Our lab's mission is to better understand and mitigate major environmental challenges while providing deep learning experiences for students and post-docs.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
The most up-to-date list of our publications can be found on google scholar.
Dr. Gorski regularly teaches the following classes at Penn State. Course materials will be shared upon request.
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.