Jonah Erlebacher

Department Chair and Professor

Secondary Appointment: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Research Interests

Nanomaterials and Materials for Energy

Jonah Erlebacher, chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is recognized for his advances in materials for energy technologies, computational materials science, and new methods for manufacturing of nanostructured metals.

Erlebacher joined the faculty of the Whiting School in 2000, and also holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. He is most well-known for his contributions to dealloying as a processing tool and dealloyed materials as functional materials for a wide variety of applications. Dealloying – selective dissolution from a multi-component material – is ubiquitous today, with dozens of groups working on the problem internationally and multiple conference symposia devoted to this subject alone. Dealloying is no longer seen as primarily a corrosion problem to be avoided, but instead as a flexible and wide-ranging processing tool used to make bulk amounts of nanostructured (porous) materials for advanced catalysts, (bio)sensing, and energy technologies such as batteries, supercapacitors, and hydrogen fuel cells. The applications for this class of this materials is growing daily.

Erlebacher’s current research includes expanding our understanding of materials processing, using variations of dealloying to create ultra-high strength nanocomposite metals that may survive extreme environments, and discovering next-generation fuel cell catalysts. In addition, his team is developing new chemistry to de-carburize natural gas, simultaneously generating hydrogen and high-value carbon materials from fossil fuels, without co-generation of greenhouse gasses.

Erlebacher holds six patents for processes encompassing the creation of nanoporous gold leaf, advanced fuel cell catalysts, and methane decomposition to hydrogen and solid carbon. He has also developed computer models to model the morphological evolution of nanostructured materials over time.

His numerous awards include the Johns Hopkins University Inaugural Gordon Croft Investment Faculty Scholar, the JHU William H. Huggins Excellence in Teaching Award, Whiting School of Engineering and a 2001 National Science Foundation CAREER Faculty Young Investigator Award. Widely published, he co-authored Nanoporous Gold: From an Ancient Technology to a High-tech Material (Royal Society for Chemistry, 2012) and is a sought-after presenter at academic conferences, industry and government seminars around the world. He is a member of the Materials Research Society, the Electrochemical Society, TMS, the American Physical Society, and the American Association for Crystal Growth and Epitaxy. His current service activities include membership on the American Chemical Society Committee on the Petroleum Research Fund and meeting chair for the 2019 International Materials Research Congress in Cancun, Mexico. In addition to past service as associate editor of the Journal of the Electrochemical Society, he has led or co-led several conferences, among them the “Emerging Methods of Synthesis at all Length Scales,” for

the Department of Energy’s 2016 Basic Research Needs Workshop on Synthesis, International Symposia on Nanoporosity Formation by Alloy Corrosion (2016 and 2017), and  the 2009 Gordon Research Conference on Thin Film and Crystal Growth Mechanisms (chair).

Erlebacher holds a BS in physics and history of art, summa cum laude, from Yale University (1991), and a PhD in applied physics from Harvard University (1999).

  • Ph.D. 1999, Harvard University
  • 2015 - Present:  CSO, EtCH
  • 2001 - Present:  Faculty Mentor, Unspecified
  • 1999 - 2000:  Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University
  • 1993 - 1999:  Research Assistant, Harvard University
Research Areas
  • Computational Materials Science and Solid State Physics
  • Materials for energy technology
  • Nanoporous Metals via Dealloying
  • Physics of Pattern Forming Instabilities during Crystal Growth and Dissolution
  • 2012:  William H. Huggins Excellence in Teaching Award (Whiting School of Engineering)
  • 2010:  Invited Participant, NAE Indo-American Frontiers of Engineering
  • 2010:  Invited Participant, TMS Energy Materials Technical Working Groups Workshop
  • 2009:  Chair, Gordon Research Conference on Thin Film and Crystal Growth Mechanisms
  • 2008:  Inaugural Gordon Croft Investment Faculty Scholar
  • 2007:  Vice-chair, Gordon Research Conference on Thin Film and Crystal Growth Mechanisms
  • 2001:  NSF CAREER Faculty Young Investigator Award
  • 1996:  Materials Research Society Graduate Student Award
  • 1994:  National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship
  • 1992:  Wolman Fellowship
  • Over the last three years, the Erlebacher group has been studying the morphological stability (shape) of nanoparticles. The Erlebacher group focuses on the motion of atoms at interfaces and surfaces and understands that in many environments the static picture of nanoparticles is wildly inaccurate.

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  • Through experiments and simulations we explore the underlying mechanisms involved in dealloying, as well as in the post processing of porous metals. The goal is to further our understanding of dealloying and develop new porous materials.

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  • Developing new catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction in fuel cells.

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