• Ph.D. Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, 2013
  • M.S. Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, 2011
  • B.S. Materials Science and Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2008


Dr. Matthew McDowell joined Georgia Tech in the fall of 2015 as an assistant professor in the Woodruff School with a joint appointment in the School of Materials Science and Engineering. Prior to this appointment, he was a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology, where he performed research on improving the stability and efficiency of photoelectrochemical devices for the production of solar fuels. Dr. McDowell received his Ph.D. in 2013 from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University, where his work focused on understanding lithium ion battery materials in operation using in situ electron microscopy techniques, as well as engineering materials for improved battery lifetime and performance.

Research Areas and Descriptors

  • Mechanics of materials, micro- and nanoengineering, heat transfer, combustion and energy systems. Electrochemical energy conversion and storage, batteries, in situ characterization of electrochemical energy materials and systems, reaction mechanisms and phase transformations, mechanics of energy materials, mesoscale dynamics of energy systems, catalysis, water splitting for solar fuels, engineering of nanostructured materials and devices.


Dr. McDowell’s research focuses on materials and devices for energy conversion and storage, as well as understanding dynamic materials transformations in electrochemical energy devices and other applications. Electrochemical devices, such as batteries, fuel cells, and electrolyzers, can be used to efficiently store energy or to produce and consume chemical fuels. As such, they are important for a variety of current and future applications, including mobile electronics, electric vehicles, and for the storage of renewable solar or wind energy. In many cases, however, the performance characteristics of current electrochemical energy devices (for example, the energy density, power density, durability, lifetime, efficiency, and/or cost) are not sufficient for incorporation with emerging technologies. The development of cheaper, long-lasting, and efficient electrochemical devices is a key enabling step towards the reliable utilization of clean energy as well as the development of transportation and mobile electronics technologies. Towards this goal, a variety of different systems are being studied within Dr. McDowell’s research group, including next-generation rechargeable batteries, electrochemical devices for water splitting and sunlight-driven fuel generation, and nanoionic devices for low-power nonvolatile memory.

The research in Dr. McDowell’s group encompasses both the fundamental investigation of materials transformations in electrochemical systems (and in other applications), as well as the development of improved energy systems through materials and device engineering. The operation of electrochemical devices often involves complicated dynamic processes across different length scales; these include the movement of ions and electrons through the device, as well as phase transformations near the surface or in the bulk of active materials (Fig. 1). Engineering the next generation of electrochemical systems requires us to understand and control such processes. An emphasis of Dr. McDowell’s research is the development and use of in situ experimental techniques to probe materials and devices during operation. Such experiments can yield unparalleled insight into the factors limiting device performance and the fundamental nature of electrochemical reactions. In situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is used for imaging and understanding phase transformations, such as chemical reactions and mechanical fracture of battery materials (Fig. 2), at the nanoscale. In situ TEM experiments are also used to probe various other physical, mechanical, and chemical processes in materials beyond those in electrochemical systems. In addition, other in situ methods for investigating mesoscale dynamics in electrochemical devices are being developed and utilized; these include both spectroscopic and imaging techniques.

Other efforts within the group are devoted to the design, synthesis, and testing of nanoscale materials and structures for improved performance in electrochemical devices. This research is guided by the knowledge gained from fundamental in situ studies of materials and device behavior. This combined fundamental and applied approach is expected to accelerate progress towards better materials and devices. Materials are synthesized with a variety of techniques, including chemical/physical vapor deposition and solution-based methods. The electrochemical characteristics and physical, chemical, and mechanical properties are experimentally investigated; a variety of characterization tools both in our lab and in shared facilities at Georgia Tech are used for this work.



  • Materials Research Society (MRS) Graduate Student Gold Award, 2013
  • Stanford MSE R. A. Huggins Award for Excellence in Ph.D. Research, 2013     
  • Electrochemical Society Daniel Cubicciotti Award Honorable Mention, 2012              
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, 2009                                              
  • National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, 2009                       
  • Stanford Graduate Fellowship, 2008


