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Yingwen Cheng

Assistant Professor


Our research aims to develop new chemical principles to explain and control electrochemical processes for inter conversion of electrical and chemical energy. Outcomes of our work contribute to electricity-driven chemical manufacturing and storage of renewable electricity for transportation and smart power grid. We are especially interested in studying well-defined materials with systematically tunable variables to extract fundamental insights. Major topics for the near future include: 1) solid active motifs design for electrocatalytic conversion of small molecules; 2) new electrochemical interfaces for extreme batteries; 3) new ways to modulate electrochemical processes via external forces and 4) synthesis of novel nanostructures with predictable functions.


Yingwen Cheng earned his Bachelor's degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from Shandong University, China, and Ph.D. in Chemistry from Duke University. He completed his postdoctoral training at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and started his independent academic career at Northern Illinois University as an Assistant Professor in 2018. In 2023 he accepted a Faculty position at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and moved his group here. He is a recipient of the Doctoral New Investigator Award from the ACS Petroleum Research Fund, and was featured as an Emerging Investigator from two academic journals Nanoscale (RSC) and Energy & Fuels (ACS).


B.S., Shandong University, China (2008)
Ph.D., Duke University (2013)
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (2017)

Awards and Recognitions

2023 Featured in the “2023 Energy and Fuels Rising Stars” special issue, Energy & Fuels (ACS Publications)
2023 Emerging Investigator, Nanoscale (The Royal Society of Chemistry)
2021 Doctoral New Investigator, American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund


Click to view a full list of publications.

  1. Li, B.; Xia, F.; Liu, Y. ; Tan, H.; Gao, S.; Kaelin, J.; Liu, Y.; Lu, K.; Marks, T.J.; Cheng, Y. “Co2Mo6S8 Catalyzes Nearly Exclusive Electrochemical Nitrate Conversion to Ammonia with Enzyme-like Activity” Nano Letters, 2023, 23, 1459
  2. Dahunsi, O.; Gao, S.; Kaelin, J.; Li, B.; Abdul Razak, I.; An, B.; Cheng, Y. "Anode-free Na Metal Batteries Enabled by Nearly Fully Reversible Na Plating on Zn surface" Nanoscale, 2023, 15, 3255.
  3. Gao, S.; Li, B.; Tan, H.; Xia, F.; Dahunsi, O.; Xu, W.; Liu, Y.; Wang, R. and Cheng, Y. “High Energy and Stable Subfreezing Aqueous Zn-MnO2Batteries with Selective and Pseudocapacitive Zn-ion insertion in MnO2Advanced Materials, 2022, 34, 2201510
  4. Lu, K.; Xia, F.; Li, B.; Liu, Y.; Abdul Razak I.; Gao, S.; Kaelin, J.; Brown, D. E.; Cheng, Y. “Synergistic Multisites Fe2Mo6S8 Electrocatalysts for Ambient Nitrogen Conversion to Ammonia” ACS Nano, 2021, 15, 16887.  
  5. Xia, F.; Li, B.; Liu, Y.; Liu, Y.; Gao, S.; Lu, K.; Kaelin, J.; Wang, R.; Marks, T.; Cheng, Y. “Carbon Free and Noble Metal Free Ni2Mo6S8 Electrocatalyst for Selective Electrosynthesis of H2O2Advanced Functional Materials 2021, 2104716.
  6. Gao, S.; Xia, F.; Li, B.; Razak, I. B.; Liu, Y.; Lu, K.; Brown, D. E.; Wang, R.; Cheng, Y. “Synergistics of Fe3C and Fe on Mesoporous Fe–N–C Sulfur Host for Nearly Complete and Fast Lithium Polysulfide Conversion” ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2021, 13, 17791-17799.
  7. Lu, K.; Li, B.; Zhan, X.; Xia, F.; Dahunsi, O.; Gao, S.; Reed, D.; Sprenkle, V.; Li, G.; Cheng, Y. “Elastic NaxMoS2-carbon-BASE triple interface direct robust solid-solid interface for all-solid-state Na-S batteries” Nano Letters, 2020, 20, 6837-6844
  8. Lu, K.; Liu, Y.; Lin, F.; Cordova, I.; Gao, S.; Li, B.; Peng, B.; Xu, H.; Kaelin, J.; Coliz, D.; Wang, C.; Shao, Y.; Cheng, Y. “LixNiO/Ni Heterostructure with Strong Basic Lattice Oxygen Enables Electrocatalytic Hydrogen Evolution with Pt-like Activity” Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2020, 142, 29, 12613-12619.
  9. Lu, K.; Liu, Y.; Chen, J.; Zhang, Z.; Cheng, Y. “Redox Catalytic and Quasi-solid Sulfur Conversion for High Capacity lean Lithium Sulfur Batteries” ACS Nano, 2019, 13, 12, 14540-14548
  10. Lu, K.; Zhang, H.; Gao, S.; Ma, H.; Chen, J. and Cheng, Y. “Manipulating Polysulfide Conversion with Strongly Coupled Fe3O4and Nitrogen Doped Carbon for Stable and High Capacity Lithium-Sulfur Batteries” Advanced Functional Materials, 2018, 1807309.

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