Chris Gorski's research group is using redox chemistry to solve environmental problems.


We are adapting the principles used in batteries and fuel cells to discover new ways to purify water, produce renewable, carbon-neutral electricity, increase the efficiencies of industrial practices, and mitigate climate change. We also study natural redox reactions and their environmental and geochemical implications. Our reseach has recently been covered in Scientific American, Phys.org, C&EN, and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) podcast

If you are interested in joining our group or collaborating, please email Chris.

Our Team


Our lab's mission is to better understand and mitigate major environmental challenges while providing deep learning experiences for students and post-docs.

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PI: Christopher Gorski

Chris has been an assistant professor at Penn State University since 2012. Before that, he was a post-doctoral scholar at Eawag in Switzerland. Over his career, he has gained an expertise in environmental redox chemistry, with emphases on electrochemistry and spectroscopy. View his CV here or his publications on google scholar.

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Post-doc: Moon Son

Moon received his PhD from Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST), Republic of Korea. Moon is working on desalination based on membrane technologies and electrochemical cells. He is co-advised by Chris and Bruce Logan. More information is available at his site

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PhD Student: Jenelle Fortunato

Jenelle joined the group in Fall 2016. She is co-advised by Chris and Bruce Logan. She is currently studying the properties of manganese oxide electrode used to desalinate water and harvest salinity gradient energy. She was recently awarded the Young Scientist Best Poster Award at the national Electrochemical Society in the Battery Division for her work on pH-gradient batteries.

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PhD Student: Yingchi (Alicia) Cheng

Yingchi joined the group in May, 2018. Before Penn State, she received a geology B.S. degree from College of William and Mary. She is currently working on utilizing hydrotropes to increase flow battery charge storage densities.

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MS Student: Vineeth Pothanamkandath

Vineeth joined the group in the Fall of 2018. He is working with Chris and Bruce Logan on using battery electrode materials to harvest salinity gradient energy and desalinate water.

Research


Our lab aims to test creative and transformative solutions to major environmental challenges and questions by using and understand redox reactions. Some of the current projects we are working on are:

Battery-inspired materials for desalinating water and harvesting salinity gradient energy

Many of the environmental and social challenges facing humanity today are related to water scarcity and energy production. Ensuring access to clean water is becoming increasingly difficult due to pollution, population increases, intensified groundwater withdraws that lead to seawater intrusion and alterations to the water cycle caused by climate change. Due to decreasing availabilities of suitable freshwater sources, there has been a rapid increase in the need to desalinate brackish water (0.5 – 30 g/L total dissolved solids, TDS) and seawater (~35 g/L TDS). Case in point, the growth rate of desalination capacities is increasing 55% per year. Making desalination sustainable will require both reducing energy inputs and providing the necessary energy from carbon-neutral, renewable sources. Currently used pressure-based desalination techniques can perform with excellent energy efficiencies, but they are prone to membrane fouling and require large infrastructures for plants that make them less useful for remote locations. Our ream is investigating how battery-inspired devises can be used to desalinate water. These devises are scalable and less prone to fouling. We are particularly interested in developing novel electrode materials and water chemistries.

The presence of salt in water can also be used advantageously to produce salinity gradient energy. The theoretical salinity gradient energy from mixing freshwater and seawater is 0.8 kWhr/m3, which is equivalent to freshwater flowing over a 290 m tall dam into the ocean. The global amount of harvestable energy from freshwater reaching seawater is approximately 8,800 TWhr/yr, which is equal to 40% of the worldwide electricity demand in 2012 (21,600 TWhr). Salinity gradient energy can also be harvested from waters with higher salt concentrations than seawater, such as concentrated desalination reject brines. The potential to capture energy from desalination brines is particularly important, as it can substantially reduce the energy needed to desalinate water. We are working to maximize the rate and efficiencies of electricity generation from salinity gradients using electrochemical devises that use battery-inspired materials and designs.

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation (1603635, 1749207, 1464891), Penn State University, and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).


Interfacial Redox Chemistry

Many minerals contain metals, such as iron and manganese, that can participate in redox reactions with dissolved species in water. These reacions can influence the fate of pollutants and nutrients in the environment, affect the global carbon cycle, and can be used to generate and store energy. We aim to characterize the fundamental mechanisms and thermodynamics of electron transfer reactions involving minerals.

This work is funded by the National Science Foundation (1807703, 1451593).


