35 under 35

Hopkins engineer Yayuan Liu named to 'MIT Technology Review' innovator list

Liu recognized for her work creating climate-friendly carbon-capture devices

Yayuan Liu, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and materials science and engineering, has been named to 2023's MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35 list.

Headshot of Yayuan Liu

Image caption: Yayuan Liu


Among the award's past recipients are Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Meta co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, CRISPR inventor Feng Zhang, and iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner.

"I feel honored and humbled to be on the list," said Liu, who is also a researcher at the Whiting School of Engineering's Ralph O'Connor Sustainable Energy Institute. "It is a recognition of the hard work from my talented research team and gives us big motivations moving forward."

MIT Technology Review recognized Liu for creating universally accessible and climate-friendly carbon capture methods and devices, though her work also includes creating special surfaces that can help clean water and making chemicals through electrochemical processes to study electrochemical reactions.

She told the publication that she envisions a time when "every household has a little carbon-capture device where they could deal with their own CO2 emissions."

On a larger scale, Liu is working to make it possible for commercial factories to shift from thermal-based methods that remove CO2 from their flue gas to electrochemically driven alternatives. Although the current approach reduces environmental damage, it still relies on fossil fuel-derived energy to create the heat needed to capture CO2 and prevent it from going into the atmosphere. Liu's ultimate goal is to establish a system powered by existing renewable electricity sources, eliminating the need for the retrofitting typically associated with current carbon dioxide removal systems. 

"I believe chemical engineers can play a pivotal role in tackling sustainability challenges," she said. "Given the seriousness of the climate issues at hand, I feel the responsibility to contribute to finding viable solutions as an engineer and a global citizen."

Liu, 31, adds this honor to an already impressive list of accomplishments, most recently including a National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award, young investigator awards from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation and The Electrochemical Society, and being named to Clarivate Analytics' annual list of Highly Cited Researchers.