School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Erli Lu

NU Academic Track Fellow (NUAcT)


I joined Newcastle University in September 2019 as a NUAcT Fellow. Previously, I obtained a PhD in rare-earth metal chemistry in January 2012, from Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry (SIOC), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), under the supervision of Prof. Yaofeng Chen. After Shanghai, initially supported by an EU Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship, I worked at Universities of Nottingham (06.2012 - 10.2015) and Manchester (10.2015-09.2019) as a postdoctoral researcher, in the group of Prof. Steve Liddle, investigating actinide metal chemistry.

At Newcastle, my group investigates alkali metal chemistry in unconventional environments.


Alkali metals (AMs: Li, Na, K, Rb, Cs) are ubiquitous elements and have widespread technical applications in batteries, pharmaceutical and food industries. Alkali metal chemistry provides textbook examples at A-level, GCSE and university levels. The state-of-the-art alkali metal chemistry has been dominated by 1 oxidation state.

My research aims at systematically expanding alkali metal chemistry into new and unconventional oxidation states, i.e. 0 and -1, for the first time in over hundreds of years. The AM(0/-1) complexes will have novel structural properties and reactivity, such as inert small molecule activation (e.g. N2 activation). Furthermore, the AM(0) complexes may provide new insights into the Li-battery process, and suggest new avenues to tackle a grand challenge in the Li-battery industry: Li-metal deposition.

Another frontier of my research is using unconventional alkali metal chemistry to develop novel electron-storage materials and investigate their applications in energy storage.