Hydrotrope-based organic flow batteries

The current electrical power grid cannot stabilize fluctuations, which results in inefficiencies and inabilities to integrate intermittent renewable energy supplies, such as solar and wind, into the grid. To address this problem, the Department of Energy has strongly supported the development of flow batteries, which are large (i.e., building-scale) stationary energy storage devises that buffer fluctuations. Early flow battery studies focused on redox-active metal-based compounds, which are now thought to be infeasible due to their high costs. To overcome this cost barrier, researchers have begun to investigate the use of redox-active organic compounds. While preliminary organic molecule-based flow batteries have produced performance metrics (i.e., energy storage densities and charging rates) comparable to those containing metal-based compounds, their performance is constrained by low solubilites that decrease charge storage densities. We are investigating how hydrotopes can increase be used to increase the charge storage densities of these batteries. Hydrotropes are small organic amphilic molecules that contain both hydrophilic and hydrophobic components. Hydrotropes are like surfactants and co-solvents, but the mechanisms by which they interact with organic molecules differ. Hydrotropes are thought to solubilize organic compounds via specific molecular orientations (e.g., the stacking of benzene rings). Surfactants and co-solvents differ from hydrotropes in that they solubilize organic compounds via non-specific interactions. Importantly, surfactants and co-solvents often decrease the reactivities of solubilized organic compounds, while hydrotropes either do not affect or increase the reactivities of solubilized organic compounds.

This work is currently supported through internal funds.


Publications

The most up-to-date list of our publications can be found on google scholar.

Journal Articles

  1. Kim, T., Gorski, C.A., Logan, B.E. (2018) Ammonium Removal from Domestic Wastewater Using Selective Battery Electrodes. Environmental Science & Technology Letters. In Press. (website).

  2. Stewart, S.M., Hofstetter, T.B., Joshi, P., Gorski, C.A. (2018). Linking Thermodynamics to Pollutant Reduction Kinetics by Fe2+ Bound to Iron Oxides. Environmental Science & Technology. 52. 5600-5609. (website). Featured on the cover of ES&T May 15, 2018.

  3. Yan, Z., Joshi, P., Gorski, C.A., Ferry, J.G. (2018). A biochemical framework for anaerobic oxidation of methane driven by Fe (III)-dependent respiration. Nature Communications 9. 1642. (website).

  4. Rahimi, M., Straub, A.P., Zhang, F., Zhu, X., Elimelech, M., Gorski, C.A., Logan, B.E. (2018). Emerging electrochemical and membrane-based systems to convert low-grade heat to electricity. Energy & Environmental Science. 11. 276-285. (website).

  5. Aeppli, M., Voegelin, A., Gorski, C.A., Hofstetter, T.B., Sander, M. (2018). Mediated electrochemical reduction of iron (oxyhydr-) oxides under defined thermodynamic boundary conditions. Environmental Science & Technology. 52. 560-570. (website).

  6. Xiong, B., Miller, Z., Roman-White, S., Tasker, T., Farina, B., Piechiwicz, Burgos, W.D., Joshi, P., Zhu, L., Gorski, C.A., Zydney, A.L., Kumar, M. (2018). Chemical Degradation of Polyacrylamide during Hydraulic Fracturing. Environmental Science & Technology 52. 327-336. (website).

  7. Rahimi, M., Kim, T., Gorski, C.A., Logan, B.E. (2018). A thermally regenerative ammonia battery with carbon-silver electrodes for converting low-grade waste heat to electricity. Journal of Power Sources. 373. 95-102. (website).

  8. Kim, T., Gorski, C.A., Logan, B.E. (2017). Low Energy Desalination Using Battery Electrode Deionization. Environmental Science & Technology Letters. 4. 444-449. (website).

  9. Joshi, P. Fantle, M.S., Larese-Casanova, P., Gorski, C.A. (2017). Susceptibility of Goethite to Fe2+-Catalyzed Recrystallization over Time. Environmental Science & Technology. 51. 11681-11691. (website).

  10. Rahimi, M., D'Angelo, A., Gorski, C.A., Scialdone, O., Logan, B.E. (2017). Electrical power production from low-grade waste heat using a thermally regenerative ethylenediamine battery. Journal of Power Sources. 351. 45-50. (website, PDF).

  11. Kim, T., Logan, B.E., Gorski, C.A. (2017). High power densities created from salinity differences by combining electrode and Donnan potentials in a concentration flow cell. Energy & Environmental Science. 10. 1003-1012. (website, PDF).

