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Allen J. Bard

Energy from H2O

Professor Allen Bard is one of the “celebrity” members of the Depart- ment of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His research accomplishments are distinguished and many, and they are matched by his humility and love for teaching. He is uncomfortable with his well deserved recognition. “In life, you are either underappreciated or overap- preciated,” he noted recently. “When I was younger, I was completely under- appreciated; now I’m sure I’m com- pletely overappreciated!”

Bard, the Norman Hackerman-Welch Regents Professor of Chemistry at the University, is known for many things: He’s an eminent electrochemist; former

editor of the Journal of the American

Chemical Society, ACS’s premier re- search journal; former president of the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry; former chair of the chem- istry section of the National Academy of Sciences; and a mentor to genera- tions of colleagues and students. Of all of these accomplishments, by his own estimation, his students are the most important.


His research group co-discovered electrogenerated chemiluminescence, and he and his colleagues also invent- ed and patented the scanning elec- trochemical microscope, a device for studying surfaces at high resolution. His achievements are said to have in- fluenced organic, physical, polymer, solid state and analytical chemistry. Bard received the prestigious 1998 Pauling Award for “outstanding contri- butions to chemistry of a character that

have merited national and international praise.” He was elected in 1982 to the National Academy of Sciences. He be- came a Fellow of the American Acad- emy of Arts and Sciences and of the Electrochemical Society in 1990. Bard won a Distinguished Teaching Award from his home institution in 1995 and he was elected to the American Philosoph- ical Society in 1999. In 2008, along with William Moerner, Bard was awarded the 2008 Wolf Prize. Bard was recog- nized for his work in electrochemical single molecule detection: “Interrogat- ing chemical systems and reactions at single molecule resolution gives infor- mation that the averaged data obtained from bulk samples often can’t provide. I was quite surprised to win the award, truthfully - although it’s nice to get the prize,” Bard told Chemistry World. “The first thing I always think about are all the other people who could have won, and all my colleagues and co-workers, who don’t get the credit they deserve.”

Most recently Bard, along with col- leagues C. Buddie Mullins and Irene M. Gamba, received grants from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy totaling $2.5 mil- lion. These grants are directed toward the identification of new materials that will efficiently absorb sunlight and split water (H2O) into clean hydrogen fuel, which could power cars and be used to generate electricity. With character- istic modesty Bard concedes that re- searchers have studied water splitting using photoelectrochemistry for the past 40 years, but the difference with Bard, Mullins, and Gamba’s research,

says Bard, is that “it focuses on dis- covering new materials for this and ob- taining a better understanding of how their composition and structure govern their behaviour.” Novel metal oxides will be examined for their potential as semiconductors. Bard will use a “com- binatorial” approach for rapidly making complex compositions of metal oxides and testing them for their promise as photoelectrocatalysts, the material that facilitates the molecular split.

In talking about earlier research, Bard describes the important discovery of electrogenerated chemiluminescence (ECL). “What we discovered was that this electron-transfer reaction gener- ates an excited state and gives out light. You could do electrochemistry and generate light,” he says. Bard discovered the phenomenon ECL in- dependently, but other researchers were discovering ECL at essentially the same time. By chance, one of the other groups was headed by Bard’s former Harvard roommate, Edwin A. Chandross, then at Bell Laboratories. A third group to make the discovery essentially simultaneously was that of David M. Hercules and his colleagues at Massachusetts Institute of Technol- ogy. His own contribution to this field, Bard suggests, rests not so much in being first as in being persistent. “Oth- ers gave up rather quickly because they didn’t see any applications, and Bell Labs, in particular, was interested in applications,” Bard explains. “But I was just so fascinated with it. It was so much fun to do, and it was a very good field for students because they would Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28
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