Can Li has been working on both fundamental and applied research in catalysis and making efforts to reveal the essential relationship between catalytic performance and catalyst structure, and try to understand catalysis at various levels including atomic, molecular as well as nanometer scales and to apply these understandings to the designs and the development of practical applications in energy (solar fuels), fine chemicals (chiral synthesis) and environmental sciences (ultra-deep desulfurization of fuels). In particular to understand the fundamental of catalysis by developing in situ spectroscopy (e.g., UV Raman, Time resolved vibrational and electronic spectroscopy) to characterize the catalyst structure, and catalytic reactions.
Can Li has been the Director of the State Key Laboratory of Catalysis, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences since 1998, and the former Chairman of the Catalysis Society of China (2005-2012), and the former President of International Association of Catalysis Societies (2008-2012), and current President of The Asia-Pacific Association of Catalysis Societies. Can Li was elected a Member of the Chinese Academy of Science in 2003, a Member of The Academy of Science for Developing Countries (TWAS) in 2005, and a Foreign Member of Academia Europea in 2008, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2008.
Can Li has received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to the advancement of the catalysis sciences and technology, including the International Catalysis Award; National Natural Science Prize; Ho Leung Ho Lee Prize and National Petrochemical Prize. In the last decade, Can Li has made significant contribution to the solar fuels production via photocatalytic and photoelectrocatalytic water splitting and CO2 reduction by developing new concepts in photocatalysis (such as photogenerated charge separation with phase junction, between different facets, and dual co-catalysts strategy). Can Li has ~ 600 publications, ~ 13000 citations, an H-index ~ 60, ~ 60 granted patents and over 70 plenary and keynote lectures at international conferences.