Christopher Chidsey
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Christopher Chidsey

Associate Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of North Carolina, Electrochemistsry (1983)
Ph.D., Stanford University, Physical Chemistry (1983)
A.B., Dartmouth College, Chemistry (1978)
Professor Chidsey’s research interests lie in electrochemistry and electrocatalysis, and in building the chemical base for molecular electronics. He has investigated the role of chemical bonding in promoting long-distance electron tunneling across interfaces and contributed to the development of silicon and germanium surface chemistry, including the self-assembly of complex molecular monolayers on silicon. Today his lab develops molecular systems, analytical tools and theoretical approaches to understand electron transfer between electrodes and among redox species, with applications in sustainable battery technology, fuel chemistry, and biochemical analysis.

Born in 1957, Christopher Chidsey studied chemistry at Dartmouth College (A.B. 1978) and physical chemistry at Stanford University (Ph.D. 1983). After postdoctoral work in electrochemistry with Royce Murray at the University of North Carolina, he joined the technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories, where he probed long-distance electron transfer across interfaces and contributed to developments in scanning tunneling microscopy, nonlinear optical materials and optical materials processing. He joined the Stanford Department of Chemistry as Associate Professor in 1992, and in 2009 was also appointed Senior Fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy. He has received the Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award and Bing and Hertz Foundation fellowships, and was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Chidsey Lab at Stanford uses surface chemistry and electrochemistry to control and investigate a number of important interfacial phenomena.

Water Oxidation

The group has shown that a 2 nm film of TiO2, created by atomic layer deposition, protects otherwise unstable semiconductor surfaces to achieve efficient and stable photoelectrolysis of water to produce hydrogen and oxygen fuels. Current work involves tailoring alloyed RuO2/TiO2 catalyst layers to optimize the turnover frequency for oxygen evolution, with the aim of achieving comparable electrocatalytic activity at a fraction of prior noble metal usage.

Electrocatalysis for Fuel Cells and CO2 Reduction

A major effort involves covalent attachment of electrocatalysts to carbon electrodes and other oxidation-resistant conductive substrates for use in ambient-temperature fuel cells and related energy- and chemical-conversion systems. A new covalent chemistry on graphitic carbon surfaces, based on the ‘click’ reaction of azides and alkynes, has been developed. Another effort involves the formation of electroactive self-assembled thiol monolayers on gold surfaces – an area Professor Chidsey pioneered beginning 15 years ago.

Another project employs transfer hydrogenation catalyts as alcohol oxidation electocatalysts for fuel cells. Lab members study the thermodynamics and kinetics of metal hydride formation from a metal precatalyst and an alcohol fuel, and examine the electro-oxidation of the formed metal hydrides. Running this cycle in the microscopic reverse direction leads to a strategy for CO2 reduction. The aim is to extend this knowledge from working examples to catalyst design for such transformations.

Battery Technology

Many of the electrolyte components used in lithium-ion batteries are not electrochemically stable at the low potentials reached by the anode when the battery charges. However, with the right electrolyte mixture, the decomposition products on the first charge create a solid electrolyte interphase that acts as a lithium-ion conductive, but otherwise passivating layer, slowing electrolyte degradation. Chidsey group members study the formation and useful contributions of this layer.