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Washington State University Institute for Shock Physics

Research Associates

John Kirtley

Postdoctoral Research Associate, ISP/Applied Sciences Laboratory

(509) 358-7851

Scientific Interests and Work

Dr. Kirtley’s research interests include integrating and implementing optical techniques to characterize electrochemical and chemical processes and materials in challenging environments—particularly within the energy arena.

Chemical looping combustion (CLC) and gasification (CLG) processes are currently being explored as economical options for producing clean reformates and energy from fossil and renewable fuels, while enabling efficient CO2 capture. This technique uses oxygen carriers (e.g. various metal oxides) that release clean oxygen to combust hydrocarbons at high temperatures. The reduced oxygen carrier is then carried to a separate chamber for re-oxidation in air before being returned to the fuel chamber. Further development of the CLC and CLG technology will require an empirical understanding of the oxygen carriers’ oxidation states under various operating conditions. Dr. Kirtley’s work involves developing in situ optical and statistical methods to characterize the oxidation states of various metal oxides in a lab reaction chamber and ultimately in an operating reactor.


Dr. Kirtley investigated high temperature chemistry in solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) using in situ optical probes during his Ph.D. research (Montana State University) and previous postdoctoral fellowship (US Naval Research Laboratory). SOFCs have demonstrated efficient, clean electricity generation from renewable and fossil fuels, but the > 650 ºC operative conditions severely limit options to directly observe this chemistry. Ultimately, in situ insights are needed to explain electrochemical performance to aid device design and operation. Dr. Kirtley’s research represents some of the first efforts to adapt vibrational Raman spectroscopy, near-infrared thermal imaging, and Fourier-transform infrared emission spectroscopy to observe these electrochemical processes in situ.


Ph.D. (Chemistry), 2015, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT. Advisor: Robert A Walker
B.S. (Mathematics teaching, Chemistry minor), 2009, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT

Honors and Recognition

  • National Research Council (NRC) postdoctoral fellowship, 2015-2016.

Representative Publications:

  1. Kirtley, J.D.; Qadri, S.N.; Steinhurst, D.A.; Owrutsky, J.C., In situ, simultaneous thermal imaging and infrared molecular emission studies of solid oxide fuel cell electrodes. J. Power Sources, 2016, 336, 54-62.
  2. Kirtley, J. D.; Steinurst, D. A.; Owrutsky, J. C.; Pomfret, M. B.; Walker, R. A. “In situ optical studies of methane and simulated biogas oxidation on high temperature solid oxide fuel cell anodes.” Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2014, 16, 227-236.
  3. Kirtley, J.D.; Halat, D.M.; McIntyre, M.D.; Eigenbrodt, B.C.; Walker, R.A., High-temperature ‘spectrochronopotentiometry’: Correlating electrochemical performance with in situ Raman spectroscopy in solid oxide fuel cells.” Anal. Chem., 2012, 84 (22), 9745-9753.