Arnold C. Ott Lectureship in Chemistry

The Arnold C. Ott Lectureship in Chemistry was created and endowed by a generous gift from Dr. Arnold C. Ott and Marion Ott. Dr. Ott received his Ph.D. in 1943 from Michigan State University in Chemistry/Physics/Bacteriology and is a leading chemist and entrepreneur in West Michigan. He is one of the co-founders of Grand Valley State University and served on the GVSU Board of Trustees for 28 years.

Dr. Tom Guarr

Dr. Thomas Guarr

Director of Research and Development

Michigan State University Bioeconomy Institute

Community Lecture  Thursday, April 13, 2023  6:00 - 7:00 PM 

Russel H. Kirkhof Center, Room 2250 Grand River Room

Can Organic Batteries Power a Sustainable Electrical Grid?

Chemistry Seminar  Friday, April 14, 2023  1:00 - 2:00 PM 

Russel H. Kirkhof Center, Room 2204 Pere Marquette Room

Electrochemical Trickery: Turning Organic Macrocycles into Conductive Polymers and Supercapacitors

Kirkhof Center, Allendale Campus

Community Lecture   Can Organic Batteries Power a Sustainable Electrical Grid?

While the future may be electric, preparing for it still requires an enormous effort.  The sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow, so the expanded use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind to provide power to the electrical grid is critically dependent on new strategies for long-duration energy storage.  The solution will undoubtedly lie in a variety of technologies rather than a single “one size fits all” approach.  The development of lithium ion batteries (LIBs) represents an incredible technical and economic success story, and LIBs will remain an essential piece of the puzzle for years to come, especially for mobile applications.  Nonetheless, many problems remain, and literally thousands of research groups around the globe are working to improve LIB safety, service life, energy density, and charge rate, among other properties.  Recently, there has also been increased activity in the development of a relatively new type of battery termed a “redox flow battery” or RFB.  RFBs can incorporate a number of electrochemically active species as key battery components, including both metals and organic materials.  Although many still believe that organic compounds are too soft or too fragile for practical applications in electrical devices, the commercial success of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) has begun to reverse this longstanding misconception.  In this talk, we will explore some simple concepts that allow us to design organic molecules able to withstand the rigors of real-world environments.  Specifically, lessons learned in the development of highly durable, color-switching organic chemistry for electrochromic devices paved the way for a novel all-organic battery that contains no lead, lithium, cobalt, manganese, or other undesirable metallic species.  Through careful molecular engineering, we have developed chemical systems that simplify RFB design and eliminate the most expensive and troublesome common components.  The strategy behind this approach will be described in detail, and prospects for RFBs in large scale energy storage applications will be discussed.

Chemistry Seminar  Electrochemical Trickery: Turning Organic Macrocycles into Conductive Polymers and Supercapacitors

Although the discovery of polyaniline dates back more than 150 years, the recognition of its intriguing electrical properties required another century, and culminated with the award of a Nobel Prize to Prof. Alan MacDiarmid in 2000.  Curiosity regarding the scope of this phenomenon led us to try the admittedly naïve idea of attempting to generate new conductive polymers simply by electrochemical oxidation of large organic macrocycles incorporating amine substituents.  Surprisingly, it actually worked, and allowed us to fabricate a plethora of materials with interesting and potentially useful features.  While the electrical conductivity of these metallophthalocyanine-based polymers is generally much lower than that of polyaniline itself, thin films are sufficiently conductive for a number of functions.  For example, they are remarkably good catalysts for many sluggish organic redox processes, accelerating rates of electron transfer by up to 13 orders of magnitude.  They are also electrochromic, exhibiting rapid and reversible color changes upon electrochemical reduction.  Recently, we have shown that such materials are attractive candidates for organic-based supercapacitors, showing high capacitance, fast response, and excellent durability.  The preparation of these materials, along with experimental results for each of these applications, will be discussed in detail.

Dr. Guarr earned a PhD at the University of Rochester, where he investigated the photoinduced electron transfer reactions that play a critical role in many solar energy conversion processes.  He learned the basics of electrochemistry during postdoctoral work at Caltech that focused on the electrochemical polymerization of metal complexes.  After joining the faculty at the University of Kentucky in 1986, he added fullerene chemistry and the fabrication of novel conductive polymers to his professional toolbox.  In 1994, he left a tenured position at UK and joined a small company in Michigan called Gentex Corporation, where he served in several roles, including Vice President for Chemical Research and Aerospace Technology.  Gentex developed electrochromic devices for automotive and aerospace applications and has now grown to over 6000 employees and $2B in annual sales.  Currently, Dr. Guarr serves as the Director of Research and Development at the Michigan State University Bioeconomy Institute in Holland, Michigan.  In 2014, he co-founded Jolt Energy Storage Technologies, LLC and functions as its Chief Technology Officer, a role which also included a recent temporary position at Argonne National Laboratory in their Lab-Embedded Entrepreneur Program (LEEP).  His research interests include photochemistry, organic redox chemistry, electrocatalysis, materials science, and device design.  He has co-authored numerous scientific publications in multiple fields and is an inventor or co-inventor on approximately 75 US patents.

Previous Ott Lecturers

Vernon Ehlers, Ph.D.
U.S. Congress

Michael D. Parker, M.B.A.
Dow Chemical Company

Carl Djerassi, Ph.D.
Stanford University

Robin D. Rogers, Ph.D.
University of Alabama

Virginia W. Cornish, Ph.D.
Columbia University

Richard N. Zare, Ph.D.
Stanford University

Thomas H. Lane, Ph.D.
Dow Corning Corporation

Chad A. Mirkin, Ph.D.
Northwestern University

Gregory A. Petsko, Ph.D.
Brandeis University

Harry B. Gray, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology

Gary M. Hieftje, Ph.D.
Indiana University

Roderick MacKinnon, M.D.
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
The Rockefeller University

Kevan Shokat, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco

Ada Yonath, Ph.D.
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Weizmann Institute of Science

W. Carl Lineberger, Ph.D.
University of Colorado, Boulder

Richmond Sarpong, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley

Jeffrey Moore, Ph.D.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Wilson Ho, Ph.D.
University of California, Irvine

Geraldine Richmond, Ph.D.
University of Oregon

Sara E. Skrabalak, Ph.D.
Indiana University

Thomas J. Meyer, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Brian K. Shoichet, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco

Daniel M. Neumark, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley

Stephen L. Buchwald, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Melanie Sanford, Ph.D.
University of Michigan

Karen Trentelman, Ph.D.
Getty Conservation Institute

Anne McNeil, Ph.D.
University of Michigan

Page last modified April 11, 2023