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Li Cao

Associate Professor

Full-Time Faculty

School of Engineering: Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering


Email: Li Cao
Phone: 937-229-2672
Kettering Laboratories Room 521A

Selected Publications

(Over 90 scientific publications; h-index: 42; citation > 13,000 times)
  • Cao, L., Bradford-Vialva, R. L., Eckerle, R. M., Herman, F., Jones, C., & Klosterman, D. A. (2022). Development of carbon nanotube-reinforced nickel-based nanocomposites using laser powder bed fusion. Adv. Eng. Mater. 2201197, 1-7.
  • Ren, X., Cao, L., Liang, W., Wang, P., Bunker, C. E., Yang, L., Teisl L. R., & Sun, Y.-P. (2022). Photoexcited state properties of poly (9-vinylcarbazole)-functionalized carbon dots in solution versus in nanocomposite films: Implications for solid-state optoelectronic devices. ACS Appl. Nano Mater. 5, 2820-2827.
  • Bradford, R., Cao, L., Klosterman, D., Herman, F., Forman, L., & Browning, C. (2021). A metal-metal powder formulation approach for laser additive manufacturing of difficult-to-print high-strength aluminum alloys. Mater. Lett. 300, 130113.
  • Cao, L., Fernando, K., Liang, W., Seilkop A., Veca, L. M., Sun, Y.-P., & Bunker, C. (2019). Carbon dots for energy conversion applications. J. Appl. Phys. 125, 220903 (1-12).
  • Anderson, A., Yang, F., Cao, L., Li, H., Meziani, M. J., & Sun, Y.-P. (2016). Tethered anthracene pair as molecular tweezers for post-production separation of single-walled carbon nanotubes. Chem. Phys. Lett., 657, 190–194.
  • Cao, L., Hou, Y., Lafdi, K., & Urmey, K. (2015). Fluorescent composite scaffolds made of nanodiamonds/polycaprolactone. Chem. Phys. Lett., 641, 123–128.
  • Liu, J., Cao, L., LeCroy, G., Wang, P., Meziani, M., Dong, Y., Liu, Y., Luo, P., & Sun, Y.-P. (2015). Carbon quantum dots for fluorescence labeling of cells. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 7, 19439–19445.
  • Sahu, S., Cao, L., Meziani, M., Bunker, C., Fernando, S., Wang, P., & Sun, Y-P. (2015). Carbon dioxide photoconversion driven by visible-light excitation of small carbon nanoparticles in various configurations. Chem. Phys. Lett., 634, 122-128.
  • Cao, L., Emami, S., & Lafdi, K. (2014). Large-scale exfoliation of hexagonal boron nitride nanosheets in liquid phase. Materials Express, 4, 165-171.
  • Hikita, M., Cao, L., & Lafdi, K. (2014). Optical properties of carbon microcoils. Appl. Phys. Lett., 104, 041905.
  • Cao, L., Meziani, M., Sahu, S., & Sun, Y.-P. (2013). Photoluminescence properties of graphene versus other carbon nanomaterials. Acc. Chem. Res., 46, 171–180.
  • Anilkumar, P., Cao, L., Yu, J.-J., Tackett II, K. N., Wang, P., Meziani, M., & Sun, Y.-P. (2013). Crosslinked carbon dots as ultra-bright fluorescence probes, Small, 9, 545-551.
  • Xu, J., Sahu, S., Cao, L., Bunker, C., Peng, G., Fernando, K. A. S., Wang, P., Guliants, E., Meziani, M., & Sun, Y.-P. (2012). Efficient fluorescence quenching in carbon dots by surface-doped metals - disruption of excited state redox processes and mechanistic implications. Langmuir, 28, 16141–16147.
  • Lu, F. S., Wang, F., Cao, L., Kong, C. Y., & Huang, X. C. (2012). Hexagonal boron nitride nanomaterials: Advances towards bioapplications. Nanosci. Nanotechnol. Lett., 4, 949–961.
  • Cao, L., Sahu, S., Anilkumar, P., Kong, C. Y., & Sun, Y.-P. (2012). Linear and nonlinear optical properties of modified graphene-based materials. MRS Bulletin, 37, 1283–1289.
  • Cao, L., Yang, S.-T., Wang, X., Luo, P., Liu, J.-H., Sahu, S., Liu, Y., & Sun, Y.-P. (2012). Competitive performance of carbon quantum dots in optical bioimaging. Theranostics, 2, 295–301.
  • Song, W.-L., Wang, P., Cao, L., Anderson, A., Meziani, M., Farr, A., & Sun, Y.-P. (2012). Polymer/boron nitride nanocomposite materials for superior thermal transport performance. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 124, 1–5.
  • Cao, L., Sahu, S., Anilkumar, P., Bunker, C., Fernando, K., Guliants, E., & Sun, Y.-P. (2011). Carbon nanoparticles as visible-light photocatalysts for efficient CO2 conversion and beyond.  J. Am. Chem. Soc., 133, 4754–4757.
  • Cao, L., Anilkumar, P., Wang, X., Liu, J.-H., Sahu, S., Meziani, M., Myers, E., & Sun, Y. (2011). Reverse Stern-Volmer behavior for fluorescence quenching in carbon nanoparticles. Can. J. Chem., 89, 104–109.
  • Wang, X., Cao, L., Yang, S., Lu, F., Meziani, M., Tian, L., Sun, K., Bloodgood, M., & Sun, Y. (2010). Bandgap-like strong fluorescence in functionalized carbon nanoparticles. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 122, 5438–5442.
  • Wang, X., Cao, L., Bunker, C., Meziani, M., Lu, F., Guliants, E., & Sun, Y.-P. (2010). Fluorescence decoration of defects in carbon nanotubes. J. Phys. Chem. C, 114, 20941–20946.
  • Liu, J., Cao, L., Luo, P., Yang, S., Lu, F., Wang, H., Meziani, M., Haque, A., Liu, Y., Lacher, S., & Sun, Y.-P. (2010). Fullerene-Conjugated Doxorubicin in Cells ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2 1384–1389.
  • Yang, S., Cao, L., Luo, G., Lu, F., Wang, X., Wang, H., Meziani M., Liu, Y., Qi, G., & Sun, Y. (2009). Carbon dots for optical imaging in vivo, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 131, 11308–11309.
  • Wang, X., Cao L., Lu, F. S., Meziani, M. J., Li, H. T., Qi, G., Zhou, B., Harruff, B., Kermarrec, F., & Sun, Y.-P. (2009). Photoinduced electron transfers with carbon dots. Chemical Communications, 25, 3774–3776.
  • Cao, L., Wang, X., Meziani, M., Lu, F., Wang, H., Luo, P., Lin, Y., Harruff, B., Veca, L., Murray, D., Xie, S., & Sun, Y.-P. (2007). Carbon dots for multiphoton bioimaging. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 129(37), 11318–11319. Highlighted in Dot to dot. Nature, 449, 263. and in Carbon dots illuminated with two photons. (2007). Biophotonics International, 14, 18.
  • Cao, L., Miao, Y., Zhang, Z., Xie, S., Yang, G., & Zou, B. (2005). Exciton interactions in CdS nanocrystal aggregates in reverse micelle. J. Chem. Phys., 123, 024702 (1–6).
  • Deng, Z., Cao, L., Tang, F., & Zou, B. (2005). A new route to zinc-blende CdSe nanocrystals: Mechanism and synthesis. J. Phys. Chem. B, 109, 16671–16675. Highlighted in Nanoparticles cooked up in aerosol spray. Nature Materials.

