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Michael Hickner

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical Engineering

Professional Appointments and Affiliations 

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical Engineering

Corning Faculty Fellow

Professor of Chemistry


405 Steidle Building
University Park, PA 16802
(814) 867-1847


B.S., Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI, 1999

Ph.D., Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 2003

Honors and Awards

Corning Faculty Fellow, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, 2016-2019

Rustum and Della Roy Innovation in Materials Research Award, The Pennsylvania State University, 2013

Virginia S. and Philip L. Walker, Jr. Faculty Fellow, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 2010-2013

Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from DoD/ONR, 2009

3M Non-tenured Faculty Grant, 2009

Students’ Choice Faculty of the Year Award in Materials Science and Engineering Department, The Pennsylvania State University, 2008

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, 2008

U.S. Army Research Office Young Investigator Award, 2008

Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities, 2008

R&D 100 Award for Proton Exchange Membrane Development with VT/Battelle Group, 2004

Richard A. Glenn Award for Best Paper in the Division of Fuel Chemistry at the National ACS Meeting, Chicago, IL, Fall 2001

Omnova Solutions Graduate Student Signature Award, 2001

Cunningham Doctoral Fellowship, Virginia Tech, 1999-2002

Bredekamp Award for Outstanding Unit Operations Team, Michigan Tech, 1999

Department Scholar – Chemical Engineering, Michigan Tech, 1999

AIChE Donald A. Othmer and Mildred Topp Othmer National Scholarship, 1998


New Membranes

We use the tools of polymer chemistry to create new membranes for energy and water applications.  Our interests lie in novel fuel cells and battery chemistries as well as in water purification applications such as reverse osmosis.  We have developed new membranes for redox flow batteries and salinity gradient energy processes such as reverse electrodialysis systems.  We synthesize new polymers with unique functions and also modify existing polymers with functionalities to render them attractive membrane materials.

Molecular Characterization of Material Behavior

We look deeply into the function of materials using spectroscopic techniques.  We have measured water hydrogen bonding in ion-conducting membranes and used NMR to measure polymer degradation.  These chemical tools give us insight into how membranes and other materials function from a molecular viewpoint.  We use these insights to design new materials and to improve our understanding of transport properties in membranes.

Selected Publications

Wang, L., M. A. Hickner, “Highly Conductive Side Chain Block Copolymer Anion Exchange Membranes,” Soft Matter 2016, 12, 5359-5371.


Zhu, L., J. Pan, C. M. Christensen, B. Lin, M. A. Hickner, “Functionalization of Poly(2,6-dimethyl-1,4-phenylene oxide)s with Hindered Fluorene Side Chains for Anion Exchange Membranes,” Macromolecules 2016, 49(9), 3300-3309.

Nuñez, S. A., C. Capparelli, M. A. Hickner, “N-Alkyl Interstitial Spacers and Terminal Pendants Influence the Alkaline Stability of Tetraalkylammonium Cations for Anion Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells,” Chem. Mater. 2016, 28(8), 2589-2598.

Zhu, L., J. Pan, Y.Wang, J. Han, L. Zhuang, M. A. Hickner, “Multi-Cation Side Chain Anion Exchange Membranes,” Macromolecules 2016, 49(3), 815-824.

Pan, J., L. Zhu, J. Han, M. A. Hickner, “Mechanically Tough and Chemically Stable Anion Exchange Membranes from Rigid-Flexible Semi-Interpenetrating Networks,” Chem. Mater. 2015, 27(19), 6689-6698.

Vaughn, D. D., J. Araujo, P. Meduri, J. F. Callejas, M. A. Hickner, R. E. Schaak, “Solution Synthesis of Cu3PdN Nanocrystals as Ternary Metal Nitride Electrocatalysts for the Oxygen Reduction Reaction,” Chemistry of Materials 2014, 26(21), 6226-6232.

Vargas-Barbosa, Nella M.; Geise, Geoffrey M.; Hickner, Michael A.; Mallouk, Thomas E. “Assessing the Utility of Bipolar Membranes for use in Photoelectrochemical Water-​Splitting Cells,” ChemSusChem 2014, 7(11), 3017-3020.

Varcoe, J. R., P. Atanassov, D. R. Dekel, A. M. Herring, M. A. Hickner, P. A. Kohl, A. R. Kucernak, W. E. Mustain, K. Nijmeijer, K. Scott, T. Xu and L. Zhuang, “Anion-exchange membranes in electrochemical energy systems,” Energy Environ. Sci. 2014, 7, 3135-3191.

Geise, G. M, H. J. Cassady, D. R. Paul, Bruce E. Logan, M. A. Hickner, “Specific Ion Effects on Membrane Potential and the Permselectivity of Ion Exchange Membranes,” Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 2014, 16, 21673 - 21681.

Geise, G. M., M. A. Hickner, B. E. Logan, “Ammonium Bicarbonate Transport in Anion Exchange Membranes for Salinity Gradient Energy,” ACS Macro Lett. 2013, 2 (9), 814–817.

Black, S., Y. Chang, C. Bae, M. A. Hickner, “FTIR Characterization of Water-Polymer Interactions in Superacid Polymers,” J. Phys. Chem. B 2013, 117 (50), 16266–16274.

Li, N., Y. Leng, M. A. Hickner, C.-Y. Wang, “Highly Stable, Anion Conductive Comb-shaped Copolymers for Alkaline Fuel Cells,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135 (27), 10124–10133.

Leng, Y., G. Chen, A. J. Mendoza, T. B. Tighe, M. A. Hickner, C.-Y. Wang, “Solid-State Water Electrolysis with An Alkaline Membrane,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134 (22), 9054–9057.

Zha, Y., M. L. Disabb-Miller, Z. D. Johnson, M. A. Hickner, G. N. Tew, “Metal Cation-Based Anion Exchange Membranes,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134 (10), 4493–4496.