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Wei-Ning Wang, Ph.D. - VCU College of Engineering. Biotech One, Suite 1082, Richmond, VA, US

Wei-Ning Wang, Ph.D. Wei-Ning Wang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering | VCU College of Engineering

Biotech One, Suite 1082, Richmond, VA, UNITED STATES

Chemical engineer & Materials scientist, Specializing in aerosol science and technology



Wei-Ning (Weining) Wang, Ph.D. obtained his bachelor's degree in Polymer Science and Engineering and master's degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Nanjing University of Technology* (NanjingTech) in 1999 and 2002, respectively. He received numerous awards and merit-based scholarships during his study at NanjingTech, including the Graduation with Honors Award in 1999, which was only awarded to Top 3% students.

After graduation, he moved to Hiroshima University, Japan, to pursue a doctoral degree in the area of nanoscience and nanotechnology, under the guidance of Prof. Kikuo Okuyama, a world-famous scientist in the fields of nanomaterials as well as aerosol science and technology (the ONLY Asian who received the Fuchs Memorial Award, the highest award in the field of Aerosol Science and Technology ). He was conferred a doctoral degree in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in 2006. Dr. Wang was then selected as a prestigious Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) postdoctoral fellow (April 2006 to September 2007). He became Research Associate in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Hiroshima University since October 2007. He was a postdoctoral research associate in Aerosol and Air Quality Research Laboratory (AAQRL) with Prof. Pratim Biswas from May 2009 to December 2012. Since January 2013, he became Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, and the Lab Manager of Nano Research Facility (NRF), one of the 14 nodal facility of National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN) supported by National Science Foundation (NSF). He is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

Industry Expertise (3)

Chemicals Education/Learning Research

Areas of Expertise (5)

Nanotechnology Materials Science and Engineering Aerosol science and technology Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Heterogeneous Catalysis

Accomplishments (1)

Postdoctoral Fellowship for Foreign Researchers (professional)

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)

Education (3)

Hiroshima University: Ph.D., Chemistry and Chemical Engineering 2006

Nanjing University of Technology: M.E., Materials Science & Engineering 2002

Nanjing University of Chemical Technology: B.E., Polymer Science and Engineering 1999

Affiliations (4)

  • Senior Member, American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
  • Member, American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR)
  • Member, American Chemical Society (ACS)
  • Member, Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors

Research Focus (1)

Aerosol-enabled Functional Materials Development and Application

Dr. Wang's research covers a wide range of topics in Aerosol (Particle) Science & Technology, with a major focus on the aerosol (gas phase) process development and advanced functional nanomaterials synthesis, aiming to solve the fundamental issues of nucleation, crystal growth, and self-assembly of nanoparticles via microdroplets in gas phase, towards addressing critical challenges in the sectors of energy, environment, and human health. Representative advanced materials under development include, but not limited to, efficient photocatalysts/functional membranes for carbon dioxide capture & reduction, toxic gas removal, and waste water treatment; infrared (IR) cutting/absorbing materials for energy saving/HVAC improvements, smart luminescent and magnetic materials for biomedical (e.g., drug delivery, bio-markers, MRI, and thermal therapy) and energy applications, and functional devices for sensing temperature, humidity, aerosols, and gases.

Research Grants (3)

Scalable Microdroplet-based Nanomanufacturing of Metal Organic Frameworks

National Science Foundation 


The primary objective of this research is to investigate and develop a microdroplet-based nanomanufacturing process, consisting of a pressure and temperature-controllable aerosol reactor with an integrated online characterization platform, for the fabrication of metal organic frameworks or MOFs. The project addresses the fundamental issues of long synthesis duration, slow crystal nucleation and growth, non-uniform heating, and inhomogeneous mixing that plague conventional wet-chemistry methods. By combining experimental investigations with numerical simulations on transport phenomena at both the macroscopic and microscopic scales, the detailed formation and self-assembly mechanisms of metal organic frameworks-based nanomaterials in microdroplets are unraveled. This research transforms the fabrication of metal organic frameworks-based nanomaterials from bulk solution-based methods to a microdroplet-based approach. The project provides a rapid, continuous and scalable platform for manufacturing such important nanomaterials with controllable nanostructures, and offers new insights into the quantitative understanding of pathways for their formation. The availability of affordable MOFs in large quantities should help tackle a variety of energy and environmental challenges, such as energy sources, air quality control, and water treatment.

