Jiajia Zhao

I’m Jiajia, a PhD student at RMIT University. I finished my Bachelors’ degree at Hebei University in China, where I majored in inorganic nanomaterials for photocatalytic applications.

I received my Masters’ degree in Materials Engineering, working on self-assembly of fullerene nanomaterials at the Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences. In 2018, I began my PhD research into preparation of novel photocatalysts for CO2 hydrogenation. 


  • Preparation of inorganic nanoparticles and carbon nanomaterials
  • Structural characterisation: transmission electron microscope (TEM), Ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy (UV-vis), infrared spectrometer (IR), dynamic light scattering (DLS), inductive coupled plasma emission spectrometer (ICP), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • In vitro: cell culture, microplate reader, confocal fluorescence microscope, flow cytometry
  • In vivo: small animal magnetic resonance imaging system, small animal bioluminescence imaging, small animal ultrasound imaging   
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PhD Project

Topic: Photocatalysts for CO2 hydrogenation

CO2 hydrogenation is a promising option for decreasing the over-abundant CO2 in the atmosphere, and producing solar fuels like CH4, CH3OH, HCOOH and other hydrocarbons. Among these current techniques, photocatalysis offers recycling, environmentally friendly and mild reaction media. Photocatalysts, especially multiple semiconductors and metal oxides, have been studied widely by simulating natural photosynthesis. However, most semiconductors are confined to UV light absorption due to their wide band gap, and not optimal for CO2 reduction at large scale owing to the inhibition of generating electron-hole pairs under visible light.

The introduction of doped metals as promoters (such as Mg, In and La) can enhance the reducibility of transition metal oxides and the basic strength of catalysts. It has been reported that Sn is more capable of accepting photogenerated electrons, due to the relative lower CB (conduction band) potential than TiO2. Recently, the fabrication of oxygen-deficient transition metal oxides like TiO2-x or ZrO2-x has been investigated intensively to increase the surface-active sites and visible-light absorption. However, despite ZrO2’s generally high photostability, its wide band gap of around 5 eV renders it much more challenging to generate large numbers of oxygen vacancies than TiO2 (3.2 eV). Therefore, in this work we focus on the fabrication of ZrO2-x nanostructures and modification with Sn as a promoter to improve sunlight harvesting and lower charge-transfer resistance.

Figure 1: Two-, six- and eight-electron reduction potentials (vs. NHE) of some reactions involved in CO2 photoreduction at pH 7

Figure 1:

Two-, six- and eight-electron reduction potentials (vs. NHE) of some reactions involved in CO2 photoreduction at pH 7

Figure 2: Photo-activation of a semiconductor and primary reactions occurring on its surface

Figure 2:

Photo-activation of a semiconductor and primary reactions occurring on its surface

Prior Work

  • Undergraduate project (2012-2015): Synthesis of rare earth metal nanoparticles and their photocatalytic properties
    • Hydrothermal synthesis of SnO2 nanopowders and their photocatalytic properties
    • Preparation and enhancement of luminescent intensity of new rare earth molybdate NaLa(MoO4)2:Eu3+ phosphors
  • Postgraduate project (2015-2018): Fullerene nanoparticles as biomedical materials
    • C70[(COOH)2]3 and Gd-DO3A was linked by PEG to form self-assemble nanoclusters
    • These nanoclusters have an enhanced T1 contrast ability and MRI imaging-guided photodynamic therapy



  • Zhai, Y-Q, Zhao, Q, Wang, M, Zhao, J-J, Liu, X, & Li, Y-M 2015, 'Hydrothermal synthesis of SnO2 nanopowders and their photocatalytic properties', Journal of Applied Chemical Science International, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 191-196.
  • Zhai, Y-Q, Ma, J, Hu, Z-C, Zhao, J-J, Yang, M-Y, & Zhao, L 2014, 'Preparation and enhancement of luminescent intensity of new rare earth molybdate NaLa(MoO4)2:Eu3+ Phosphors', Asian Journal of Chemistry, vol. 26, no. 11, pp. 3129-3133.
  • Zhai, Y-Q, Ma, J, Hu, Z-C, Zhao, J-J, Cui, Y-X & Song, S-S 2013, 'Synthesis and luminescent properties of red-emitting phosphors NaLa(MoO4)2:Eu3+ by microwave-assisted sol-gel method', Journal of Synthetic Crystals, vol. 42, no. 7, pp. 1323-1329.


  • C. R. Wang, J. J. Zhao, C. Y. Shu, and M. Y. Guan, “Synthesis of metal complex with polyazan ligand based on fullerene and application for MRI and photodynamic therapy,” Chinese Patent 201711066996.6, Nov. 2, 2017.
  • C. R. Wang, J. J. Zhao, C. Y. Shu, D. Sun, M. R. Guan, S. Liu, and C. L. Bai, “Preparation and application of fullerene phthalocyanine derivative,” Chinese Patent 201810326303.0, Apr. 12, 2018.

Further Information

  • Senior Supervisor: Prof. Ivan Cole (RMIT University); Prof. Rachel Caruso (RMIT University)
  • Joint Senior Supervisor: Dr Danielle Kennedy (CSIRO)
  • Associate Supervisor 1: Dr Renata Lippi (CSIRO)
  • Consultant: Prof. Gang Wei (CSIRO)    

Honours and awards

  • National Encouragement Scholarship, First-class scholarship of Hebei University (2011-2012)
  • Merit Student, Second-class scholarship of Hebei University (2012-2013)
  • Group Leader of College Students Innovation and Entrepreneurship Training Program (2013-2014)
  • Excellent Graduation Thesis, Third-class scholarship of Hebei University (2014-2015)    

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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.