Principal Investigator:

Tian Profile.jpg
Tian Li

Assistant Professor

Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University



1034 Ray W. Herrick Laboratories,

177 S Russell St, West Lafayette, IN 47907

High-performing sustainable materials are key enablers for carbon-neutral technologies. By Redesigning Natural materials for Energy, Water, Environment and Devices (ReNEWED), the Li group aims to establish a material “toolbox” for sustainable solutions towards the carbon drawdown.


Our paper on highly stretchable cotton textile electronic and ionic conductor is accepted in Advanced Fiber Materials! 

Our paper on very large scale radiative cooling (material cost < $100/ton) is accepted in Cell Reports Physical Science! 

Our paper on "cool color" (simultaneously realized vivid coloration and daytime cooling) is published in Advanced Science! 

We are awarded with a $1M, one-year ARPA-E grant under Harnessing Emissions into Structures Taking Inputs from the Atmosphere (HESTIA) program (link)!

We are awarded with Sony Innovation Award to develop cotton fabric based wearable sensor and power generator!

We are awarded with Shah Family Global Innovation Award and will be working with Plan International USA. Inc to help girl engineers in in Senegal, West Africa to harvest and test clean water from air for their school and community! ​

Congrats to Wenkai for passing the Ph.D Prelim exam!

Our paper on Ambient Water Harvesting Fabric is published on Nano Letters (link)! 

Our Perspective on cellulose as a sustainable technological material to address global challenges is published on Nature (link)!

We contribute to the article "35 challenges in materials science being tackled by PIs under 35(ish) in 2021" (link) by Matter!

Congrats to Wenhui and Wenkai for passing the Ph.D Area Exam in Heat&Mass Transfer!

Congrats to Pengfei for passing the Ph.D Area Exam in Control!

Congrats to Sai Aranke for graduation with Master (thesis) at Mechanical Engineering!

Congrats to Gabriella Schalm for getting the Bottomley Research Scholarship!

We are awarded the Haythornthwaite Foundation Research Award from ASME!

We are awarded two seed funds from Center of High Performance Buildings! Go CHPB!

Our paper on Radiative Cooling Wood is published on Science (link)! Dr. Li was interviewed on Science Podcast: wood designed to cool buildings (link)!

Our paper on ion regulation among aligned cellulose molecular chains (0.6 nm channel) for ionic thermoelectric is published on Nature Materials (link)! Dr. Li was interviewed by Nature Index: Energy harvesters pick up power (link)!

Dr. Li was selected Forbes 30 under 30 in Energy Category (link)! 

Naturally nanostructured materials

Cellulose is the most abundant biopolymer on earth, featuring a hierarchical arrangement. The cellulose fibers can be broken down into building blocks of various dimensions, offering immense opportunities with diverse length scale.


Selected Publications:

Developing fibrillated cellulose as a sustainable technological material

​Tian Li, Chaoji Chen, Alexandra H. Brozena, J.Y. Zhu, Lixian Xu, Carlos Driemeier, Jiaqi Dai, Orlando J. Rojas, Akira Isogai, Lars Wågberg, Liangbing Hu. Nature 590, 47-56 (2021)

Sustainable Built


Selected Publications:

A Radiative Cooling Structural Material
Tian Li, Y. Zhai, S. He, W. Gan, Z. Wei, M. Heidarinejad, D. Dalgo, R. Mi, X. Zhao, J. Song, J. Dai, C. Chen, A. Aili, A. Vellore, A. Martini, R. Yang, X. Yin, L. Hu. Science 364, 6442, (2019)

Science Podcase: wood designed to cool buildings (link)!

Wood Composite as an Energy Efficient Building Material: Guided Sunlight Transmittance and Effective Thermal Insulation
Tian Li, M. Zhu, Z. Yang, J. Song, J. Dai, Y. Yao, W. Luo, G. Pastel, B. Yang, L. Hu. Advanced Energy Materials (2016).  Highlighted "Building materials: Transparent wood." Nature Energy 1, 16164 (2016)

Anisotropic, Lightweight, Strong, and Super Thermally Insulating Nanowood with Naturally Aligned Nanocellulose

Tian Li, J. Song, X. Zhao, Z. Yang, G. Pastel, S. Xu, C. Jia, J. Dai, C. Chen, A. Gong, F. Jiang, Y. Yao, T. Fan, B. Yang, L. Wågberg, R. Yang, L. Hu. Science Advances 4, 3 (2018) 

Buildings consume ~40% of the total energy in US. The disruptive technologies for energy efficient buildings need to be aided by advances in material design. Energy efficient building materials can largely cut down energy usage in buildings and facilitate a paradigm shift in building design. In addition, most building materials not only have a high embodied carbon footprint, but also store no or minimal amounts of carbon. We aim to establish the fundamental knowledge needed to utilize carbon negative materials in buildings.

Energy Water Nexus


Trees are natural energy-water systems. The wood trunk is composed of numerous aligned fibers along the wood growth direction that are responsible for water and ion transport from root to leaves. We aim to establish the knowledge base of cellulose-water-energy interactions towards transformative discoveries.

Selected Publications:​

Atmospheric Water Harvesting via Radiative Cooling Fabric

Y. Zhang, W. Zhu, C. Zhang, J. Peoples, X. Li, A. Felicelli, X. Shan, D. Warsinger, T. Borca-Tasciuc, X. Ruan, T. Li, Nano Letters, 2022. 22, 7, 2618-2626 

Scalable and Highly Efficient Mesoporous Wood‐Based Solar Steam Generation Device: Localized Heat, Rapid Water Transport
Tian Li, H. Liu, X. Zhao, G. Chen, J. Dai, G. Pastel, C. Jia, C. Chen, E. Hitz, D. Siddhartha, R. Yang, L. Hu, Advanced Functional Materials (2018)

Biomedical and Wearable Devices


Cellulose are natural materials for wear. Our aim in this direction is to establish ‘smart’ functionalized natural fibers as highly tunable biomedical devices and as vast numbers of networked sensors.

Selected Publications:

Cellulose Ionic Conductors with High Differential Thermal Voltage for Low-Grade Heat Harvesting

Tian Li, X. Zhang, S. Lacey, R. Mi, X. Zhao, S. Das, R. Yang, L. Hu, Nature Materials 18, 6 (2019). Highlighted “Energy harvesters pick up power” Nature index vol 576 (2019)

A Nanofluidic Ion Regulation Membrane with Aligned Cellulose Nanofibers

Tian Li, X. Li, W. Kong, C. Chen, E. Hitz, C. Jia, J. Dai, X. Zhang, R. Briber, Z. Siwy, M. Reed, L. Hu. Science Advances 5, 2, 4238 (2019)

Transparent, Anisotropic Biofilm with Aligned Bacterial Cellulose Nanofibers

S. Wang, Tian Li, C. Chao, W. Kong, S. Zhu, J. Dai, A. Diaz, E. Hitz, S. Solares, T. Li, L. Hu,  Advanced Functional Materials 28, 24 (2018)