Eric M. Stuve

Chemical Engineering

Adjunct Professor


Eric Stuve has published over 70 technical papers in catalytic and electrochemical surface science. He is a member of the American Chemical Society and The Electrochemical Society. He serves on review panels for the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy.

Stuve's teaching interests include energy and the environment, process design, and fuel cell engineering. Working with Professor Stu Adler, he developed a curriculum in fuel cell and electrochemical engineering that covers electrochemical fundamentals, polymer exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, and solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC). He has integrated fuel cells into the capstone design course, as fuel cell systems embody all of the concepts of chemical engineering, but on a scale accessible to students working in a university laboratory. More than 500 students have participated in fuel cell projects, and a number have pursued careers in fuel cell and electrochemical energy systems.


  • Ph.D., Stanford University, 1984
  • M.S., Stanford University, 1979
  • B.S., University of Wisconsin, 1978

Previous appointments

  • Professor of Chemical Engineering and Adjunct with Chemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, 1985-present
  • Chair, Department of Chemical Engineering, 1999-2009
  • Associated Western Universities Visiting Professor, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque New Mexico, 1987
  • Post-doctoral Research Associate, Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, Berlin, 1984

Research Statement

University of Washington Electrochemical Surface Science (UWESS)

The UWESS Group examines fundamental electrochemical processes occurring at interfaces. These processes relate to surface chemical (electrocatalytic) reactions for fuel cells and electrolysis cells and charge transfer reactions for batteries. Of particular interest are the properties of adsorbed species, reaction mechanism and kinetics, electrocatalyst properties, and the influence of high surface electric field in electrochemical kinetics.

Co-Electrolysis of Carbon Dioxide and Water in Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cells

Co-electrolysis of CO2 and H2O is a promising means of both energy storage and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This process produces a mixture of CO and H2 (synthesis gas) that can be converted to fuels (gaseous and liquid) or other chemicals. In this project, co-electrolysis is done at high temperature (700–900 °C) in a solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) to provide sufficient kinetics and electrolyte conductivity for the combined reactions. The SOEC incorporates a gadolinium-doped ceria (GDC) cathode, which, by virtue its mixed ionic and electronic conductivity (MIEC), produces a greatly enhanced density of reaction sites, and hence, faster reaction rates.

The overall kinetic response of this co-electrolysis system depends sensitively on the availability of surface reaction sites, as controlled by oxygen ion vacancies at the electrolyte/electrode interface and convoluted with reaction kinetics at the gas/electrode interface. A full examination of electrolyte/electrode/gas effects requires, therefore, electrochemical measurements for analysis of electrolyte/electrode phenomena combined with gas phase kinetics measurements of the electrocatalytic reaction. Both measurements are implemented in this project in the form of linear and non-linear electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS and NLEIS, respectively) coupled with online mass spectrometry (OMS) of gas phase species. In this manner, independent measurements of the electrochemical and electrocatalytic responses can be combined to formulate robust reaction mechanisms and obtain accurate reaction kinetics parameters.

Electrocatalytic Oxidation of Urea

Urea is a widely abundant chemical produced naturally within the nitrogen cycle and industrially from ammonia. The most common application of urea is for fertilizer. Urea is also widely used in the pharmaceutics industry, cosmetics and dermatology, pesticides and herbicides, and control of NOx emissions from diesel engines.

The large demand of fertilizer to support our food supply puts urea at the source of two significant environmental problems: (1) fertilizer run-off from agricultural land into rivers, lakes, and estuaries causes the formation of algae blooms harmful to aquatic life; and (2) unsustainable use of nutrients if the nitrogen present in human and animal waste streams is not recovered for use as fertilizer.

Plant proteins supply animals and humans with the essential element of nitrogen. In the body, proteins break down into amino acids that are catabolized to produce ammonia. The liver converts ammonia to urea, and the kidneys concentrate urea from its serum level of typically 6 mM to approximately 0.3 M in urine. Aside from water, urea is the substance in largest abundance in urine and is the primary means of eliminating excess nitrogen from the body. The body’s ability to eliminate urea can be severely impaired by kidney disease, however. Absent a kidney transplant, dialysis becomes the only means of urea removal, and consequently, the only means of survival. Dialysis is a disruptive and expensive treatment, however, and imparts a low quality of life to those who rely on it.

Urea has intrinsic value as a fuel and is well suited to direct urea fuel cells (DUFC). Its specific and volumetric energy densities of 10.5 MJ/kg and 13.9 MJ/L, respectively, make it more favorable than ammonia (18.5 MJ/kg, 11.5 MJ/L) on a volumetric basis, though less favorable than methanol (20.2 MJ/kg, 16.2 MJ/L) on either basis. Urea can also serve as a hydrogen carrier, with H2 being produced by electrocatalytic means. In comparison with a wide variety of possible fuels and hydrogen carriers (including hydrogen itself), urea alone has the significant advantages of being safe and easy to handle and transport.

Wastewater treatment, urea removal from the body, and electrochemical energy from a direct urea fuel cell all involve electrocatalytic oxidation of urea. Typical electrocatalysts are based on the unique capability of nickel-based electrodes to oxidize urea by shuttling between the Ni2+ and Ni3+ oxidation states. Our work examines the fundamentals of this electrocatalytic reaction: (1) how the nickel catalyst changes as it shuttles between the two oxidation states, (2) the nature of adsorbed urea, (3) improving reaction kinetics with modified electrocatalysts, and (4) avoiding oxygen evolution, which limits the efficiency of urea oxidation and—in fuel cells—the efficiency of electric energy produced.

Select publications

  1. Valdés-Espinoza, H. S. B. Adler, and E. M. Stuve, “Characterization of Charge Reactions of Li-O2 Battery Cathodes Studied with Field Ionization Methods,” ECS Transactions 85 (2018) 303–313.
  2. Witt, J. M., E. M. Stuve, and S. B. Adler, “Modeling CO2 Electrolysis on Gadolinia Doped Ceria Porous Electrode Using a 1-D Macro-Homogenous Model and Linear and Non-Linear Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy” ECS Transactions, 80 (2017) 1203–1213.
  3. Rothfuss, C. R., V. Medvedev, and E. M. Stuve, “Cluster formation and distributions in field ionization of coadsorbed methanol and water on platinum,” Surface Science, 650 (2016) 130-139.
  4. Motobayashi, K., L. Árnadóttir, C. Matsumoto, E. M. Stuve, H. Jónsson, Y. Kim, and M. Kawai, “Adsorption of Water Dimer on Platinum(111): Identification of the −OH···Pt Hydrogen Bond,” ACS Nano 8 (2014) 11583-11590.
  5. Stuve, E. M., “Electrochemical Reactors,” in Encyclopedia of Applied Electrochemistry, G. Kreysa, K. Ota, and R. F. Savinell (Eds.), Springer (2014).
  6. Stuve, E. M. and K. A. Spies, “Hydrogen Generation by Electrocatalyic Reforming of Biomass-Related Compounds: Ethylene Glycol,” in Electrochemical Society Transactions, 58(1) (2013), 1723-1731.
  7. Stuve, E. M., “Ionization of Water in Interfacial Electric Fields,” Chemical Physics Letters, Vol. 519–520 (2012) 1–17.
  8. Árnadóttir, L., E. M. Stuve, and H. Jónsson, “The effect of coadsorbed water on the stability, configuration and interconversion of formyl (HCO) and hydroxymethylidyne (COH) on platinum(111), Chemical Physics Letters, 541 (2012) 32-38.

Honors & awards

  • Fellow of the American Vacuum Society, 2002
  • Presidential Young Investigator Award, 1985
  • Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, 1984