  12. Schaefer, M.V., Guo, X., Gan, Y., Benner, S.G., Griffin, A.M., Gorski, C.A., Wang, Y., Fendorf, S. (2017). Redox Controls on Arsenic Enrichment and Release from Aquifer Sediments in Central Yangtze River Basin. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 204. 104-119. (website, PDF).

  13. Kim, T., Logan, B.E., Gorski, C.A. (2017). A pH-gradient flow cell for converting waste CO2 into electricity. Environmental Science & Technology Letters. 4. 49-53. (website, PDF).

  14. Zhu, X., Kim, T., Rahimi, M., Gorski, C.A., Logan, B.E. (2017). Integrating reverse‐electrodialysis stacks with flow batteries to achieve improved energy recovery from salinity gradients and energy storage. ChemSusChem. 10. 797-803. (website, PDF).

  15. Rahimi, M., Zhu, L., Kowalski, K.L., Zhu, X., Gorski, C.A., Hickner, M.A., Logan, B.E. (2017). Improved electrical power production of thermally regenerative batteries using a poly (phenylene oxide) based anion exchange membrane. Journal of Power Sources. 342. 956-963. (website, PDF).

  16. Gorski, C.A., Fantle, M.S. (2016). Stable Mineral Recrystallization in Low Temperature Aqueous Systems: A Critical Review. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 198. 439-465. (website, PDF).

  17. Rahimi, M., Schoener, Z., Zhu, X., Zhang, F., Gorski, C.A., Logan, B.E. (2017). Removal of copper from water using a thermally regenerative electrodeposition battery. Journal of Hazardous Materials. 322. 551-556. (website, PDF).

  18. Kim, T., Rahimi, M., Logan, B.E., Gorski, C.A. (2016). Harvesting energy from salinity differences using battery electrodes in a concentration flow cell. Environmental Science & Technology. 50. 9791-9797. (website, PDF). Press Coverage in C&EN.

  19. Gorski, C.A., Edwards, R., Sander, M., Hofstetter, T.B., Stewart, S.E. (2016). Thermodynamic characterization of iron oxide - aqueous Fe2+ redox couples. Environmental Science & Technology. 50. 8538-8547. (website, PDF).

  20. Joshi, P., Gorski, C.A. (2016). Anisotropic morphological changes in goethite during Fe2+-catalyzed recrystallization. Environmental Science & Technology. 50. 7315-7324. (website, PDF).

  21. Tomaszewski, E.J., Cornk, S.S., Gorski, C.A., Ginder-Vogel, M. (2016). The role of dissolved Fe(II) concentration in the mineralogical evolution of Fe (hydr)oxides during redox cycling. Chemical Geology. 438. 163-170. (website, PDF).

  22. Kar, A., McEldrew, M., Stout, R.F., Mays, B.E., Khair, A., Velegol, D., Gorski, C.A. (2016). Self-Generated Electrokinetic Fluid Flows during Pseudomorphic Mineral Replacement Reactions. Langmuir. In press. (website, PDF).

  23. Wu, T., Griffin, A.M., Gorski, C.A., Shelobolina, E.S., Xu, H., Kukkadapu, R.K., Roden, E.E. (2017). Interactions between Fe(III)-oxides and Fe(III)-phyllosilicates during microbial reduction 2: Natural subsurface sediments. Geomicrobiology Journal. 34. 231-241. (website, PDF).

  24. Kim, T., Rahimi, M., Logan, B.E., Gorski, C.A. (2016). Evaluating battery-like reactions to harvest energy from salinity differences using ammonium bicarbonate salt solutions. ChemSusChem. 9. 981-988. (website, PDF).

  25. Zhu, X., Rahimi, M., Gorski, C.A., Logan, B.E. (2016). A thermally-regenerative ammonia-based flow battery for electrical energy recovery from waste heat. ChemSusChem. 9. 873-879. (website, PDF).

  26. Wu, T., Kukkadapu, R.K., Griffin, A.M., Gorski, C.A., Konishi, H., Xu, H., Roden, E.E. (2016). Interactions between Fe(III)-oxides and Fe(III)-phyllosilicates during microbial reduction 1: Synthetic sediments. Geomicrobiology Journal. In Press. (website, PDF).

