International  Center  for  Isotope  Effects  Research

Nanjing University

Prof. Cheng Cao

B-210, Modern Engineering Plaza


Research interests

My research focuses on the application of metal isotopes to understand the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, oxygen and critical metals, especially during extreme climate events. Before joining ICIER, I have been using geochemistry of marine carbonates including metal isotopes, elemental ratios, and numerical as well as thermos dynamic models to study chemical weathering, reverse weathering and redox conditions in the paleo-ocean. Now I have ongoing projects to investigate the flux and isotope fractionations of lithium and potassium during the hydrothermal alteration of oceanic crust. In near the future, I will explore new analytical methods for metal isotopes using the Orbitrap mass spectrometer and develop metal isotope tools to understand the elemental cycling through the reverse weathering and how reverse weathering participated in the long-term climate change.


2024/03- present: Assistant professor, Nanjing University

2021/01- 2024/02: Postdoctoral Fellow (With Professor Jun Chen), School of Earth Science and Engineering, Nanjing University



2015/08-2020/08: Ph.D in Geolocial Sciences (advisor: Dr. Xiaoming Liu), Deparment of Earth, marine and environmental sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

2011/08-2015/06: B.Sc. in Geochemistry, School of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China



1. Liu X-F., Liu X-M., Zhai S., Zhang Z., Bi D., Wang X_K., Cao C., Liu X., A dolomite-based record of seawater calcium isotope composition over the Neogene. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.

2. Cao, C*., Li, T., Chen, T., Li, G., Li, W., Chen, J., 2023. An efficient Li dual-column system and high-precision Li isotope measurement of high matrix and low-Li samples by MC-ICP-MS. J. Anal. At. Spectrom.

3. Cao, C.*, Liu, X.-M., Wang, X.-K., Chen, J., 2023. Effective use of limestones to reconstruct seawater Li isotope compositions - A community standard proposal. Chem. Geol. 626, 121441.

4. Cao, C., Bataille, C.P., Song, H., Saltzman, M.R., Tierney Cramer, K., Wu, H., Korte, C., Zhang, Z., Liu, X.-M.*, 2022. Persistent late Permian to Early Triassic warmth linked to enhanced reverse weathering. Nat. Geosci. 15, 832–838.

5. Cao, C.*, Liu, X., Chen, J., 2022. Cerium anomaly as a tracer for paleo-oceanic redox conditions: A thermodynamics-based Ce oxidation modeling approach. Front. Earth Sci. 10, 1–13.

6. Tang, B., Fu, Y., Yan, S., Chen, P. W., Cao, C., Guo, C., ... & Yang, Y. (2022). The source, host minerals, and enrichment mechanism of lithium in the Xinmin bauxite deposit, northern Guizhou, China: Constraints from lithium isotopes. Ore Geology Reviews, 141, 104653.

7. Zabrecky, JM, Liu, X-M, Wu Q., Cao, C. Evidence of Anthropogenic Gadolinium in Triangle Area Waters, North Carolina, USA. Water. 2021; 13(14):1895.

8. Han R., Wang Z., Shen Y., Wu Q., Liu X-M, Cao, C., Gao S., Zhang J. Anthropogenic Gd in urban river water: A case study in Guiyang, SW China. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 21 January 2021; 9 (1): 00147.

9. Cao, C.*, Liu, X.-M., Bataille, C.P., Liu, C., 2020. What do Ce anomalies in marine carbonates really mean? A perspective from leaching experiments. Chem. Geol. 532, 119413.