Hongliang Xin, assistant professor of chemical engineering in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering was named to the 2019 Class of Influential Researchers by Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a top peer-reviewed engineering journal. A global team of editors and editorial advisory board members identified a class of 32 influential, early-career researchers on the basis of the quality and impact of their research.

Since 1909, the journal has been at the forefront of chemical engineering research  and continues today as the largest and most-cited general chemical engineering research journal in the world.

The journal’s special issue highlights the research of the 32 honorees. In Xin’s contribution to the issue, he and his co-author, Hemanth Pillai, a chemical engineering Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech, discuss how new mechanism insights obtained in their study could be exploited in new strategies of designing active, selective, and robust electrocatalysts for ammonia oxidation.

Xin’s research focuses on quantum mechanics and its potential for fundamental understanding of surface chemistry. His doctoral research focused on understanding adsorbate–adsorbate interactions on metal surfaces.

Earlier in 2019, Xin received the prestigious NSF CAREER Award. With the five-year, $549,468 award, Xin is investigating, through quantum chemistry and data science, the possibility of improving the energy efficiency of electrochemical ammonia oxidation involved in ammonia sensing, wastewater treatment, and direct ammonia fuel cells. Ultimately, the research will aid the discovery of next generation energy materials for fuel cells that combine fuels and oxygen to produce electricity driving motors in fuel cell vehicles.

Prior to joining the Virginia Tech in 2014, he was a postdoctoral researcher with Professor Jens Nørskov at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center at Stanford University for extending the d-band theory, which indicates that the binding energy of an adsorbate to a metal surface is largely dependent on the electronic structure of the surface itself.

In 2018 and 2019 respectively, Xin was honored with the dean’s award for Outstanding New Assistant Professor and named Engineering Faculty Fellow; both at Virginia Tech.

He received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Tianjin University where he was awarded the prestigious Rongzhijian and Sinopec fellowships. He also holds a master’s degree from Tsinghua University and doctoral degree from the University of Michigan.

The Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research journal has been at the forefront of chemical engineering research since 1909 and continues today as the largest and most-cited general chemical engineering research journal in the world.

— Written by Tina Russell