  27. O'Loughlin, E.J., Gorski, C.A., Scherer, M.M. (2015). Effects of Phosphate on Secondary Mineral For-mation during the Bioreduction of Akaganeite (β-FeOOH): Green Rust versus Framboidal Magnetite. Current Inorganic Chemistry. 5. 214-224. (website, PDF).

  28. Sander, M., Hofstetter, T.B., Gorski, C.A. (2015). Electrochemical Analyses of Redox-Active Iron Minerals: A Review of Nonmediated and Mediated Approaches. (Critical Review) Environmental Science & Technology. 49. 5862–5878. (website, PDF).

  29. Luan, F., Gorski, C.A., Burgos, W.D. (2015). Linear Free Energy Relationships for the Biotic and Abiotic Reduction of Nitroaromatic Compounds. Environmental Science & Technology. 49. 3557-3565. (website, PDF).

  30. Luan, F., Liu, Y., Griffin, A., Gorski, C.A., Burgos, W.D. (2015). Iron(III)-Bearing Clay Minerals Enhance Bioreduction of Nitrobenzene by Shewanella putrefaciens CN32. Environmental Science & Technology. 49. 1418–1426. (website, PDF).

  31. Soltermann, D., Marques Fernandes, M., Baeyens, B., Dähn, R., Joshi, P.A., Scheinost, A.C., Gorski, C.A. (2014). Fe(II) Uptake on Natural Montmorillonites. I. Macroscopic and Spectroscopic Characterization. Environmental Science & Technology. 48. 8688-8697. (website, PDF).

  32. Luan, F., Gorski, C.A., Burgos, W.D. (2014). Thermodynamic Controls on the Microbial Reduction of Iron-Bearing Nontronite and Uranium. Environmental Science & Technology. 48. 2750–2758. (website, PDF).

  33. Gorski, C.A., Klüpfel, L., Voegelin, A., Sander, M., Hofstetter, T.B. (2013). Redox properties of structural Fe in clay minerals: 3. Relationships between Smectite Redox and Structural Properties. Environmental Science & Technology. 47. 13477-13485. (website, PDF).

  34. O'Loughlin, E.J., Boyanov, M.I., Flynn, T.M., Gorski, C.A., Hofmann, S.M., McCormick, M.L., Scherer, M.M., Kemner, K.M. (2013). Effects of Bound Phosphate on the Bioreduction of Lepidocrocite (γ-FeOOH) and Maghemite (γ-Fe2O3) and Formation of Secondary Minerals. Environmental Science & Technology. 47. 9157-9166. (website, PDF).

  35. Latta, D.E., Gorski, C.A., Scherer, M.M. (2012). Influence of Fe2+-catalysed iron oxide recrystallization on metal cycling. Biochemical Society Transactions. 40. 1191-1197. (website, PDF).

  36. Pearce, C.I., Qafoku, O., Liu, J., Arenholz, E., Heald, S.M., Kukkadapu, R.K., Gorski, C.A., Hendersone, C.M.B., Rosso, K.M. (2012). Synthesis and properties of titanomagnetite (Fe3-xTixO4) nanoparticles: A tunable solid-state Fe(II/III) redox system. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science. 387. 24-38. (website, PDF).

  37. Gorski, C.A., Klupfel, L., Voegelin, A., Hofstetter, T.B., Sander, M. (2012). Redox properties of structural Fe in clay minerals: 2. Electrochemical and spectroscopic characterization of electron transfer irreversibility in ferruginous smectite, SWa-1. Environmental Science & Technology. 46. 9369–9377. (website, PDF).

  38. Gorski, C.A., Aeschbacher, A., Soltermann, D., Baeyens, B., Marques, M., Hofstetter, T.B., Sander, M. (2012). Redox properties of structural Fe in clay minerals: 1. Electrochemical quantification of electron donating and accepting capacities of smectites. Environmental Science & Technology. 46. 9360–9368. (website, PDF).

  39. Lilova, K.I., Pearce, C.I., Gorski, C.A., Rosso, K.M., Navrotsky, A. (2012). Thermodynamics of the Magnetite-Ulvöspinel (Fe3O4-Fe2TiO4) Solid Solution. American Mineralogist. 97. 1330:1338. (website, PDF).

  40. Gorski, C.A., Handler, R.M., Beard, B.L., Pasakarnis, T., Johnson, C.M., Scherer, M.M. (2012). Fe atom exchange between aqueous Fe2+ and magnetite. Environmental Science & Technology. 46. 12399-12407. (website, PDF).