Courses Taught

  • Engineering Thermodynamics EGR 202
  • Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics CME 211
  • Principles of Material Selection MAT 508/MEE 508
  • Fundamentals of Nanotechnology & Nanomaterials MAT 550
  • Additive Manufacturing MAT 595
  • Advanced Composite Materials Lab MAT 595 (co-taught)

Selected Honors and Awards

  • Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Fellowship Grant Award, USA 2008


  • Ph.D. Condensed Matter Physics, Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, 2005

Professional Activities

  • Board of Director – Oversea Chinese Environmental Engineers & Scientists Association (OCEESA) (2022-2024)
  • Associate Editor - Frontier of Materials (2022-)
  • Member of Editorial Board - Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Letters (NNL) (2010-2012)
  • The Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE)
  • Served as a peer reviewer for more than 20 scientific journals from ACS, APS, RSC, Elsevier, etc.

Research Interests

  • Interdisciplinary research in the fields of materials engineering, additive manufacturing, physics, optics, energy science, chemistry, biology, nanoscience and nanotechnology
  • Optical, electrical, thermal, magnetic, and mechanical properties, analysis and applications of various advanced nanomaterials and their composites
  • Advanced material development and applications
    • Nanomaterials reinforced metal, ceramic, or polymer matrix composites and applications
    • Advanced metal, ceramic, or polymer matrix composites fabricated with additive manufacturing: process, material development and applications
    • Advanced nanomaterials and nanocomposites and applications