Department of Chemistry



Haitao Liu

Associate Professor


201 Eberly Hall
Chevron Science Center, 219 Parkman Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15260

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Research Overview

Ph.D 2007 University of California, Berkeley

B.S. 2001 University of Science and Technology of China

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.


  • AFOSR Young Investigator (2013)
  • Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists (2010)
  • R&D 100 Award (2009)




“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., Vol. 135, 2013, Pages 6778–6781
“DNA nanostructure meets nanofabrication,” Guomei Zhang, Sumedh P. Surwade, Feng Zhou, and Haitao Liu, Chem. Soc. Rev., Vol. 42, 2013, Pages 2488-2496
“Mechanistic Study of the Synthesis of CdSe Nanocrystals: Release of Selenium,” Raúl García-Rodríguez and Haitao Liu, J. Am. Chem. Soc., Vol. 134, 2012, Pages 1400–1403
“Molecular Lithography through DNA-Mediated Etching and Masking of SiO2,” Surwade, S. P., Zhao, S., and Liu, H.*, J. Am. Chem. Soc., Vol. 133, 2011, Pages 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, Vol. 327, 2010, Pages 64-67
“Photochemical Reactivity of Graphene,” Liu, H.; Ryu, S.; Chen, Z.; Steigerwald, M. L.; Nuckolls, C.; Brus, L. E., J. Am. Chem. Soc., Vol. 131, 2009, Pages 17099-17101
“Electrical Double Layer Catalyzed Wet-Etching of Silicon Dioxide,” Liu, H.; Steigerwald, M. L.; Nuckolls, C., J. Am. Chem. Soc., Vol. 131, 2009, Pages 17034-17035
“Tuning the Binding Energy of Surfactant to CdSe Nanocrystal: A Theoretical Study,” Liu, H., J. Phys. Chem. C, Vol. 113, 2009, Pages 3116-3119
“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., Vol. 129, 2007, Pages 305-312