Facile Synthesis of Metal Organic Framework-based Heterojunction Photocatalysts for CO2 Photoconversion into Hydrocarbon Fuels

American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF) 


The overarching goal of this project is to design and synthesize metal organic framework (MOF)-based nanocomposites with controlled surface functionality to photocatalytically convert carbon dioxide (CO2), generated by combustion of petroleum, coal and natural gas, to useful chemicals, which can be further converted to petroleum products.

Engineered Photocatalysts with Hierarchical Structures toward Better CO2 Photoreduction Efficiency

VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund (PeRQ) 


The project aims to create novel photocatalysts with hierarchical structures and heterogeneous wettability, consisting of discrete, highly porous metal-organic-framework nanocrystals and titanium dioxide nanoarrays, by rapid aerosol processes for efficient CO2 photoreduction. The control of wettability heterogeneity is the key to the enhancements on selective adsorption of CO2 and H2O molecules, and hence the CO2 photoreduction efficiency of the nanocomposites. The proposed work directly responds to the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges by developing efficient carbon conversion methods. The success of the project will deepen our understanding on the structure-property-performance relationship of the photocatalysts for CO2 photoreduction.

Courses (4)

Heat Transfer (EGMN301)

This course is intended to introduce the student to the fundamentals of heat transfer. The three modes of heat transfers, conduction, convection, and radiation, will be introduced. In particular, the conduction and convection heat transfers will be explained in details. Various rate constants and equations will be introduced to solve practical heat transfer problems. Lecture topics will include a review of fundamental concepts in thermodynamics.


This course is intended to introduce the student to the fundamentals of HVAC systems. The typical HAVC systems and understand the basic terminology will be overviewed firstly. The next topic is to understand psychometrics, which deals with the properties of moist air, and the representation of various air conditioning processes on a psychrometric chart. We will then discuss some of the common basic elements of HVAC systems and the types of systems that are used to meet the requirements of different buildings. Since HVAC is used to maintain not only an acceptable level of thermal comfort within a space but also a healthy environment, the conditions that provide a comfortable and healthful indoor environment for humans are introduced. They are addressed by physiological considerations, environmental indices, and, in particular, the control of indoor air quality which causes increasing attention. The design of a basic HVAC system will be also introduced, which is dependent on a good estimate of the heat gain or loss in a space to be conditioned. Basic heating and cooling load calculations will be discussed.

Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program (ENGR497)

The team will be working to develop novel aerosol processes to synthesize various nanoparticles, perform online and offline characterization, toxicity evaluation, and apply them for different applications, such as air purification, water treatment, and medical imaging and therapy. VCU’s School of Engineering has a strong team focusing on aerosol research, covering synthesis, characterization, transport, toxicity evaluation, and modeling. The projects will be designed and advised by the team to offer both fundamental aerosol knowledge and experimental skills.

The team is looking for interested sophomore, junior, and senior undergraduate Mechanical, Chemical, Biomedical and Electrical Engineering students with a strong desire to participate in the process development, simulation, and nanoparticle synthesis and characterization. The students involved in the projects will gain multidisciplinary knowledge in materials science, particle characterization, process development, photocatalysis, transport, and toxicity evaluation techniques, enabling them to choose diverse career paths in the future.

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Advanced Characterization of Materials

Graduate course. To be taught in Spring 2018. More details to come shortly.

Selected Articles (5)

Facile Synthesis of ZnO@ZIF Core-shell Nanofibers: Crystal Growth and Gas Adsorption CrystEngComm


ZnO@ZIF-8 core–shell nanofibers were manufactured via direct growth of ZIF-8 on eletrospun ZnO nanofibers for the first time. The versatility of this synthesis strategy for other ZnO@ZIF nanofibers was also demonstrated. The as-synthesized ZnO@ZIF-8 nanofibers exhibit enhanced CO2 adsorption ability and unique adsorption preference as compared to pristine ZnO nanofibers.

