Published: March 10, 2021
Shane Ardo

Could water be the future of clean energy tech?

Presented by: Prof. Shane Ardo, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering University of California, Irvine, California, USA

Date:  Monday, March 15, at 2pm-3pm MDT

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Besides oxygen, water is the most important chemical for human life. Motivated by this fact, my research group is advancing fundamental science that sets the stage for new technologies that desalinate salt water and extract water from the air. In addition to being vital, water (H2O) is also dynamic. It spontaneously splits into various other species, with the most abundant being protons (H+) and hydroxides (OH–) formed via a heterolytic bond dissociation reaction. While this reaction is simple, it is inherently quite slow, a fact that enables us to use water as a protonic semiconductor in diodes and solar cells. Conversely, we also aim to speed up this water dissociation reaction, using specialized catalysts that we developed using synthetic chemistry. Speeding up this reaction is critical, because its slow rate is the major impediment to cost-effective oceanic carbon capture, and realization of efficient next-generation membranes for fuel cells and electrolyzers. Collectively, we think that innovations in water will help improve the health of our planet.

Shane obtained a B.S. Degree in Mathematics, with a minor in Computer Programming, from Towson University and subsequently worked as a software engineer, community college instructor, high school teacher, and tried out for a professional indoor soccer team, prior to attending graduate school. Shane obtained an M.S. Degree in Nutrition from the University of Maryland, College Park followed by M.A. and Ph.D. Degrees in Photo-Physical Inorganic Chemistry from the Johns Hopkins University, where he worked for Prof. Jerry Meyer. He then worked for Prof. Nate Lewis as a DOE–EERE Postdoctoral Research Awardee at the California Institute of Technology until 2013. Since that time, Shane has been an Assistant Professor (2013 – 2019) and now an Associate Professor at the University of California, Irvine in the Department of Chemistry and holds courtesy joint appointments in the Departments of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering. In 2016, Shane was named one of five inaugural Moore Inventor Fellows. He is also a recipient of a DOE Early Career Research Award and two UCI Beall Innovation Awards, and was named a Sloan Research Fellow, a Cottrell Scholar, a Kavli Fellow, a Scialog Fellow, and a UCI Faculty Innovation Fellow. Shane has given over 100 invited talks, including at the National Academy of Sciences Distinctive Voices Lecture Series and the 2017 Resnick Institute Young Investigators Symposium.