The materials scientist from UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) is working with experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Dr Li has received a Queensland International Fellowship to help her travel to China and work with Research Center for Eco-Environmental Science Professor Zhengping Hao.
The fellowship, worth $16,000, will cement a collaboration between AIBN, based at The University of Queensland, and the Chinese academy involving the development of high-performance catalysts for VOC removal, using a catalytic oxidation process.
Dr Li said a desire to help improve air quality motivated her in her research with AIBN supervisors, Professor Chengzhong (Michael) Yu and Associate Professor Zhiping (Gordon) Xu.
"VOC emissions greatly affect air quality in our cities. Each year in Australia more than 60,000 tonnes of VOCs are released into the atmosphere," she said.
"They are very toxic to human health and cause severe environmental problems through the formation of photochemical smog.
"This is what attracted me to this area of research and motivates me to try to develop a cheaper catalyst to eliminate VOCs to improve air quality."
Dr Li said VOCs were carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporated into gaseous forms at room temperature.
The collaboration with Professor Hao aimed to develop a high-performance and cost-effective metal oxide catalysts for VOC elimination.
"Prof Hao's group has successfully developed a number of VOC catalysts, which have been applied in some industries for VOC removal to control the emission of organic pollutants.
"Through this collaboration we expect to build on this to develop a promising technique and advanced nanomaterials to reduce VOC emissions in vehicles - to further improve air quality.
"I expect to establish a long-term collaborative research alliance between Australia and China in the field of environmental pollution control and protection.
"This will advance my skills and knowledge on nanocatalytic systems for environmental pollution control and remediation."
Dr Li's work at AIBN spans several areas, including the development of silica- and carbon-based nanomaterials for clean energy production and waste water treatment and nanoparticles for drug and gene delivery.
Source: Nanotechnology Now