By: John C. Besley, Michigan State University; Anthony Dudo, University of Texas at Austin, and Shupei Yuan, Northern Illinois University

Communication

Most scientists say they got into science to make the world a better place and recognize this means sharing what they learn with a range of other people. But deciding to engage also means deciding what to communicate, and it’s at this stage that things get complicated.

Scientists’ most important communication decision may be figuring out their goals. Do they want to help shape local, state or national policy discussions? Do they want to influence individual behavior, such as diet choices, medical decisions or career paths?

Big-picture goal choice is, however, relatively simple, as it likely originates from scientists’ research, resources and personal preferences.

As public engagement researchers, we suggest the quality of science communication actually hinges on a second set of decisions. Scientists need to figure out what specific, immediate objectives they want to achieve through their communication efforts.

In our view, objectives are a bit tricky because they’re often left unstated and defy easy metaphors. In planning a dinner, they’re not the specific dishes you choose (we’d call those “tactics” or “activities”) and they’re not the goal of a satisfying meal. Instead, you set objectives in the planning phase when decisions are made to start with something savory and light, move on to something satisfying, and finish with something sweet and fun.

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IdeaBig ideas are getting harder and harder to find, and innovations have become increasingly massive and costly endeavors, according to new research.

As a result, tremendous continual increases in research and development will be needed to sustain even today’s low rate of economic growth.

This means modern-day inventors—even those in the league of Steve Jobs—will have a tough time measuring up to the productivity of the Thomas Edisons of the past.

Nicholas Bloom, senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and coauthor of a paper released this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, contends that so many game-changing inventions have appeared since World War II that it’s become increasingly difficult to come up with the next big idea.

“The thought now of somebody inventing something as revolutionary as the locomotive on their own is inconceivable,” Bloom says.

“It’s certainly true if you go back one or two hundred years, like when Edison invented the light bulb,” he says. “It’s a massive piece of technology and one guy basically invented it. But while we think of Steve Jobs and the iPhone, it was a team of dozens of people who created the iPhone.”

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Spotlight on ECS Monographs

With the wealth of digital content available in the ECS Digital Library, it’s easy to forget that ECS sponsors a wide selection of monographs, which offer extensive and authoritative accounts on specific topics in electrochemistry and solid state science and technology.

The majority of the monographs ECS sponsors are published by Wiley. ECS members receive a 20% discount on all Wiley monographs. To receive the ECS member discount, you must order Wiley monographs through the ECS Online Store.

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Alan Alda on Communicating Science

Our guest on this episode of the ECS Podcast is Alan Alda. You might know him from the 1970s and 80s because of the TV show MASH or in the last few years from appearing on The Blacklist, The Big C, or as Uncle Pete on the show Horace and Pete.

He hosted the PBS show Scientific American Frontiers for 13 years. Alda is a film and TV director, screenwriter, and author; as well as a six-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner.

He is also the founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, the goal of which is to help scientists learn to communicate more effectively with the public. His latest book is: If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating.

Alan Alda talked to Rob Gerth, ECS’s director of marketing and communications.

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Podbean, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher and Acast.

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2017 Chapters of Excellence

By: Alyssa Doyle, ECS Membership Intern

University of Washington Student Chapter
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ECS would like to congratulate our two 2017 Chapters of Excellence winners, the University of Washington and the Munich Student Chapter, who will receive certificates in addition to recognition in Interface for their stellar achievements in continuing to showcase their commitment to ECS’s mission.

The University of Washington’s student chapter has climbed the ranks quite rapidly since it was founded in 2016.

The 60+ members have grown their impact on electrochemical and solid state science and engineering education immensely. Some of their greatest achievements to date include:

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2017 ECS Outstanding Student Chapter

By: Alyssa Doyle, ECS Membership Intern

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ECS would like to congratulate the 2017 Outstanding Student Chapter winner, the University of Maryland for their dedication and commitment to the advancement of solid state and electrochemical science and technology.

The award (formerly The Gwendolyn B. Wood Section Excellence Award) was first created in 2012 to distinguish student chapters that represent and uphold ECS’s mission by maintaining an active student membership base, participating in various technical activities, and organizing community outreach in the fields of electrochemical and solid state science and engineering education.

The University of Maryland student chapter has come a long way since its initial approval in 2011 and has become one of ECS’s most exemplary chapters. The chapter previously won the Outstanding Student Chapter award in 2013 and has been a Chapter of Excellence for the last three years.

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BatteryA novel compound called 3Q conducts electricity and retains energy better than other organic materials currently used in batteries, researchers report.

