Xianhui Zhao

Xianhui Zhao

R&D Staff

Dr. Zhao obtained a Ph.D. in Agricultural, Biosystems and Mechanical Engineering from South Dakota State University, a M.S. in Materials Science, and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. After obtaining the M.S., he has worked as a Research Assistant at Tsinghua University for half a year.  

Dr. Zhao has been a Postdoctoral Scholar (Jan. 2016 – Apr. 2018) at the University of South Florida. Then, he has been a Postdoctoral Research Associate (Jun. 2018 – May 2021) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Since Jun. 2021, he has been an R&D Associate Staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Since Apr. 2024, he has become an R&D Staff. To improve the feedstock value and reduce the environmental impacts, his research interests and expertise fall in bio-based materials. These materials include biomass natural fiber polymer composite, biofuel, biochar, biogas, etc. The tools he has used or developed include manufacturing (3D printing, compression molding, injection molding, extrusion), pyrolysis reactor, hydrodeoxygenation reactor, biogas reforming reactor, Fischer–Tropsch synthesis reactor, etc. In general, he has research interests in material development and characterization, biomass conversion to composite and biofuel, waste recycling and upcycling, COutilization, 3D printing, and applied catalysis. In addition, he has worked extensively on the kinetic study of catalytic reactions, process simulation (e.g., Aspen software), pyrolysis, biogas reforming, Fischer–Tropsch synthesis, vacuum carburizing process of low-carbon alloy steel, photovoltaic materials based on ion doped thin films, and colored composite materials. 

Dr. Zhao has authored >65 peer-review publications in international journals (e.g., Applied Catalysis B Environmental, Advanced Materials, Matter), 8 publications in international and national conferences, 4 patents (1 pending), and 3 book chapters. He holds numerous prestigious awards including National Aspiration Scholarship, Outstanding Service Award, and Excellent Graduate Leader.

Research Interests

  • Biomass and biofuel
  • Waste recycling and upcycling
  • 3D printing and sustainable material
  • Applied catalysis and CO2 utilization
  • Polymer composite and fiber-matrix interface
  • Pyrolysis, biogas reforming, and Fischer–Tropsch synthesis


• Contributor. Circular bioeconomy systems, The University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute Convergent Research Initiative, 2024–2029, $20,000,000

• ORNL PI. Conversion of material recovery facilities (MRF) rejected wastes to value-added products for various material applications, DOE, 2023–2026, $2,250,000

• Co-PI. Value-added biocomposite production using off-spec biomass from mechanical fractionation, DOE, 2021–2024, $2,100,000

• Co-PI. 3D printing catalysts for improved efficiency and selectivity: converting waste to jet fuel, DOE Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), 2023–2025, $225,000

• Co-PI. Investigating the production of renewable natural gas from anaerobic digestion of solid waste to decarbonize ORNL steam boilers, Sustainable ORNL Potential Showcase, 2022, $150,000

Honors and Awards

• Innovation Award, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2023.

• Supplemental Performance Award, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2023.

• R&D 100 Finalist (Bio-nano cellulose composite technology through aqueous-phase functionalization), 2021.

• Supplemental Performance Award, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2019.


• X. Zhao, O. Oyedeji, E. Webb, S. Ozcan, H. Tekinalp. Biomass processing for biocomposites and biofuels. U.S. Provisional Patent, Application No. 63/289,218, 2021.

• X. Zhao, S. Ozcan, J. Klett, J. Figley, H. Tekinalp. Active metal catalyst. U.S. Non-provisional Patent, Application No. 17/120,408, 2020.  

• S. Ozcan, K. Li, H. Tekinalp, X. Zhao, J. Phipps, S. Ireland. Surface-modified and dried microfibrillated cellulose reinforced thermoplastic biocomposites. U.S. Provisional Application No. 63/051,614, 2020.

• X. Zhao, J. Kuhn, D. Walker, B. Joseph. Mixed metal oxide extrudate catalyst. U.S. Patent No. 10618042, 2020.

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