Professor Lai's research interests mainly focus on synthesis, characterization, and applications of inorganic membranes with ordered porous structures, such as zeolites, mesoporous silica or carbon, metal-organic frameworks, etc. The aim of his research is to understand the membrane formation and separation mechanisms in order to develop novel synthesis strategies to fabricate high performance membrane systems. The applications of these membranes are targeted on gas separations, hydrocarbon mixture separations, membrane reactors, wastewater treatment, and recovery of industrial organic solvents.
Lai is also interested in coupling of inorganic and polymeric materials to develop novel mixed matrix membranes. Another area of his interests is synthesis of porous materials into nanostructures such as core-shell nanostructure and study their potential applications such as drug deliveries and micro-membrane reactors.