Department of Chemistry

College of Letters & Science
Austin Henke

Email address: henke3@wisc.edu

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Group Affiliation: 
Hamers Group
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Graduate Student
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B.S. 2015, Truman State University (Chemistry)

Research Description

Austin studies the electrolytic production of highly reactive oxygen species (HROS) in aqueous solution for water purification. Specifically, the HROS hydroxyl radical (·OH), offers a promising route to completely oxidize and eliminate most organic contaminants in waste water, such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, pathogenic bacteria, and industrial byproducts. In this field, boron-doped diamond (BDD) is currently one of the best and most studied materials for producing ·OH electrolytically. However, conductive polymer electrodes with a surface similar to that of diamond may be a cheaper alternative. Austin collaborates with others in the Hamers group to fabricate novel, polymeric electrode materials, develop detection methods for hydroxyl radicals, and study the ·OH-induced decomposition of potential pollutants through these advanced oxidation processes (AOPs). His goal is to better understand AOPs and the electrolytic production of ·OH so that this technology may be applied in either municipal water systems, or even in parts of the world currently lacking clean water. This multifaceted project involves material design and characterization, electrochemistry, and a variety of analytical techniques, such as cyclic voltammetry, fluorimetry, UV-vis spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.