Kevin Charles Leonard

School of Engineering - Chemical & Petroleum Engineering
Assistant Professor
Primary office:
Learned Hall
Room 4132B
University of Kansas
1530 West 15th Street
Lawrence, KS 66045



PhD, Materials Science, University of Wisconsin – Madison

MS, Materials Science, University of Wisconsin – Madison

BS, Chemical Engineering & Mathematics, University of Wisconsin – Madison


The focus of my research group is to advance the fundamental understanding of catalytic mechanisms, and to leverage that understanding to intelligently design catalysts that utilize emerging feedstocks, specifically water and CO2. There is an immediate need for developing new catalytic conversion technologies with these feedstocks to make petrochemical equivalents. Several of the new technologies will operate in the liquid phase and new experimental tools are needed to provide fundamental insights into catalytic adsorption and surface reaction mechanisms and structure effects. Lack of such tools is impeding the ability to intelligently design the chemical composition and morphology of catalysts. To address this need, my research group is developing novel solution-phase chemical imaging techniques that will produce nano-scale chemical reactivity images and measurements of surface-adsorbed intermediates. This new understanding will be used to predict and synthesize new catalysts with optimum chemical compositions and morphologies for utilizing emerging feedstocks.

Research Interests

  • Electrocatalysis
  • Photoelectrocatalysis
  • Solar Fuels
  • Electrochemistry
  • Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy


  • Post Doc: Center for Electrochemistry, The University of Texas at Austin
  • PhD: Materials Science, University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • MS: Materials Science, University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • BS: Chemical Engineering & Applied Mathematics, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Research Interests


An electrocatalyst is a material which is used to catalyze an electrochemical reaction (i.e., an electron transfer oxidation or reduction reaction). Electrocatalysis is a crucial component to many different energy and industrial applications. In artificial photosynthesis (a process in which sunlight, water, and CO2 are converted to fuels or chemicals) electrocatalysts are used to improve the efficiency of the hydrogen evolution reaction, the oxygen evolution reaction, and/or CO2 reduction. In addition, electrocatalysts are used in fuel cells and metal-air batteries to catalyze the oxygen reduction reaction. Industrially, electrocatalysts are used in electrowinning (the process of extracting metals from their ores), electroplating (the process of coating a material usually with a thin layer of metal), and electrogalvanizing (a corrosion protection method  usually applied to stainless steel).

The research goals of the Leonard laboratory include developing new electrocatalysts based on earth-abundant materials for all of the above applications. This encompasses investigating new material compositions as well as novel morphologies based on nanomaterials. In addition, the aim is to improve the understanding of the mechanisms of electrochemical reactions and how they are affected by electrocatalyst properties.


As with electrocatalysis, photoelectrocatalysis is used in artificial photosynthesis (or solar fuels) applications. Here a semiconducting material absorbs photons (i.e., light) and creates electron/hole pairs which can be separated to carry out electrochemical reactions. The research goals in photoelectrocatalysis are finding and developing new semiconductor materials and nanoscale morphologies to improve the efficiency of photoelectrochemical reactions related to solar fuel applications.

Energy Storage

Energy storage devices (e.g. Li-ion batteries, flow-batteries, electrochemical capacitors) are used in applications ranging from portable consumer electronics to “grid-scale” energy storage. One energy storage device of interest is the electrochemical capacitor which typically has a higher power density and a longer cycle-life than the Li-ion battery, but a lower energy density. The development of new nano-scale materials could increase the energy density of electrochemical capacitors without sacrificing power density or cycle-life, which could have impacts on all areas of energy storage including hybrid electric and plug-in electric vehicles.

Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy (SECM)

The Leonard group utilizes scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM) in the development and characterization of electrocatalysts and photoelectrocatalysts. Using SECM, one is able to very accurately determine the kinetics of electrochemical and photoelectrochemical reactions. In addition, mechanistic information can be obtained by the investigation of reaction intermediates. SECM is also used in electrocatalyst and photoelectrocatalyst screening.

Publications and Patents


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Upcoming Even

Feb 15th: Dr. Weatherley Lecturer/Dinner | 5:30PM | Big 12 Room, Kansas Union

Feb 21st: Graduate Seminar with Steve Lustig from Northeastern University (FLYER)

Feb 22nd: Engineering Student Seminar Series | 12 - 1 | 2112 Learned Hall

March 7th: Graduate Seminar with Kamy Sepehrnoori from UT-Austin (FLYER)

March 8th: Engineering Student Seminar Series | 12 - 1 | 2112 Learned Hall

March 14th: Graduate Seminar with M. Ali Haider from IIT, New Dehli (FLYER)

March 20-24th = SPRING BREAK!