Pitt | Swanson Engineering
James McKone
Chem/Petroleum Engineering
McKone, James R
Assistant Professor
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Dr. McKone earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and music from Saint Olaf College in Northfield, MN in 2008. He holds a PhD in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he was advised byHarry Gray and Nathan Lewis. From 2013 to 2016, Dr. McKone was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University under Héctor D. Abruña and Francis J. DiSalvo.  In the Fall of 2016 he joined the faculty in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt. Dr. McKone’s research group studies fundamentals and applications of electrochemistry, photochemistry, and solid-state/materials chemistry with an emphasis on renewable energy and sustainability.

Postdoctoral Research Associate (2013–2016)
Cornell University, Ithaca NY
Research mentors: Héctor D. Abruña and Francis J. DiSalvo
Studying materials and methods for electrochemical energy conversion

PhD Chemistry (2008–2013)
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena CA
DOE Office of Science Graduate Research Fellow
Research advisors: Nathan S. Lewis and Harry B. Gray
Thesis Title: Earth-Abundant Materials for Solar Hydrogen Generation

B.A. Chemistry and Music (Summa cum laude, 2004–2008)
Saint Olaf College, Northfield MN
Synthesized transition metal dithiolene complexes with Prof. Gary Miessler

Electrochemistry, catalysis, energy, sustainability, materials

DOE EERE SunShot Postdoctoral Research Award (2013–2015)
Two-year independent research award to support work on advanced solar technologies

Caltech Milton and Francis Clauser Prize (Spring 2013)
Top graduation award for the most exemplary PhD thesis

Caltech Demetriades-Tsafka-Kokkalis Prize in Renewable Energy (Spring 2013)
Annual award for best thesis, publication, or discovery in renewable energy

Caltech Everhart Lecture Award (Spring 2013)
Recognizes dynamic speaking skills and research impact

DOE Office of Science Graduate Research Fellowship (2010–2013)
Inaugural cohort; supported three years of graduate work

St. Olaf Buntrock Regent’s Scholarship (2004–2008)

Phi Beta Kappa (2007)

National Merit Scholarship (2004)