“Our study provides evidence that 3Q, and organic molecules of similar structures, in combination with graphene, are promising candidates for the development of eco-friendly, high capacity rechargeable batteries with long life cycles,” says Loh Kian Ping, professor in the chemistry department at NUS Faculty of Science.

Rechargeable batteries are the key energy storage component in many large-scale battery systems like electric vehicles and smart renewable energy grids. With the growing demand of these battery systems, researchers are turning to more sustainable, environmentally friendly methods of producing them. One option is to use organic materials as an electrode in the rechargeable battery.

Organic electrodes leave lower environment footprints during production and disposal which offers a more eco-friendly alternative to inorganic metal oxide electrodes commonly used in rechargeable batteries.

The structures of organic electrodes can also be engineered to support high energy storage capabilities. The challenge, however, is the poor electrical conductivity and stability of organic compounds when used in batteries. Organic materials currently used as electrodes in rechargeable batteries—such as conductive polymers and organosulfer compounds—also face rapid loss in energy after multiple charges.

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ECS Ride-and-Learn

Want to see Electrochemistry in Action and drive one of the world’s first commercial fuel cell cars while at the 232nd ECS Meeting? Join us for a Ride-and Learn on Monday, October 2 from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm in front of the main entrance of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. This Ride-and-Learn is open to all ECS meeting attendees. First come, first serve.

Fuel cell cars run on hydrogen fuel, use a fuel cell that converts hydrogen into the electricity that powers the car’s electric motor and emit only water from the tailpipe. For the first time ever, they are commercially available, have started hitting the streets and the hydrogen stations to fuel them are up and running in select U.S. regions.

This Ride-and-Learn is organized by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. FCTO has funded early-stage hydrogen and fuel cells research and development enabling a 60 percent reduction in fuel cell cost, a fourfold increase in fuel cell durability and an 80 percent cut in the cost of electrolyzers over the past decade. You can learn more about this exciting technology and the work FCTO funds to enable hydrogen and fuel cell technological breakthroughs at energy.gov/fuelcells.

Following the 232nd ECS Meeting, the third annual National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day will take place on October 8, 2017, aimed at raising awareness and celebrating advances in fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy, Fuel Cell and Hydrogen and Energy Association , its members, industry organizations, and state and federal governments will be commemorating National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell day with a variety of activities and events across the country.

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A new device that runs on almost zero power can transmit data across distances of up to 2.8 kilometers—breaking a long-held barrier—and could lead to a vast array of interconnected devices.

For example, flexible electronics—such as knee patches that capture range of motion in arthritic patients or patches that use sweat to detect fatigue in athletes and soldiers—hold great promise for collecting medically relevant data.

But today’s flexible electronics and other sensors that can’t employ bulky batteries and need to operate with very low power typically can’t communicate with other devices more than a few feet or meters away. This limits their practical use in applications for medical monitoring, home sensing to smart cities, and precision agriculture.

By contrast, the new long-range backscatter system, which uses reflected radio signals to transmit data at extremely low power and low cost, achieve reliable coverage throughout a 4,800-square-foot house, an office area covering 41 rooms, and a one-acre vegetable farm.

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By: Joshua M. Pearce, Michigan Technology University

SolarAs the U.S. military increases its use of drones in surveillance and combat overseas, the danger posed by a threat back at home grows. Many drone flights are piloted by soldiers located in the U.S., even when the drones are flying over Yemen or Iraq or Syria. Those pilots and their control systems depend on the American electricity grid – large, complex, interconnected and very vulnerable to attack.

Without electricity from civilian power plants, the most advanced military in world history could be crippled. The U.S. Department of Energy has begged for new authority to defend against weaknesses in the grid in a nearly 500-page comprehensive study issued in January 2017 warning that it’s only a matter of time before the grid fails, due to disaster or attack. A new study by a team I led reveals the three ways American military bases’ electrical power sources are threatened, and shows how the U.S. military could take advantage of solar power to significantly improve national security.

A triple threat

The first threat to the electricity grid comes from nature. Severe weather disasters resulting in power outages cause between US$25 billion and $70 billion in the U.S. each year – and that’s average years, not those including increasingly frequent major storms, like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The second type of threat is from traditional acts of crime or terrorism, such as bombing or sabotage. For example, a 2013 sniper attack on a Pacific Gas and Electric substation in California disabled 17 transformers supplying power to Silicon Valley. In what the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission called “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred,” the attacker – who may have been an insider – fired about 100 rounds of .30-caliber rifle ammunition into the radiators of 17 electricity transformers over the course of 19 minutes. The electronics overheated and shut down. Fortunately, power company engineers managed to keep the lights on in Silicon Valley by routing power from other sources.

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