Kai Liu, a physicist and materials scientist. Liu is a professor and McDevitt Chair in the Department of Physics in the College of Arts & Sciences, and affiliated faculty of the Earth Commons Institute.
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Kai Liu Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has elected Kai Liu, a physicist and materials scientist, to its 2022 class of Fellows. Liu is a professor and McDevitt Chair in the Department of Physics in the College of Arts & Sciences, and affiliated faculty of the Earth Commons Institute

“I am deeply honored and humbled by this recognition,” Liu said. “It is an amazing acknowledgment of our work, done together with all my students and postdocs over the years, as well as with my collaborators. I have been most fortunate to work with these talented people to turn wild dreams into reality.”

The NAI Fellows program, which shines a spotlight on inventors in academia, added 169 new fellows with its 2022 cohort. Together, these fellows hold more than 5,000 U.S. patents. The program as a whole boasts inventors with more than 58,000 U.S. patents.

“The NAI Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society,” the NAI said in a press release. “Election as an NAI Fellow is the highest professional distinction awarded to academic inventors.”

Liu has made key contributions to the field of nanomagnetism and spintronics. He holds issued US patents on a variety of nanostructured materials and technologies. His research includes explorations of nanoscale magnets to change how digital information is stored, as well as inquiries into more environmentally sustainable ways to produce permanent magnets and magnetic recording media.

“In one way or another, many of our inventions address the sustainability challenges society faces today, whether in nanoelectronics, magnetic materials, or the environment,” Liu said. “For example, we have come up with a number of inventions to introduce topology into nanoscale magnets, which opens up exciting potentials for energy-efficient nanoelectronics.”

In the past two years, Liu has led his group of Georgetown researchers through the Mask Innovation Challenge, organized by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Their design is a new type of lightweight, reusable mask built with innovative metal foams.   

“The nanowire foams could potentially be a smart filter material against multiple hazards, such as a future pandemic or air pollution in general,” Liu explained. “The foams are highly efficient for air filtration, lightweight yet robust, can be easily cleaned for reuse and recycle, and can even accommodate additional air cleaning mechanisms.”

In 2021, Liu’s team was selected as a Phase 1 winner and in 2022 they were selected as a Phase 2 finalist. This cutting-edge technology is indicative of Liu’s research. 

“This year’s class of NAI Fellows represents a truly outstanding caliber of innovators. Each of these individuals have made significant impact through their work and are highly-regarded in their respective fields,” said Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, FNAI, president of the NAI. “The breadth and scope of their inventions is truly staggering. I am excited to see their creativity continue to define a new era of science and technology in the global innovation ecosystem.”

For Liu, it’s just more motivation to keep his nose at the grindstone. 

by Hayden Frye (C’17)

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