  1. McKone, J.R., DiSalvo, F.J., Abruña, H.D. Solar Energy Conversion, Storage, and Release Using an Integrated Solar-Driven Redox Flow Battery (Under Review).
  2. Csernica, P.M.; McKone, J.R.; Abruña, H.D.; DiSalvo, F.J.; Electrochemical Hydrogen Evolution on Ni–Mo intermetallics and alloys: the influence of composition and order on activity (Under Review).
  3. DeBlase, C. R., Shen, L., Bisbey, R.P., McKone, J.R., Zhang, N., Abruña, H.D., Dichtel, W.R. Superior Charge Storage and Power Density of a Conducting Polymer-Modified Covalent Organic Framework ACS Cent. Sci. 2016 (Available Online). DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.6b00220
  4. McKone, J. R.; Crans, D.; Martin, C.; Turner, J.; Duggal, A.R.; Gray, H.G. Translational Science for Energy and Beyond Inorg. Chem. 2016 (Available Online) DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.6b01097
  5. Potash, R. A.; McKone, J. R.; Abruña, H. D. On the Benefits of a Symmetric Redox Flow Battery J. Electrochem. Soc. 2016, 163, A338-A344. DOI: 10.1149/2.0971602jes
  6. Hu, S.; Lewis, N. S.; Ager, J. W.; Yang, J., McKone, J. R.; Strandwitz, N. C. Thin-Film Materials for the Protection of Semiconducting Photoelectrodes in Solar-Fuels Generators J. Phys. Chem. C. 2015, 119, 24201-24228. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.5b05976
  7. Shaner, M. R.; McKone, J. R.; Gray, H. B.; Lewis, N. S. Functional integration of Ni–Mo electrocatalysts with Si microwire array photocathodes to simultaneously achieve high fill factors and light-limited photocurrent densities for solar-driven hydrogen evolution. Energy Environ. Sci. 2015, 8, 2977-2984. DOI: 10.1039/C5EE01076D
  8. McKone, J. R.; Potash, R. A.; DiSalvo, F. J.; Abruña, H. D. Unassisted HI Photoelectrolysis Using n-WSe2 Solar Absorbers Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 2015, 17, 13984-13991. DOI: 10.1039/C5CP01192B
  9. Soriaga, M. P.; Baricuatro, J. H.; Cummins, K. D.; Kim, Y.-G.; Saadi, F. H.; Sun, G.; McCrory, C. C. L.; McKone, J. R.; Velazquez, J. M.; Ferrer, I. M.; Carim, A. I.; Javier, A.; Chmielowiec, B.; Lacy, D. C.; Hemminger, J. C.; Lewis, N. S.; Stickney, J. L. Electrochemical Surface Science Twenty Years Later: Expeditions into the Electrocatalysis of Reactions at the Core of Artificial Photosynthesis. Surf. Sci. 2015, 631, 285-294. DOI: 10.1016/j.susc.2014.06.028
  10. McKone, J.R.; Marinescu, S.C.; Bruschwig, B.S.; Winkler, J.R.; Gray, H.B. Earth-abundant hydrogen evolution electrocatalysts Chem. Sci. 2014, 5, 865-878. DOI: 10.1039/C3SC51711J
  11. McKone, J. R.; Ardo, S. A.; Blakemore, J. D.; Bracher, P. J.; Dempsey, J. L.; Darnton, T. V.; Hansen, M. C.; Harman, W. H.; Rose, M. J.; Walter, M. G.; Dasgupta, S.; Winkler, J. R.; Gray, H. B. The Solar Army: A Case Study in Outreach Based on Solar Photoelectrochemistry. Rev. Adv. Sci. Eng. 2014, 3, 288-303. DOI: 10.1166/rase.2014.1076
  12. Huang, Z.; McKone, J. R.; Xiang, C.; Grimm, R. L.; Warren, E. L.; Spurgeon, J. M.; Lewerenz, H.-J.; Brunschwig, B. S.; Lewis, N. S. Comparison between the Measured and Modeled Hydrogen-Evolution Activity of Ni-or Pt-Coated Silicon Photocathodes. Int. J. Hydrogen Energy 2014, 39, 16220-16226. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2013.12.162
  13. McKone, J. R.; Lewis, N.; Gray, H. Will Solar-Driven Water-Splitting Devices See the Light of Day? Chem. Mater. 2013, 26, 407–414. DOI: 10.1021/cm4021518
  14. McKone, J. R.; Lewis, N. S. Structured Materials for Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting. In Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting: Materials, Processes, and Architectures; Lewerenz, H.-J.; Peter, L., Eds.; Royal Society of Chemistry, 2013; pp. 52–82. DOI: 10.1039/9781849737739-00052
  15. McKone, J.R.; Sadtler, B.; Werlang, C.; Lewis, N. S.; Gray, H. B. Ni−Mo Nanopowders for Efficient Electrochemical Hydrogen Evolution. ACS Catal. 2013, 3, 166–169. DOI: 10.1021/cs300691m
  16. McKone, J. R.; Pieterick, A. P.; Gray, H. B.; Lewis, N. S. Hydrogen Evolution from Pt/Ru-Coated P-Type WSe2 Photocathodes. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 223–231. DOI: 10.1021/ja308581g
  17. Popczun, E. J.; McKone, J. R.; Read, C. G.; Biacchi, A. J.; Wiltrout, A. M.; Lewis, N. S.; Schaak, R. E. Nanostructured Nickel Phosphide as an Electrocatalyst for the Hydrogen Evolution Reaction. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 9267–9270. DOI: 10.1021/ja403440e
  18. Warren, E. L.; McKone, J. R.; Atwater, H. A.; Gray, H. B.; Lewis, N. S. Hydrogen-Evolution Characteristics of Ni–Mo-Coated, Radial Junction, n+p-Silicon Microwire Array Photocathodes. Energy Environ. Sci. 2012, 5, 9653–9661. DOI: 10.1039/c2ee23192a
  19. McKone, J. R.; Warren, E. L.; Bierman, M. J.; Boettcher, S. W.; Brunschwig, B. S.; Lewis, N. S.; Gray, H. B. Evaluation of Pt, Ni, and Ni–Mo Electrocatalysts for Hydrogen Evolution on Crystalline Si Electrodes. Energy Environ. Sci. 2011, 4, 3573–3583. DOI: 10.1039/c1ee01488a
  20. Boettcher, S. W.; Warren, E. L.; Putnam, M. C.; Santori, E. A.; Turner-Evans, D.; Kelzenberg, M. D.; Walter, M. G.; McKone, J. R.; Brunschwig, B. S.; Atwater, H. A.; Lewis, N. S. Photoelectrochemical Hydrogen Evolution Using Si Microwire Arrays. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 1216–1219. DOI: 10.1021/ja108801m
  21. Warren, E. L.; Boettcher, S. W.; McKone, J. R.; Lewis, N.S. Photoelectrochemical water splitting: Silicon photocathodes for hydrogen evolution. Proc. SPIE 7770 2010, 77701F. DOI: 10.1117/12.860994
  22. Walter, M. G.; Warren, E. L.; McKone, J. R.; Boettcher, S. W.; Mi, Q.; Santori, E. A.; Lewis, N. S. Solar Water Splitting Cells. Chem. Rev. 2010, 110, 6446–6473. DOI: 10.1021/cr1002326

2016 Cornell University Materials Science and Engineering Spring Lecture Series
Invited Lecture: “Two-Dimensional Semiconductors for Solar Energy Storage”

2016 Gordon Conference on Electrochemistry
Poster: “The Solar Flow Battery: Photoelectrochemistry for Flexible Solar Power”

2015 AICHE Annual Meeting
Oral Presentation: “The Solar Flow Battery: A Hybrid Device for Base-Load Solar Electricity”

2015 University of Pittsburgh Fall Lecture Series
Invited Lecture: “Development of Earth-Abundant Hydrogen Evolution Electrocatalysts”

