Carnegie Mellon University

Stefan Bernhard

Stefan Bernhard

Professor, Chemistry

5000 Forbes Avenue
Mellon Institute 737B
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Stefan Bernhard started his chemistry career as a laboratory technician with Chocolat Tobler, which was followed by a degree in chemical engineering from the Ingenieurschule Burgdorf. Further endeavors were rewarded with a diploma and a Ph.D. in chemistry. These studies were complemented by a laser spectroscopy project at Los Angeles National Laboratory and time in the Abruña Group at Cornell University focused on electrochemistry. His first faculty appointment at Princeton University explored luminescent metal complexes for optoelectronic and solar conversion applications. In 2014, he was promoted to the rank of Professor at Carnegie Mellon University where he founded the Bernhard Research Group. The Bernhard Group's research includes luminescent materials, solar fuels, organic photovoltaics, organic light emitting devices, and circular polarized luminescence.


Ph.D. Chemistry, Université de Fribourg, Switzerland (1996)

Diploma in Chemistry, University of Fribourg, Switzerland (1993)

Diploma in Chemical Engineering, School of Engineering, Burgdorf, Switzerland (1988)


Solar-generated fuels show promise as renewable energy carriers for the future. In the Bernhard lab, our research in this area focuses on searching for new catalysts for photolytic water splitting, light-driven reduction of metal ions, and photo-induced dehydrogenation reactions of bio-molecules. New catalytic systems are evaluated in our home-built photoreactors, which enable us to monitor the kinetics of fuel evolution for multiple reactions simultaneously and in real time.


The Bernhard lab is interested in interconverting radiative and electrochemical energy through the use of transition metal complexes with electronically tunable architectures. That is, we study both the absorption of light to generate electrochemical potential (organic photovoltaics and artificial photosynthesis) as well as the emanation of light using electrical current (organic light emitting devices). We are also deeply involved in the exploration of chiral luminophores (and chiral ensembles) that emit circularly polarized light. Our work in this area has produced cutting-edge tools for both the characterization and prediction of polarized luminescence. In each of the above areas, it is our aspiration to precisely understand and administer the interactions that control ensemble properties by establishing clear structure-activity relationships.


  • McDaniel, Neal D.; Bernhard, Stefan “Solar fuels: thermodynamics, candidates, tactics, and figures of merit” Dalton Transactions (2010), 39(42), 10021-10030. 
  • Ellis, W. Chadwick; McDaniel, Neal D.; Bernhard, Stefan; Collins, Terrence J. “Fast Water Oxidation Using Iron” Journal of the American Chemical Society (2010), 132, 10990-10991. 
  • Curtin, Peter N.; Tinker, Leonard L.; Burgess, Christine M.; Cline, Eric D.; Bernhard, Stefan. “Structure-Activity Correlations Among Iridium(III) Photosensitizers in a Robust Water-Reducing System” Inorganic Chemistry (2009), 48(22), 10498-10506. 
  • Sartorel, Andrea; Carraro, Mauro; Scorrano, Gianfranco; De Zorzi; Rita; Geremia, Silvano; McDaniel, Neal D.; Bernhard, Stefan; Bonchio, Marcella “Polyoxometalate Embedding of a tetra-Ruthenium(IV)-oxo-core by Template-Directed Metalation of [γ-SiW10O36]8-: A Totally Inorganic Oxygen Evolving Catalyst” Journal of the American Chemical Society (2008), 130, 5006-5007.
  • Coughlin, Frederick; Westrol, Michael; Oyler, Karl; Byrne, Neal; Kraml, Christina; Zysman-Colman, Eli; Lowry, Michael; Bernhard, Stefan “Synthesis, Separation, and Circularly Polarized Luminescence Studies of Enantiomers of Iridium(III) Luminophores” Inorganic Chemistry (2008), 47(6), 2039-2048. 
  • McDaniel, Neal D.; Coughlin, Frederick J.; Tinker, Leonard L.; Bernhard, Stefan “Cyclometalated Iridium(III) Aquo Complexes: Efficient and Tunable Catalysts for the Homogeneous Oxidation of Water” Journal of the American Chemical Society (2008), 130, 210-217. 
  • Tinker, Leonard L.; McDaniel, Neal D.; Curtin, Peter N., Smith, Courtney K.; Ireland, Michael J.; Bernhard, Stefan “Visible Light Induced Catalytic Water Reduction without an Electron Relay” Chemistry—A European Journal (2007), 13, 8726 – 8732.

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