Shannon W. Boettcher

2023 National Award Winner — Faculty

Shannon W. Boettcher

Current Position:
Professor of Chemistry, Director of the Oregon Center for Electrochemistry

The University of Oregon

Inorganic & Solid-State Chemistry

Recognized for: pioneering materials and device research and development to cut carbon emissions and hasten the transition to a green future. Boettcher is creating sustainable, electrochemical methods for transforming simple mixtures of water and atmospheric gases into fuels, plastics, fertilizers, and other chemicals. His contributions range from uncovering how electrochemical reactions occur at the atomic scale to applying that understanding to design, build, and optimize industry-relevant devices for carbon capture and hydrogen-fuel production.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise:  Electrochemistry, Sustainability, Materials Science, Catalysis

Previous Positions: 

  • Senior Scientist, Physical and Computational Sciences Directorate, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (current)
  • Associate Professor, University of Oregon
  • Assistant Professor, University of Oregon
  • Kavli Nanoscience Institute Prize Postdoctoral Scholar, California Institute of Technology, Advisor: Nathan Lewis, Harry Atwater
  • PhD, University of California, Santa Barbara, Advisor: Galen Stucky
  • BA, University of Oregon

Research Summary: Many of the most-important chemical reactions for a sustainable future rely on a carefully coordinated flow of charged particles—electrons and charged atoms, or ions—as molecules change from one form to another. Referred to as “electrochemical” reactions, they are controlled by the external application of electricity. However, the full potential of electrochemistry in sustainable industrial processes, such as for efficient carbon-dioxide capture or hydrogen-fuel production, has yet to be reached. Progress is slowed due to the complexity of the processes, materials, and devices, which make them difficult to systematically improve. Shannon Boettcher, PhD, is revealing new fundamental details of how electrochemical reactions proceed and is using that understanding to design new materials and devices to drive global impact through electrochemical technologies.

Boettcher’s work is grounded in measuring how electrochemical reactions proceed at the molecular level. In one contribution, he identified the central role of surface-absorbed iron-oxygen species in accelerating the splitting of water into oxygen and hydrogen—the key step in the production of hydrogen fuel from renewable electricity. In another, his team discovered how to control the electrochemical reactivity of water molecules by accelerating water’s division into separated proton and hydroxide ions—a necessary chemical step for capturing carbon dioxide from the air or ocean. Through these and other pioneering works, Boettcher and his team are both addressing key basic-science knowledge gaps in the field of electrochemistry and building on that foundation to develop new energy and climate-change-mitigation technologies.

Boettcher is already making a significant impact beyond the research lab. He is actively advising and collaborating with companies that are applying his discoveries into commercial technologies. In 2019, he established the Oregon Center for Electrochemistry to educate the next leaders in electrochemistry and strengthen the ties between electrochemistry research and industry. By bridging the gap between fundamental discoveries and applied technologies, Boettcher has established himself as a leader in the global sustainability movement.

“The Blavatnik Award is special to me - recognizing both our fundamental research which is driving innovation in clean-energy technology, and our deep integration of research with new education and workforce programs built to launch student careers and accelerate clean electrochemical technology commercialization.”

Key Publications: 

  1. L. Chen, Q. Xu, S.W. Boettcher. Kinetics and mechanism of heterogeneous voltage-driven water-dissociation catalysis. Joule, 2023.
  2. R.A. Krivina, G.A. Linquist, S.R. Beaudoin, T.N. Stovall, W.L. Thompson, L.P. Twight, D. Marsh, J. Grzyb, K. Fabrizio, J.E. Hutchinson, S.W. Boettcher. Anode Catalysts in Anion-Exchange-Membrane Electrolysis without Supporting Electrolyte: Conductivity, Dynamics, and Ionomer Degradation. Advanced Materials, 2022.
  3. S.Z. Oener, M.J. Foster, S.W. Boettcher. Accelerating water dissociation in bipolar membranes and for electrocatalysis. Science, 2020.
  4. F.A.L. Laskowski, S.Z. Oener, M.R. Nellist, A.M. Gordon, D.C. Bain, J.L. Fehrs, S.W. Boettcher. Nanoscale semiconductor/catalyst interfaces in photoelectrochemistry. Nature Materials, 2019.

Other Honors: 

2021 Blavatnik National Awards Finalist, Blavatnik Family Foundation

2015 Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award, The Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation

2015 Sloan Research Fellowship, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

2015 Scialog Collaborative Innovation Award, Research Corporation for Science Advancement

2014 Cottrell Scholars Award, Research Corporation for Science Advancement

2011 Dupont Young Professor Program Award, DuPont Center for Collaborative Research & Education

In the Media: 

Tri-City Herald20 of the world’s most influential scientists have ties to this Eastern WA lab

SciTechDailyNew Innovative System Can Turn Seawater Into Fuel

Phys.orgElectrode-fitted microscope points to better designed devices that make fuel from sunlight

Fuelcellsworks.comUniversity of Oregon Scientists Dissociate Water Apart Efficiently With New Catalysts

The Boettcher Group

The Oregon Center for Electrochemistry