Chris Gorski's Environmental Electrochemistry research group is using electrochemical principles to solve environmental problems.


We are adapting the principles used in batteries and fuel cells to discover new ways to purify water, produce renewable electricity, increase the efficiencies of industrial practices, and capture carbon dioxide from air. We also study natural redox reactions and their environmental and geochemical implications. Our reseach has been covered in Scientific American, Phys.org, C&EN, and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) podcast. Dr. Gorski was was recently awarded 2018 NSF CAREER Award and was selected in the Environmental Science and Technology and Environmental Science and Technology Letters Virtual Issue: Early Career Scientists.

A listing of publications from our group is available on google scholar.

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

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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Christopher Gorski
Principal Investigator

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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Gongde Chen
Post-doc

Gongde joined the group in Feb. 2019. He received his PhD in Chemical and Environmental Engineering at University of California, Riverside. Currently, he is working on interfacial thermodynamics and electron-transfer kinetics involving iron minerals and groundwater pollutants.

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Moon Son
Post-doc

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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Jenelle Fortunato
PhD Student

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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Yingchi Cheng
PhD Student

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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Jonathan Boualavong
PhD Student

Jonathan joined the group in Spring 2019. He received his BS in biomedical engineering from the University of Rochester, then an MPhil in chemical engineering from the University of Strathclyde as a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar. He is currently working on electrochemically-mediated amine regeneration for carbon capture.

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Vineeth Pothanamkandath
MS-PhD Student

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 is working towards solutions for major environmental challenges by studying related electrochemical and redox reaction mechanisms. Some of the current projects we are working on are below

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

Ensuring that everyone has access to clean water is a major global challenge that is becoming increasingly important due to pollution, population growth, intensified water use, and alterations to the water cycle caused by climate change. Due to these demands, water desalination is becoming increasing important. Our team is investigating how battery-inspired devises can be used to desalinate water and produce electricity from the controlled mixing of waters with different salt concentrations, such as freshwater and seawater. We are focusing on understanding the fundamental mechanisms by which electrode materials used in such devises interact with salt ions in water.

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


Carbon dioxide capture from air

Virtually all climate change mitigation models now indicate that the only way to avoid catastrophic climate change requires the large-scale deployment of technologies that remove carbon dioxide directly from ambient air. Existing approaches to remove carbon dioxide from air either require too much energy or cannot be scaled-up to sufficiently large scales to meet future needs. Our group is working on using electrochemical cells to capture and purify carbon dioxide from air. Electrochemical cells are particilarly well-suited for this task due to their high energy efficiencies and scalability.

This work is supported by Penn State University.


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) batteries that buffer fluctuations. We are investigating how hydrotopes can 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. Presently, their solubilization mechanism and how they influence the reactivities of solublized chemicals remains unknown.

This work is supported by Penn State University.


Iron Redox Chemistry

Iron minerals can participate in redox reactions with pollutants, microorganisms, and trace metals in water. These reactions play important roles in pollutant remediation efforts and the global carbon cycle. We are working to characterize the underlying electron transfer mechanisms and thermodynamics of these systems. Our work in this area was recently featured on the cover of Environmental Science and Technology.

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


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

Graduate Admissions Details