  41. Chen, H., Laskin, A., Baltrusaitis, J., Gorski, C.A., Scherer, M.M.; Grassian, V.H. (2012). Coal combustion fly ash as a source of iron in atmospheric dust. Environmental Science & Technology. 46. 2112-2120. (website, PDF).

  42. Latta, D.E., Gorski, C.A., Boyanov, M., O’Loughlin, E.J., Kemner, K.M., Scherer, M.M. (2012). Influence of magnetite stoichiometry on UVI reduction. Environmental Science & Technology. 46. 778-786. (website, PDF)

  43. Schaefer, M.V., Gorski, C.A., Scherer, M.M. (2011). Spectroscopic evidence for interfacial Fe(II) Fe(III) electron transfer in a clay mineral. Environmental Science & Technology. 45. 540-545. (website, PDF)

  44. O’Loughlin, E.J., Gorski, C.A., Scherer, M.M., Boyanov, M.I., Kemner, K.M. (2010). Effects of oxyanions, natural organic matter, and bacterial cell numbers on the bioreduction of lepidocrocite (γ-FeOOH) and the formation of secondary mineralization products. Environmental Science & Technology. 44. 4570-4576. (website, PDF)

  45. Gorski, C.A. and Scherer, M.M. (2010). Determination of nanoparticulate magnetite stoichiometry by Mössbauer spectroscopy, acidic dissolution, and powder X-ray diffraction: A critical review. American Mineralogist. 95. 1017-1026. (website, PDF)

  46. Rosso, K.M., Yanina, S.V., Gorski, C.A., Larese-Casanova P., Scherer, M.M. (2010). Connecting observations of hematite (α-Fe2O3) growth catalyzed by Fe(II). Environmental Science & Technology. 44. 61-67. (website, PDF)

  47. Gorski, C.A., Nurmi, J.T., Tratnyek, P.G., Hofstetter, T.B., Scherer, M.M. (2010). Redox behavior of magnetite: Implications for contaminant reduction. Environmental Science & Technology. 44. 55-60. (website, PDF)

  48. Gorski, C.A. and Scherer, M.M. (2009). Influence of magnetite stoichiometry on FeII uptake and nitrobenzene reduction. Environmental Science & Technology. 43. 3675-3680. (website, PDF)

Book Chapters

  1. Gorski, C.A. and Scherer, M.M. (2011). Fe2+ sorption at the Fe oxide-water interface: A revised conceptual model. American Chemical Society: Washington, DC; 2011, ACS Symposium Series Vol. 1071: Aquatic Redox Chemistry. 315-343. Editors: Tratnyek, P., Grundel, T., Haderlein, S. (website, PDF)

Teaching and Outreach

Dr. Gorski regularly teaches the following classes at Penn State. Course materials will be shared upon request.

  • CE 370: Introduction to Environmental Engineering - This course uses a combination of lecturing and in-class problem solving to provide an introduction to fundamental and current topics in Environmental Engineering. The course goals are to: (i) provide students with the “toolsets” to quantitatively evaluate and discuss environmental issues, (ii) provide students with the resources necessary to develop a personalized answer to the question: “What role will environmental issues play in my personal and professional lives?” and (iii) prepare students to succeed on the Environmental Engineering section of the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam.

  • CE 556: Environmental Electrochemistry - This course introduces students to the field of electrochemistry and applications of electrochemical techniques and principles to environmental engineering and science. The overall goal of the course is to enable students to critically evaluate environmental electrochemical literature and to design and develop their own experimental systems..

  • CE 570: Aquatic Chemistry - This course provides students with the conceptual frameworks and techniques necessary to evaluate chemical reactions in aquatic systems. Topics covered in this course include: chemical equilibrium thermodynamics, acid-base chemistry, metal complexation, mineral precipitation and dissolution, reduction-oxidation reactions and heterogeneous reactions that occur at solid-water interfaces.

Our group works closely with the Penn State College of Science Office of Outreach and Engagement to engage young students in topics related to our research, including an annual summer camp called Water Heroes. A video from the camp in 2016 can be viewed here Course materials are available upon request.

Contact Us

Dr. Christopher Gorski
Pennsylvania State University
Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
231F Sackett Building
University Park, PA 16802-1408

Email: gorski@psu.edu
Phone: 814.865.5673
Fax 814.863.7304


Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering

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