transfer in molecular devices. Self-assembly of molecules on substrates also provides a unique route to create supramolecular nanostructures. We have systematically studied the adsorption and assembly of a series of aromatic carboxylic acid on Au(111) surface to discover the key parameters that influence molecular patterns, surface coverage, unit cells.


(A) High-resolution EC-STM images of benzoic acid (BZA) molecules on Au(111) electrode. (B) Cyclic voltammogram (CV) of Au(111) in 0.1 M HClO4 and 12 mM BZA; (C) Cathodic scan of CVs of Au(111) in 0.1 M HClO4 with different concentration of BZA in solution; (D) Peak potential separation in (B) as a function of natural logarithmic BZA concentration (ln[BZA]).


Selected Publications

  1. Leasor, C.; Chen, K.; Goshinsky, K.; Li, Z.  Unique Two-Dimentional Multiple Phase Transition of Single-Anchored Aromatic Carboxylic Acids at Electrified Interfaces. J. Phys. Chem. C 2019124, 567-572. 
  2. Leasor, C.; Goshinsky, K.; Chen, K.; Li, Z. Probing Molecular Nanostructures of Aromatic Terephthalic Acids triggered by Intermolecular Hydrogen Bonds And Electrochemical Potential. Langmuir 201935, 13259 – 13267.
  3. Farsi, H.; Moghiminia, S.; Raygan, M.; Dana, E.; Hosseini, S.; Behforooz, M.; Zubkov, T.; Lightcap, I.; Li, Z. Nanostructured Tungstate-Derived Copper for Hydrogen Evolution Reaction and Electroreduction of CO2 in Sodium Hydroxide Solutions. J. Phys. Chem. C 2019, 123, 25941 - 25948.
  4. Leasor, C.; Chen, K.; Closson, T.; Li, Z. Revealing the Structural Complex of Adsorption and Assembly of Benzoic Acids at Electrode-Electrolyte Interfaces Using Electrochemical Scanning Tunneling Microscopy. J. Phys. Chem. C 2019, 123, 13600 – 13609.
  5. Farsi, H.; Moghiminia, S.; Raissi, H.; Riley, A.; Li, Z. The Effects of Electrolyte on the Capacitive Behavior of Nanostructured Molybdenum Oxides. J. Chem. Technol. Biotechnol. 2019, 94, 3800 - 3805. 
  6. Hosseini, S.; Alsiracey, N.; Riley, A.; Zubkov, T.; Closson, T.; Tye, J.; Bodappa, N.; Li, Z. Variable Growth of Monolayer Protected Gold Nanoclusters Based on Molar Ratio of Gold and Capping Ligands. Langmuir, 2018, 34, 15517 - 15525.
  7. Hosseini S.; Farsi, H.; Moghimnia, S.; Zubkov, T.; Lightcap, I.; Riley, A.; Peters, D.; Li, Z. Nickel Tungstate (NiWO4) Nanoparticles-Graphene Composites: Preparation and Photoelectrochemical Applications. Semicond. Sci.Technol. 2018, 33(5), 055008(1-12).
  8. Bui, M. N.; Johnson, M. B.; Viard, M.; Satterwhite, E.; Martins, A. N.; Li, Z.; Marriott, I.; Afonin, K. A.; Khisamutdinov, E. F. Versatile RNA tetra-U Helix Linking Motif as a Toolkit for Nucleic Acid Nanotechnology. Nanomedicine: NBM, 2017, 13, 1137-1146.
  9. Hosseini, S.; Madden, C.; Hihath, J.; Guo, S.; Zang, L.; Li, Z. Single-Molecule Charge Transport and Electrochemical Gating in Redox-Active Perylene Diimide Junctions. J. Phys. Chem. C 2016, 120, 22646-22654.
  10. Afsari, S.; Li, Z.; Borguet, E. Amine Directed Hydrogen Bonded Two-Dimensional Supramolecular Structures. ChemPhysChem. 2016, 17, 3385-3389.
  11. Li, Z.; Smeu, M., Arnaud Rives, Maraval, V.; Chauvin, R.; Ratner, M. A.; Borguet, E. Towards Graphyne Molecular Electronics. Nat. Commun. 2015, 6:6321, doi:10.1038/ncomms7321
  12. Li, Z.; Smeu, M.; Park, T-H, Rawson, J.; Xing, Y.; Therien, M.; Ratner, M. A.; Borguet, E. Hapticity-Dependent Charge Transport through Carbodithioate-Terminated [5, 15- Bis (phenylethynyl) porphinato] Zinc (II) Complexes in Metal-Molecule-Metal. Nano Lett. 2014, 14, 5493-5499.
  13. Afsari, S.; Li, Z.; Borguet, E. Orientation-Controlled Single Molecule Junctions. Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 9771-9774.
  14. Li, Z.; Li, H; Chen, S.; Froehlich, T.; Schoenenberger, C.; Calame, M.; Decurtins, S.; Liu, S. X.; Borguet, E. Regulating a Benzodifuran Single Molecule Redox Switch via Electrochemical Gating and Optimization of Molecule/Electrode Coupling. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 8867-8870.
  15. Li, Z.; Smeu, M.; Afsari, S.; Xing, Y.; Ratner, M. A.; Borguet, E. Single Molecule Sensing of Environmental pH – An STM Break Junction and NEGF-DFT Approach. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 1098-1102.
  16. Li, Z.; Smeu, M.; Ratner, M. A.; Borguet, E. Effect of Anchoring Groups on Single Molecule Charge Transport through Porphyrins. J. Phys. Chem. C 2013, 117, 14890-14898.
  17. Li, Z.; Borguet, E. Determining Charge Transfer Pathways through Single Porphyrin Molecules Using STM Break Junctions. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 63-66.
  18. Li, Z.; Park, T-H.; Rawson, J.; Therien, M. J.; Borguet, E. Quasi-Ohmic Single Molecule Charge Transport through Highly Conjugated meso-to-meso Ethyne-Bridged Porphyrin Wires. Nano Lett. 2012, 12, 2722-2727.
  19. Diez-Perez, I, Li, Z.; Guo, S.; Madden, C.; Huang, H.; Che, Y.; Yang, X.; Zang, L.; Tao, N.J. Ambipolar Transport in an Electrochemically Gated Single-Molecule Field-Effect Transistor. ACS Nano 2012, 6, 7044-7052.
  20. Diez-Perez, I.; Li, Z.; Li, J.; Zhang, C.; Yang, X.; Zang, L.; Dai, Y.; Feng, X.; Muellen, K.; Tao, N.J. Gate-controlled Electron Transport in Coronenes As A Bottom-up Approach Towards Graphene Transistors. Nat. Commun. 2010, doi: 10.1038/ncomms1029.
  21. Li, Z.; Liu, Y.; Mertens, S.; Pobelov, I.; Wandlowski, Th. From Redox Gating to Quantized Charging. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 8187-8193

Course Schedule
Course No. Section Times Days Location
Research in Chemistr 670 13 0000 - 0000
Thesis 698 700 0000 - 0000