Kevin Leonard joined CEBC and KU’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering as its newest assistant professor last fall.
Leonard’s expertise in electrocatalysis and in situ surface characterization add innovative tools to the CEBC toolbox. His work has potential in semiconductors for solar fuel applications and in developing and characterizing electrocatalysts, with an emphasis on the hydrogen and oxygen evolution reactions.
“My goal is to develop inexpensive, stable and highly active photo- and electro-catalysts that can be made without any costly noble metals,” said Leonard. To do this, Leonard will sift through thousands of combinations of two or more metals. Finding the needle in this haystack could take decades. To speed up the search, Leonard utilizes an innovative rapid screening technique called scanning electrochemical microscopy.
“To advance the state-of-the-art for both screening and electrochemical characterization, we needed to build custom instrumentation,” said Leonard. CEBC’s Engineering Technician Ed Atchison used his machining skills to build Leonard a two-inch by four-inch device from Teflon and aluminum that can analyze 64 samples at a time. A 3D printer deposits tiny dots of different materials onto the screening device, and then Leonard moves an electrode across the array of dots to map out which material composites are worth a closer look. With his new graduate student and five undergraduates, Leonard is ready to put his tailor-made innovation to work.
--Story by Claudia Bode