Vitalij Pecharsky, Ames Lab Scientist and Distinguished Professor at Iowa State University, dies

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Vitalij Pecharsky

Vitalij Pecharsky, Ames National Laboratory Scientist and Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Iowa State University's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, died on Tuesday, Dec. 20, aged 68.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Vitalij Pecharsky,” said Ames National Laboratory Director Adam Schwartz. “He was an integral part of Ames Lab, a stellar researcher, and a colleague and friend to all of us.”

Pecharsky was an internationally respected materials scientist with expertise in rare earth elements, caloric materials and systems, materials for renewable energy and energy conversion, and electronic, magnetic, and hydrogen storage materials. His research in responsive rare earth materials was an integral part of Ames Laboratory’s world-recognized expertise in that area.

A principal area of Pecharsky’s research involved the development of magnetocaloric heat pumping systems, an environmentally friendly technology that could potentially reduce the energy used in heating and cooling by as much as one third. This work was built upon the discovery of the giant magnetocaloric effect, which Pecharsky discovered in partnership with his colleague and mentor, Karl Gschneidner, in 1997.

Pecharsky was also actively involved in research for the Critical Materials Institute, on projects that involved development of a cost-effective samarium-iron-nitrogen magnet, and low-impact mechanochemical extraction of lithium from mining ores.

He was also a dedicated advisor to young scientists, and over the course of his career mentored 53 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

Pecharsky earned his Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Ivan Franko National University of L’viv in Ukraine in 1979, and served as an associate professor there until 1993. He was a visiting scientist at Ames National Laboratory in 1993 and became an associate scientist there in 1995. He was named a senior scientist in 2001.

In 1998, Pecharsky became an associate professor at Iowa State University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He was named an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Iowa State in 2007.  

From 2010-2013, Pecharsky served as the Associate Chair for Research and Economic Development for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

From 2016-2018, he served as the Director of CaloriCool, a consortium of research organizations dedicated to developing caloric cooling technologies.

He was an author of more than 500 articles in refereed journals, and served as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Alloys and Compounds.

Funeral services for Vitalij Pecharsky have been arranged by Adams Funeral Home in Ames, Iowa. Details are available at this link.