2015 University of Chicago Fall Lecture Series
Invited Lecture: “Solar-Driven Hydrogen Production Using Earth-Abundant Materials”

2015 Cornell Center for Technology New Business and Emerging Technology Showcase
Poster: “The Solar Flow Battery: Low cost solar energy on demand”

2015 Assorted University Spring Lecture Series
Invited Lecture: “Two-Dimensional Semiconductors for Solar Energy Storage”
Locations: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Wisconsin at Madison, University of California at San Diego, University of California at Santa Barbara

2015 Spring ACS National Conference – Denver, CO
Oral Presentation: “Unassisted Energy Storage Using N-Type WSe2 Semiconductors”
Invited Lecture: “A Postdoc’s Perspective on Use-Inspired Academic Research”

2014 Assorted University Fall Lecture Series
Invited Lecture: “Two-Dimensional Semiconductors for Solar Energy Storage”
Locations: Lake Forest College, University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University, University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, Purdue University

2014 Energy Materials Center at Cornell Symposium
Poster: “WSe2 Photoelectrodes for Solar Flow Batteries”

2014 UC Irvine Solar Lunch Seminar Series
Invited Lecture: “Overcoming Renewable Energy Challenges with Electrochemistry”

2014 Spring Materials Research Society Meeting
Invited Lecture: “Operando Methods for Characterization of Fuel Cell and Battery Materials” (on behalf of Héctor Abruña)

2014 DOE EERE SunShot Summit
Poster: “Chalcogenide Semiconductors for Solar Flow Batteries”

2013 Saint Olaf College Undergraduate Seminar Series
Invited Lecture: “Energy, Chemistry, and Academia”

2013 Caltech Alumni Association Seminar Day
Invited Lecture: “21st Century Energy: Solar Storage in Hydrogen Gas”

2013 Caltech Everhart Lecture Series
Honorary Lecture: “21st Century Energy: Solar Storage in Hydrogen Gas”

2013 Spring ACS National Conference – New Orleans, LA
Oral Presentation: “Efficient and Stable Photoelectrochemical Energy Conversion using p-type WSe2 Photocathodes”

2013 Energy Materials Center at Cornell Seminar Series
Oral Presentation: “Earth-abundant Materials for Solar Hydrogen Generation”

2012 Southern California Inorganic Photochemistry Conference
Oral Presentation: "Tungsten Diselenide – A Semiconductor Photocathode for Hydrogen Evolution"

2012 Gordon Research Conference on Electrochemistry
Poster: “Hydrogen Evolution from a Non-Noble Transition Metal Alloy”

2011 Spring Materials Research Society Meeting
Oral Presentation: “Electrocatalysts for Hydrogen Evolution on Integrated Semiconductor Devices”

2010 Southern California Inorganic Photochemistry Conference
Oral Presentation: “Photoelectrochemical Hydrogen Generation From Silicon Microwires”

2010 GCEP Research Symposium
Poster: “Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting: Silicon Microwire Photocathodes for Hydrogen Evolution”

  1. McKone, J.; Gray, H.; Lewis, N.; Brunschwig, B.; Warren, E.; Boettcher, S.; Bierman, M. Nickel-Based Electrocatalytic Photoelectrodes. U.S. Patent No. 8,809,843.
  2. McKone, J.; Abruña, H. Solar Flow Battery. PCT International Patent Application No. PCT/US2015/021964.
  3. Potash, R.; McKone, J.; Abruña, H.; Symmetric Redox Flow Battery Containing Organic Redox Active Molecule. PCT International Patent Application No. PCT/US2015/021963.


Electrochemical techniques
Cyclic voltammetry; chronoamperometry chronocoulometry; hydrodynamic voltammetry (rotating disc and flow-through geometries); electrochemical impedance spectroscopy; electrodeposition; stripping voltammetry; electropolishing; semiconductor photo-electrochemistry; micro-electrochemistry; scanning electrochemical microscopy

Materials synthesis
Powder synthesis; colloidal nanoparticle synthesis; chemical vapor transport crystallization; melt crystallization

Bulk materials characterization    
Powder XRD; thermogravimetry; porosimetry; four-point probe resistivity

Materials deposition and processing
Sputtering; evaporation; atomic-layer deposition; chemical vapor deposition; etching; photolithography; powder slurry preparation; drop- and spray-coating; doctor blade (tape) casting; electrophoretic deposition

Inorganic/organometallic synthesis
Air-free techniques; solution recrystallization; thin-layer and column chromatography

Molecular Characterization
NMR, FTIR, mass spectrometry    

Surface Analysis
X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy; Auger spectroscopy; contact-angle measurements

Surface probe methods
Profilometry, atomic-force microscopy

Electron microscopy
Scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy

Beamline techniques
Wide-angle X-ray scattering; grazing-incidence X-ray scattering; X-ray absorption spectroscopies (EXAFS and XANES); crystal truncation rod scattering

Lapping and polishing, contrast etching, optical microscopy

Optical spectroscopies
UV/VIS spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy; spectroscopic ellipsometry