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Rapid Formation of Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs)-based Nanocomposites in Microdroplets and Their Applications for CO2 Photoreduction ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces


A copper-based metal–organic framework (MOF), [Cu3(TMA)2(H2O)3]n (also known as HKUST-1, where TMA stands for trimesic acid), and its TiO2 nanocomposites were directly synthesized in micrometer-sized droplets via a rapid aerosol route for the first time. The effects of synthesis temperature and precursor component ratio on the physicochemical properties of the materials were systematically investigated. Theoretical calculations on the mass and heat transfer within the microdroplets revealed that the fast solvent evaporation and high heat transfer rates are the major driving forces. The fast droplet shrinkage because of evaporation induces the drastic increase in the supersaturation ratio of the precursor, and subsequently promotes the rapid nucleation and crystal growth of the materials. The HKUST-1-based nanomaterials synthesized via the aerosol route demonstrated good crystallinity, large surface area, and great photostability, comparable with those fabricated by wet-chemistry methods. With TiO2 embedded in the HKUST-1 matrix, the surface area of the composite is largely maintained, which enables significant improvement in the CO2 photoreduction efficiency, as compared with pristine TiO2. In situ diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform spectroscopy analysis suggests that the performance enhancement was due to the stable and high-capacity reactant adsorption by HKUST-1. The current work shows great promise in the aerosol route’s capability to address the mass and heat transfer issues of MOFs formation at the microscale level, and ability to synthesize a series of MOFs-based nanomaterials in a rapid and scalable manner for energy and environmental applications.

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Size and Structure Matter: Enhanced CO2 Photoreduction Efficiency by Size-resolved Ultrafine Pt Nanoparticles on TiO2 Single Crystals Journal of the American Chemical Society


A facile development of highly efficient Pt-TiO2 nanostructured films via versatile gas-phase deposition methods is described. The films have a unique one-dimensional (1D) structure of TiO2 single crystals coated with ultrafine Pt nanoparticles (NPs, 0.5–2 nm) and exhibit extremely high CO2 photoreduction efficiency with selective formation of methane (the maximum CH4 yield of 1361 μmol/g-cat/h). The fast electron-transfer rate in TiO2 single crystals and the efficient electron–hole separation by the Pt NPs were the main reasons attributable for the enhancement, where the size of the Pt NPs and the unique 1D structure of TiO2 single crystals played an important role.

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Surface engineered CuO nanowires with ZnO islands for CO2 photoreduction ACS applied materials & interfaces


Large arrays of massively parallel (108 cm–2) CuO nanowires were surface engineered with dense ZnO islands using a few pulsed cycles of atomic layer deposition (ALD). These nanowires were subjected to UV–vis radiation-based CO2 photoreduction under saturated humidity (CO2 + H2O mixture) conditions. We monitored CO2 to CO conversion, indicating the viability of these nanostructures as potential photocatalysts. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy indicated an island growth mechanism of ZnO epitaxially depositing on pristine, single crystal CuO nanowire surface. Photoluminescence and transient absorption spectroscopy showed a very high density of defects on these ZnO islands which trapped electrons and enhanced their lifetimes. Peak CO conversion (1.98 mmol/g-cat/hr) and quantum efficiency (0.0035%) were observed in our setup when the ZnO islands impinged each other at 1.4 nm (8 cycles of ALD) diameter; at which point ZnO island perimeter lengths maximized as well. A mechanism whereby simultaneous H2O oxidation and CO2 reduction occurred in the active perimeter region between CuO nanowire and ZnO islands is proposed to explain the observed photoconversion of CO2 to CO.

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Engineered crumpled graphene oxide nanocomposite membrane assemblies for advanced water treatment processes Environmental Science & Technology


In this work, we describe multifunctional, crumpled graphene oxide (CGO) porous nanocomposites that are assembled as advanced, reactive water treatment membranes. Crumpled 3D graphene oxide based materials fundamentally differ from 2D flat graphene oxide analogues in that they are highly aggregation and compression-resistant (i.e., π–π stacking resistant) and allow for the incorporation (wrapping) of other, multifunctional particles inside the 3D, composite structure. Here, assemblies of nanoscale, monomeric CGO with encapsulated (as a quasi core–shell structure) TiO2 (GOTI) and Ag (GOAg) nanoparticles, not only allow high water flux via vertically tortuous nanochannels (achieving water flux of 246 ± 11 L/(m2·h·bar) with 5.4 μm thick assembly, 7.4 g/m2), outperforming comparable commercial ultrafiltration membranes, but also demonstrate excellent separation efficiencies for model organic and biological foulants. Further, multifunctionality is demonstrated through the in situ photocatalytic degradation of methyl orange (MO), as a model organic, under fast flow conditions (tres < 0.1 s); while superior antimicrobial properties, evaluated with GOAg, are observed for both biofilm (contact) and suspended growth scenarios (>3 log effective removal, Escherichia coli). This is the first demonstration of 3D, crumpled graphene oxide based nanocomposite structures applied specifically as (re)active membrane assemblies and highlights the material’s platform potential for a truly tailored approach for next generation water treatment and separation technologies.

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