Zetian Mi receives CoE Rexford E. Hall Innovation Excellence Award

Prof. Mi has launched two startup companies to promote his pioneering research in artificial photosynthesis and GaN nanoLEDs for applications in sustainable energy, displays and disinfection.
Zetian Mi

Prof. Zetian Mi received the 2023-24 Rexford E. Hall Innovation Excellence Award from the College of Engineering for his pioneering work in III-nitride nanostructures, nanophotonics, and artificial photosynthesis.

“Zetian has achieved extraordinary accomplishments in taking breakthrough technologies and significant innovations developed in his lab to market readiness towards societal good,” said Pallab Bhattacharya, the Charles M Vest Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of EECS and James R. Mellor Professor Emeritus of Engineering.

Prof. Mi has made many seminal contributions to optoelectronics. His group has developed some of the world’s smallest, most efficient micro-LED pixels for mobile displays, virtual/augmented reality, and TVs. His group has also developed some of the world’s most efficient deep UV LEDs and the first electrically pumped  deep UV laser diodes that can potentially replace  conventional, yet toxic, mercury/xenon lamps for air purification and disinfection. 

In parallel, he has made unprecedented progress in artificial photosynthesis, which is one of the keys to carbon neutrality and environmental sustainability. His team has also achieved significant breakthroughs in ferroelectric nitrides, which have been widely considered as a transformative platform for some crucial technologies in future memory electronics, reconfigurable RF electronics, 5G/6G, and quantum photonics.

Prof. Mi is also an entrepreneur. He co-founded the company NS Nanotech, Inc. in 2017, which is now focused on developing the world’s first solid-state device capable of emitting far-UVC light for air and surface disinfection of coronavirus and other pathogens. The company’s GaN nanoLEDs also have the potential to deliver orders-of-magnitude improvements in brightness, efficiency, color saturation, directionality, and power consumption for large displays and AR/VR microdisplays. The company’s solid-state UV lamps were selected as a Top Ten Product by Electronics Products in 2020.

In 2019, he co-founded the startup company NX Fuels to commercialize the artificial photosynthesis technology developed by his group, which is capable of transforming sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into clean hydrogen and high-energy-rich fuels. It is currently one of the few, if not the only company in the world, that enables direct solar hydrogen production without utilizing electricity. The artificial photosynthesis and solar hydrogen technology developed by Mi had won the ERA Grand Challenge Award twice in a row, which was a $35-million global competition to transform carbon dioxide from a liability to an asset. More recently, NX Fuels received the Hydrogen Shot Incubator Prize from the Department of Energy.

Prof. Mi has more than 20 U.S. patents, with more than 50 patent applications in the pipeline. He maintains a large research group, many of whom receive national scholarships. 

A leader in the professional community, Prof. Mi is Editor-in-Chief of Progress in Quantum Electronics, and served as General Chair of the 2020 IEEE Photonics Conference and the 2016-17 IEEE Photonics Society Summer Topicals Meeting, Co-chair of the 2017 International Symposium on Semiconductor Light Emitting Diodes, and Vice President for Conferences of IEEE Photonics Society. He is a Distinguished Lecturer for the IEEE Nanotechnology Council and the IEEE Photonics Society, and a Fellow of APS, IEEE, Optica, and SPIE. 


The University of Michigan and Prof. Mi have a financial interest in NS Nanotech and NX Fuels.