Mund-Lagowski Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry welcomes Professor Haverhals

September 26, 2013

By Liz Cachey ‘15

The Mund-Lagowski Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Luke Haverhals as a tenure-track Assistant Professor.  Recently Prof. Haverhals was informed that the Army Research Office’s Young Investigator Program funded his research proposal, entitled Characterizing Microstructures at Ionic Liquid/Electrode Interfaces.  More specifically, Ionic Liquids (ILs) have recently been investigated as potential ‘game changing’ electrolytes for energy conversion devices such as capacitors, batteries, fuel cells, and electrochemical solar cells. While significant progress has been made towards utilizing these remarkably adaptable materials, much work remains to realize technologically and economically relevant devices and processes that use ILs.  This ARO award funds experiments that employ simultaneous infrared spectroscopy and electrochemical characterizations of IL-based electrolytes at model electrode systems.  Data generated will give insight to the chemical ‘gymnastics’ that strongly impact device efficiencies.  As such, these data will be instructive to the continued development of ILs for energy conversion technologies from micro and personal electronics to grid scale power applications.

“I’m excited to work with the students and staff here on the funded research,” Haverhals said. “From Bradley’s reputation and the experiences I’ve had so far, I definitely have faith in the students.”

Prof. Haverhals is the eldest of four siblings from a farming family in extreme northwestern Iowa (near Hawarden).  Haverhals graduated from Sioux Center High School in 1996 and subsequently enrolled at Northwestern College (Orange City, IA) in the fall.  Haverhals was an All-American/All-Conference outfielder, All-Conference linebacker, and also competed in track and field (sprint events and shot put) for the Red Raiders while earning a BA in chemistry.  Upon graduating in May 2000, Haverhals spent a year working as a technician and formulation chemist for Diamond Vogel Paints as well as assisting with chemistry labs at his alma mater.  Haverhals began graduate studies in chemistry at the University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA) in Fall 2001 under the tutelage of Dr. Johna Leddy. 

His doctoral research focused on the development of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) as both power sources and sensors for analytes in breath.  Haverhals was privileged to be a part of a hands-on environment that provided him a great deal of experience fabricating electrochemical devices (PEMFCs and batteries) as well as designing, building, and programming test equipment.  As a junior graduate student, Prof. Haverhals designed and assembled a remote control vehicle powered by a stack of PEMFCs that exhibited enhanced carbon monoxide tolerance and were also ‘self-hydrating’.  As a senior graduate student, Haverhals constructed a gas mixing system that produced both synthetic reformate gases for PEMFC testing and synthetic breath samples for breath sensor development.  Haverhals engineered and built a breath testing instrument that he utilized to develop fuel cell-type sensor platforms (sensors with apposite software algorithms) capable of discriminating and quantifying various analytes in breath.  Notable achievements from this work include three US patents pertinent to portable, evidentiary-grade blood alcohol sensing instruments and portable instrumentation for quantifying ketone bodies in breath for the noninvasive diagnosis of ketosis in diabetic patients.

While working and studying he met his wife, Noelle and was married in November 2007.  That same fall, Haverhals was appointed Visiting Assistant Professor and lectured General Chemistry courses at the University of Iowa while finishing his thesis: Fuel Cells as Power Sources and Sensors.  Haverhals ultimately earned a PhD in Analytical Chemistry in August of 2008.

Upon completing his doctorate, Haverhals joined the United States Naval Academy (USNA) as an Assistant Research Professor in Fall 2008.  While at USNA, Haverhals has worked under the mentorship of Dr. Paul Trulove and Dr. Hugh De Long while spending the majority of his research efforts developing ‘Natural Fiber Welding’ – an ionic liquid-based process that generates functional composites from sustainable, renewable biopolymers/biomaterials for materials and energy applications.  Haverhals’ research has demonstrated selective swelling and mobilization of biopolymers at the outer portion of natural fibrous materials by stringent control of IL-based processes.  By thoughtfully tailoring process variables such as the temperature, solvent composition, and with rigorous volumetric and spatial control (i.e., through inkjet printing techniques, laser-based heating techniques), Haverhals and co-workers created functional structures on and within natural substrates while simultaneously maintaining native mesostructures and microstructures in the core of biopolymer-based fibers.  This process methodology yields enhanced physical properties and also imparts new chemical functionality to natural materials.  Notable accomplishments include the first ever demonstration of three dimensional structures made from silk fibers (and for which silk retains its native strength) and demonstrations of ‘smart’/multifunctional textiles that have enhanced characteristics such as magnetism, unique optical and electrical properties, enhanced thermal stability, and energy storage capabilities. 

In addition to generating functional biocomposites, Professor Haverhals has successfully characterized these materials by Raman, infrared, and fluorescent spectromicroscopic methods, x-ray diffraction techniques, with mechanical and flammability testing, as well as gravimetric analysis, and calorimetry.  During these efforts, Professor Haverhals has mentored twelve undergraduate Midshipmen research students, several of whom have been nominated and earned research awards and/or special distinction, during five academic years at USNA.  These fruitful collaborations have produced sixteen peer-reviewed journal publications (and several more pending), one patent, a book chapter, and over forty presentations at regional, national, and international meeting venues.

Haverhals points to his USNA mentors, Dr. Paul Trulove and Dr. Hugh De Long, as his main source of academic inspiration and motivation. “They pushed me,” he said, “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.”

While in Annapolis, Haverhals maintained a busy lifestyle outside of his post doctoral research responsibilities.  Luke and Noelle are the proud parents of Lilliana (4), Nevaleigh (2), and Levinia (3 months).  When not chasing (or being chased by) his children, Haverhals enjoys softball, basketball, rock climbing, restoring/re-engineering espresso machines, and wood working.  Although they will miss their Maryland friends and USNA, the Haverhals family is eager to explore the Land of Lincoln.  They have purchased a home in the Knolls area of Peoria. 

“Bradley has a good mix of meaningful research and teaching opportunities; I’m looking forward to being able to do both and simultaneously collaborate with a number of other colleagues and students,” Haverhals said.

We’re certain the students are looking forward to meeting and working with you too. Welcome, Dr. Haverhals!