Department of Chemistry



Haitao Liu

Professor and Director of Graduate Studies


201 Eberly Hall
Chevron Science Center, 219 Parkman Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15260

My Website >

Research Overview

Research in the Liu group is focused on the physical and synthetic chemistries of nanomaterials. We are interested in a wide range of organic and inorganic materials, including but not limited to DNA, graphene, carbon nanotubes, and colloidal nanocrystals.

DNA-templated nanofabrication. By designing the base sequence, a long strand of DNA can be folded into almost any arbitrary shapes. These DNA nanostructures are ideal templates for bottom-up nanofabrication. We explore the catalytic activity of these DNA nanostructures for the etching reaction of SiO2. The long term goal is to use these DNA nanostructures as nanoscale masks to pattern silicon wafer at the sub-10 nm resolution.

Reaction chemistry of graphene. Graphene, a single layer of graphite, has attracted a lot of attention recently due to its superior electronic and mechanical properties. We are interested in making graphene with both chemical vapor deposition (CVD) and solution exfoliation methods. Another focus is to develop chemistry to covalently modify graphene as well as to etch graphene into specific shapes and edge structures.

Synthesis of colloidal nanocrystals. Colloidal inorganic nanocrystals have found applications in a broad range of fields, including fluorescence labeling, solar cells, and electronics. Traditionally, the syntheses of these materials are exclusively based on the trial-and-error approach. The chemistry of these syntheses is understood mostly at the phenomenological level. We study the colloidal nanocrystal synthesis using the classical physical organic chemistry techniques. Of particular interests are the mechanisms of precursor-to-nanocrystal transformation and growth of inorganic nanocrystals. The long term goal is to synthesize multi-component, shape controlled nanostructures by design.

Postdoctoral, graduate research assistant, and undergraduate research assistant  positions are available, please check our website for details.


  • Early-Career Award in Experimental Physical Chemistry, ACS, 2019
  • Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award, University of Pittsburgh, 2017
  • Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award, AFOSR, 2013
  • Young Investigator Award, E-MRS 2013 Spring Meeting, Symposium Q, 2013
  • AFOSR Young Investigator, 2013
  • Faculty Summer Research Fellowship, AFOSR, 2011
  • The Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, the New York Academy of Sciences, 2010
  • Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, 2010
  • R&D 100 Award, 2009
  • The R&D 100 Award, the R&D Magazine, 2009


  • Ph.D. 2007 University of California, Berkeley
  • B.S. 2001 University of Science and Technology of China




“DNA‐Based Strategies for Site‐Specific Doping,” Bai, R.; Du, Y.; Xu, A.; Hu, Y.; Erickson, J. R.; Hui, L.; Chen, J.; Xiong, F.; Liu, H., Adv. Func. Mater. 2020, 2005940
“3D Freestanding DNA Nanostructure as a Low-Density High-Strength Material,” Zhou, F.; Sun, W.; Zhang, C.; Shen, J.; Yin, P.*; Liu, H.*  ACS Nano 2020, 14 6, 6582-6588
“Electric Field Effect on the Reactivity of Solid State Materials: The Case of Single Layer Graphene,” Kim, M.; Qiu, N.; Li, Z.; Huang, Q.; Chai, Z.; Du, S.*; Liu, H Adv. Func. Mater. 2020, 30 13, 1909269
“DNA-based Nanofabrication for Antifouling Applications,” Hui, L.; Xu, A.; Liu, H.*  Langmiur 2019, 35 38, 12543-12549
“Assessing and Mitigating Airborne Hydrocarbon Contamination of Carbon Electrode Materials,” Hurst, J.; Kim, A.; Peng, Z.; Li, L.*; Liu, H.*  Chem. Mater. 2019, 31 18, 7133-7142
“Adventitious Hydrocarbons and the Graphite-water Interface,” Hurst, J.; Kim, A.; Peng, Z.; Li, L.*; Liu, H.*  Carbon 2018, 134, 464-469
“DNA Nanostructure-Meidated Molecular Imprinting Lithography,” C. Tian, H. Kim, W. Sun, Y. Kim, P. Yin, and H. Liu ACS Nano 2017, 11, 227-238
“Bottom-Up Nanofabrication Using DNA Nanostructures,” Z. Peng and H. Liu Chem. Mater. 2016, 28, 1012-1021
“Programmably-Shaped Carbon Nanostructure from Shape-Conserving Carbonization of DNA,” F. Zhou, W. Sun, K. B. Ricardo, J.Shen, P. Yin, and H. Liu ACS Nano 2016, 10, 3069-3077
“Nanoscale Patterning of Sel-Assembled Monolayers using DNA Naostructure Templates,” S. Surwade, F. Zhou, Z. Li, A. Powell, C. O'Donnell, and H. Liu Chem. Comm. 2016, 52, 1677-1680
“Water Protects Graphitic Surface from Airborne Hydrocarbon Contamination,” Li Z, Kozbial A, Nioradze N, Parobek DG, Shenoy GJ, Salim M, Amemiya S, Li L and Liu H ACS Nano 2016, 10, 349-359
“Visualizing Individual Carbon Nanotubes with Optical Microscopy,” M. Novak, S. P. Surwade, J. Prokop, K. Bolotin, J. Hone, L. Brus, C. Nuckolls, and H. Liu J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 8536-8539
“Understanding the Intrinsic Water Wettability of Graphite,” A. Kozbial, Z. Li, H. Liu, and L. Li Carbon 2014, 74, 218-225
“Effect of Airborne Contaminants on the Wettability of Supported Graphene and Graphite,” Z. Li, Y. Wang, A. Kozbial, G. Shenoy, F. Zhou, R. McGinley, P. Ireland, B. Morganstein, A. Kunkel, S. P. Surwade, L. Li, and H. Liu Nature Mater. 2013, 12, 925-931
“Nanoscale Growth and Patterning of Inorganic Oxides Using DNA Nanostructure Templates,” Sumedh P. Surwade, Feng Zhou, Bryan Wei, Wei Sun, Anna Powell, Christina O’Donnell, Peng Yin, and Haitao Liu J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 6778–6781
“DNA nanostructure meets nanofabrication,” Guomei Zhang, Sumedh P. Surwade, Feng Zhou, and Haitao Liu Chem. Soc. Rev. 2013, 42, 2488-2496
“Mechanistic Study of the Synthesis of CdSe Nanocrystals: Release of Selenium,” Raúl García-Rodríguez and Haitao Liu J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 1400–1403
“Molecular Lithography through DNA-Mediated Etching and Masking of SiO2,” Surwade, S. P., Zhao, S., and Liu, H.* J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 11868-11871
“Translocation of Single-Stranded DNA through Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes,” Liu, H.; Jin, H.; Tang, J.; Liu, H.; Pang, P.; Cao, D.; Lindsay, S.; Nuckolls, C. Science 2010, 327, 64-67
“Photochemical Reactivity of Graphene,” Liu, H.; Ryu, S.; Chen, Z.; Steigerwald, M. L.; Nuckolls, C.; Brus, L. E. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2009, 131, 17099-17101
“Electrical Double Layer Catalyzed Wet-Etching of Silicon Dioxide,” Liu, H.; Steigerwald, M. L.; Nuckolls, C. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2009, 131, 17034-17035
“Mechanistic Study of Precursor Evolution in Colloidal Group II−VI Semiconductor Nanocrystal Synthesis,” Liu, H.; Owen, J. S.; Alivisatos, A. P. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2007, 129, 305-312