  • M. T. McDowell, M. F. Lichterman, A. I. Carim, R. Liu, S. Hu, B. S. Brunschwig, N. S. Lewis “The Influence of Structure and Processing on the Behavior of TiO2 Protective Layers for Stabilization of n-Si/TiO2/Ni Photoanodes for Water Oxidation” ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 17 June 2015, DOI: 10.1021/acsami.5b00379
  • R. H. Coridan, A. C. Nielander, S. A. Francis, M. T. McDowell, V. Dix, S. M. Chatman, N. S. Lewis “Methods for Comparing the Performance of Energy-Conversion Systems for Use in Solar Fuels and Solar Electricity Generation” Energy & Environmental Science, 13 April 2015, DOI: 10.1039/C5EE00777A.
  • M. T. McDowell, Z. Lu, K. J. Koski, J. H. Yu, G. Zheng, Y. Cui “In Situ Observation of Divergent Phase Transformations in Individual Sulfide Nanocrystals” Nano Letters, 20 January 2015, 15 (2) 1264-1271.
  • K. Sun, M. T. McDowell, A. C. Nielander, S. Hu, M. R. Shaner, F. Yang, B. S. Brunschwig, N. S. Lewis “Stable Solar-Driven Water Oxidation to O2(g) by Ni-Oxide Coated Silicon Photoanodes” The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 19 January 2015, 6 (4) 592-598.
  • M. T. McDowell, M. F. Lichterman, J. M. Spurgeon, S. Hu, I. D. Sharp, B. S. Brunschwig, N. S. Lewis “Improved Stability of Polycrystalline Bismuth Vanadate Photoanodes by use of Dual-Layer Thin TiO2/Ni Coatings” The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 7 August 2014, 118 (34) 19618-19624.
  • N. Liu, Z. Lu, J. Zhao, M. T. McDowell, H.-W. Lee, W. Zhao, Y. Cui “A pomegranate-inspired nanoscale design for large-volume change lithium battery anodes” Nature Nanotechnology, 16 February 2014, 9, 187-192.
  • C. Wang, H. Wu, Z. Chen, M. T. McDowell, Y. Cui, Z. Bao “Enabling Stable Operation for Silicon Microparticle Anodes for High-Energy Lithium Ion Batteries Using Self-Healing Chemistry” Nature Chemistry, 16 October 2013, 5, 1042-1048.
  • M. T. McDowell, S. W. Lee, W. D. Nix, Y. Cui “Understanding the Lithiation of Silicon and Other Alloying Anodes for Lithium-Ion Batteries” Advanced Materials, invited review for 25th anniversary special issue, 22 August 2013, 25 (36) 4966-4985.
  • M. T. McDowell, S. W. Lee, J. T. Harris, B. A. Korgel, C. M. Wang, W. D. Nix, Y. Cui “In-situ TEM of Two-Phase Lithiation of Amorphous Silicon Nanospheres” Nano Letters, 16 January 2013, 13 (2) 758-764.
  • M. T. McDowell, I. Ryu, S. W. Lee, C. M. Wang, W. D. Nix, Y. Cui “Studying the Kinetics of Crystalline Silicon Nanoparticle Lithiation with In-Situ Transmission Electron Microscopy” Advanced Materials4 September 2012, 24 (45) 6034-6041.
  • M. T. McDowell, S. W. Lee, C. M. Wang, Y. Cui “The Effect of Metallic Coatings and Crystallinity on the Volume Expansion of Silicon During Electrochemical Lithiation/Delithiation” Nano EnergyMay 2012, 1 (3) 401-410.
  • S. W. Lee, M. T. McDowell, L. A. Berla, W. D. Nix, Y. Cui “Fracture of Crystalline Silicon Nanopillars During Electrochemical Lithium Insertion” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 13 March 2012, 109 (11) 4080-4085.
  • C. D. Wessells, M. T. McDowell, S. V. Peddada, M. Pasta, R. A. Huggins, Y. Cui “Tunable Reaction Potentials in Open Framework Nanoparticle Battery Electrodes for Grid-Scale Energy Storage”ACS Nano 29 January 2012, 6 (2) 1688-1694.
  • M. T. McDowell, S.W. Lee, I. Ryu, W. D. Nix, J.W. Choi, Y. Cui “Novel Size and Surface Oxide Effects in Silicon Nanowires as Lithium Battery Anodes” Nano Letters 9 August 2011, 11 (9) 4018-4025.
  • M. T. McDowell, Y. Cui “Single Nanostructure Electrochemical Devices for Studying Electronic Properties and Structural Changes in Lithiated Si Nanowires.” Advanced Energy Materials 19 July 2011, 1 (5) 894-900.
  • Y. Yao, M. T. McDowell, I. Ryu, H. Wu, N. Liu, L. Hu, W. D. Nix, Y. Cui “Interconnected Silicon Hollow Nanospheres for Lithium-Ion Battery Anodes with Long Cycle Life.”Nano Letters 14 June 2011, 11 (7) 2949-2954.
  • S. W. Lee, M. T. McDowell, J.W. Choi, Y. Cui “Anomalous Shape Changes of Silicon Nanopillars by Electrochemical Lithiation.” Nano Letters 9 June 2011, 11 (7) 3034-3039.
  • Y. Yang, M. T. McDowell, A. Jackson, J.J.  Cha, S.S. Hong, Y. Cui “New Nanostructured Li2S/Si Rechargeable Battery with High Specific Energy” Nano Letters25 February 2010, 10 (4) 1486-1491.
  • M. T. McDowell, A. Leach, K. Gall “On the Elastic Modulus of Metallic Nanowires” Nano Letters23 October2008, 8 (11) 3613-3618.
  • M. T. McDowell, A. Leach, K. Gall “Bending and Tensile Deformation of Metallic Nanowires”Modelling and Simulation in Materials Science and Engineering 8 April 2008,16, 045003.