Xiangkun (Elvis) Cao

Ph.D. @Cornell, Forbes 30U30

Forbes | UNEP | INK | BP | OYW | LinkedIn | Twitter | Google Scholar | ORCiD | Publons


05/04/2020: Received the “Top Ten Outstanding Chinese American Youth Award!”

03/02/2020: Selected to attend the 70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting!

10/23/2019: Named a Future Energy Leader (11 in the world) by BP plc.

10/15/2019: Selected as an INK Fellow (21 in the world).

05/16/2019: Named a UNEP "Young Champions of the Earth" Finalist!

04/01/2019: Featured in EarthX 30 Under 30: The Green Generation.

03/18/2019: Named as AACYF 30 Under 30 – Class of 2019.

11/13/2018: Landed on Forbes 30 Under 30 in Energy – Class of 2019.

10/06/2017: Received the $20K Grand Prize (1/1,150+) in the "Create the Future" Design Contest.


I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. My major is Micro & Nanoscale Engineering, with minors in Energy & Sustainability, Infection & Immunity, and Entrepreneurship. My research is centered around scalable photoreactor design for converting CO2 to solar commodities.

Below are some snapshots for my background.

Top 10 list & Three 30U30 lists: I received the 13th “Top Ten Outstanding Chinese American Youth Award” (2020). I was also honored to be featured by the “30 Under 30” in Energy by Forbes Magazine (2019), was among “EarthX 30 Under 30: The Green Generation” by the American Conservation Coalition (2019), and the “AACYF Top 30 Under 30 Elites” in “Art, Culture, Science” by All America Chinese Youth Federation (2019).

Academic activities: I was selected to attend the 70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (2021), received the Research Excellence Award from MKS Instruments at Photonics West in San Francisco, CA (2020), and was selected as a student energy leader to attend the 10th ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Denver, CO (2019).

I was named one of the six national finalists in the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize by the Lemelson Foundation (2019), and received Honorable Mention for the Link Foundation Energy Fellowship by the Link Foundation (2019). I received the Third Place Prize (2018) in Presentation by the AAAS, the Graduate Division Winner Award (2017) by Sigma Xi, and won two Best Poster Awards both in the US (2017) and abroad (2017).

I was selected into the NextGen Professors Program (2019-2020), mentored an undergrad team that won the Bill Nye '77 Award in Undergrad Research (2019), and was the PI for the $20K Scale Up and Prototyping Awards (2017) at Cornell.

I have recently published work in Int. J. Hydrog. Energy, Anal. Chem., Fuel, Fuel Process. Technol., ISIJ Int., Malaria Journal, and Metall Mater Trans B, and am a referee for several journals, including J. Clean. Prod., Energy Convers. Manag, Int. J. Hydrog. Energy, IJEE, Metall Mater Trans B, Eng. Rep., etc.

Social impact: I was featured as a Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Commitment-Maker by the Clinton Foundation (2020), was featured as a Future Energy Leader (11 in the world) tackling the need for cleaner energy by BP Magazine (2019), and was selected as a finalist in the Young Champions of the Earth Competition (5 in North America) by UN Environment (2019). I was invited to attend the 50th St. Gallen Symposium in St. Gallen, Switzerland (2021), was named a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum (2019), a BP Advancing Energy Scholar to attend the One Young World Summit in London, UK (2019), and a Local Pathways Fellow by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network Youth (2018-2019).

Public speaking: I am featured by SPARK - Energy Re-Imagined to speak at the Carbon Capture Stream in London, UK (2021), was selected as an INK Fellow to speak about solar fuels in Jaisalmer, India (2019), was an invited speaker at IoT, Data, and the New Last Mile by TTI/Vanguard in Berkeley, CA (2019), and was selected to present at Global Grad Show, an exhibition of creativity and social innovation of the Dubai Design Week (2019). I received the First Place Award by the Atkinson Center (2018), the "Drafting the Future" Award by Cornell MAE (2018), the People’s Choice Award by Cornell Grad School (2017), and was invited to speak at Ithaca’s March for Science Event (2017).

Entrepreneurship: I am pursuing an entrepreneurship minor during my Ph.D. study, and am the current vice president of the Chinese Entrepreneur Association at Cornell. For the HI-Light project, I was participating in a team that won the $20K Grand Prize (1/1,150+ in the world) in the “Create the Future” Design Contest (2017). The industrial partner in the HI-Light effort has advanced into the final round (10 teams in the world) for the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE (2019), a global competition to develop breakthrough technologies for CO2 conversion.

Prior degrees: M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell (2019), M.Eng. (thesis) in Materials Engineering from McGill (2016) with joint training by the Nuclear Engineering Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2015-2016), a dual bachelor’s degree (B.Eng. in Energy & Power Engineering; B.A. in English Language & Literature) from the ‘Tsien Hsue-Shen’ Elite Class of Xi’an Jiaotong University (2013).

For more information on my research, click on “Publications.”

Curriculum Vitae: Short; Long (updated May 2020).