Department of Chemistry

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford
Name: Dr Xiao Hua
Twitter handle: @xiaohua716


I was born and raised in Shanghai, China. Ever since I was little, I always liked chemistry and I participated in multiple national contests during high school. I then pursued the same subject for my undergraduate study in Fudan University, Shanghai. During the last year of my undergraduate course, I joined Prof. Yuping Wu’s research team and undertook a project on aqueous sodium-ion batteries. I developed a particular interest in electrochemical energy storage and decided to pursue a higher degree in the relevant field. I then joined Prof. Clare Grey’s research group in Stony Brook University and University of Cambridge (St Edmund’s College) where I obtained my masters and PhD degrees. My doctoral thesis focused on the study of the structure, morphology and reaction mechanism of novel electrode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

After I received my PhD I took a postdoc position in Prof. Ullrich Steiner’s group at the Adolphe Merkle Institute in Switzerland to investigate the structure-property relationship of mesoporous electrode materials. During my three years in Switzerland, in addition to gaining hands-on experience in materials preparation, I developed a strong interest in using the pair distribution function (PDF) method to study solid-state functional materials with complex crystal structures. I was then awarded a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship to join Prof. Andrew Goodwin’s research group to strengthen my analytical skills and study electrode materials with more complex structures.

Current research

Understanding the correlation between electrode materials’ structure-property relationship is very important in order to develop improvements in the performance of battery materials; it also provides critical insight to the search of new generation electrode materials to make better batteries for the future. Because the reaction of electrode materials in a battery takes place on an atomic level while the routine structure characterisation technique mainly focuses on the long-range atomic ordering, the knowledge of the materials’ short-range structure is rather limited. Therefore, I am currently working on methodology development to investigate electrode materials’ atomic structure and its impact on the materials’ performances.

In addition to batteries, I have recently started working on organometal halide perovskite materials used in solar cells. The performance of a solar device is normally defined by its power conversion efficiency (PCE), which reflects the portion of energy from sunlight that is converted into electricity. One of the significant factors contributing to high PCEs of perovskite-based solar devices is the quality of perovskite thin films. My research focuses on obtaining crystallographic and compositional information of these thin films with emphasis on their atomic structure, hoping to elucidate its influence on the device performance. This knowledge will offer critical insight into improvement of thin-film processing technique to further enhance the device PCE.

A little bit extra

Outside of work, I am passionate about drawing with pencils, and I have recently picked up oil brushes to give my drawings a touch of colour.