Dr. James McKone seminar - Piercy Lecture

Dr. James McKone, associate professor of chemical engineering and chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, will deliver the 39th George T. Piercy Professor Lecture "Electrolytic Hydrogen: Hope, Hype, and Hard Work" on Tuesday, September 26 at 1:25 p.m.

Hydrogenation reactions are foundational to chemical transformations and energy storage on Earth, both in nature and in the built environment. The vast majority of hydrogen used by the chemical industry today is derived from hydrocarbons, and the push toward global decarbonization has driven renewed interest in electrochemical approaches for hydrogen production and use, with water and renewable electricity as the primary feedstocks. To this end, our research group is working to better understand the reactivity of protons and electrons at electrochemical interfaces. In this presentation, I will discuss several ongoing projects aimed at gaining control over elementary processes governing the generation, activation, transport, and delivery of electrolytic hydrogen under a range of reaction conditions.

The first of three topics I will cover involves designing non-precious catalysts for water electrolysis—relevant for decarbonizing the production of commodity H2. By carefully considering both kinetic and transport limitations, we have iteratively improved a nickel-based catalyst for the hydrogen evolution reaction to the extent that it nearly matches the activity of platinum on an atom-for-atom basis, with opportunities for further improvement. I will also discuss ongoing work to use insertion (also called intercalation) reactions to activate protons toward H2 production and molecular hydrogenations. For example, we are using hydrogen insertion as the basis of catalytic assemblies that blur the distinction between thermochemical and electrochemical reactivity. Finally, I will highlight several opportunities to integrate electrochemistry more deeply with other subdisciplines in chemical engineering and materials science, which I hope will motivate further discussion during my extended visit to UMN.

Dr. James R. McKone is an associate professor of chemical engineering and chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and music from Saint Olaf College and a PhD in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. Prior to joining the faculty at Pitt in 2016, he was a DOE EERE postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University. Prof. McKone’s research group studies fundamentals and applications of electrochemistry, guided by the imperative mission of global decarbonization within the 21st century. His awards and honors include Caltech’s Milton and Francis Clauser Prize (2013), RCSA’s Scialog faculty fellowship in advanced energy storage (2017), and the Beckman Young Investigator Award from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation (2020). Currently on sabbatical leave as the George T. Piercy Visiting Professor at the University of Minnesota, Prof. McKone resides in Minneapolis with his wife, Kirsten, and two children, Matilda and Eleanor.

Start date
Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, 1:25 p.m.
End date
Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, 2:30 p.m.

B75 Amundson Hall