By: Rand Wilcox, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Scientsts collecting dataNo matter the field, if a researcher is collecting data of any kind, at some point he is going to have to analyze it. And odds are he’ll turn to statistics to figure out what the data can tell him. The Conversation

A wide range of disciplines – such as the social sciences, marketing, manufacturing, the pharmaceutical industry and physics – try to make inferences about a large population of individuals or things based on a relatively small sample. But many researchers are using antiquated statistical techniques that have a relatively high probability of steering them wrong. And that’s a problem if it means we’re misunderstanding how well a potential new drug works, or the effects of some treatment on a city’s water supply, for instance.

As a statistician who’s been following advances in the field, I know there are vastly improved methods for comparing groups of individuals or things, as well as understanding the association between two or more variables. These modern robust methods offer the opportunity to achieve a more accurate and more nuanced understanding of data. The trouble is that these better techniques have been slow to make inroads within the larger scientific community.

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Lithium-ionLithium-ion batteries power a vast majority of the world’s portable electronics, but the magnification of recent safety incidents have some looking for new ways to keep battery-related hazards at bay. The U.S. Navy is one of those groups, with chemists in the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) unveiling a new battery, which they say is both safe and rechargeable for applications such as electric vehicles and ships.

“We keep having too many catastrophic news stories of lithium-ion batteries smoking, catching fire, exploding,” says Debra Rolison, head of NRL’s advanced electrochemical materials section and co-author of the recently published paper. “There’ve been military platforms that have suffered severe damage because of lithium-ion battery fires.”

Once example of such damage came in 2008, when an explosion and fire caused by a lithium-ion battery damaged the Advanced SEAL Delivery Vehicle 1 at its base in Pearl Harbor.

While generally safe when manufactured properly, lithium-ion batteries host an organic liquid which is flammable if the battery or device gets too hot.

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PhosphorsSubmit your manuscripts for the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology (JSS) Focus Issue on Visible and Infrared Phosphor Research and Applications by July 29, 2017.

Rapid changes are taking place in the area of luminescent materials research from basic understanding to novel applications. This is due to the recent progresses in the area of phosphors for LED applications and the need for novel luminescent materials for applications in medical research as biosensors, solar cells, infrared sensors, and display technologies. These developments have led to new questions and new techniques related to basic research in the field of luminescence.

The main goal of this focus issue of the JSS is to provide a comprehensive picture of the current trends in research of phosphor emitting in the visible and IR regions.

Review and contributed papers are welcome in the following topics:

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BatteryLike all things, batteries have a finite lifespan. As batteries get older and efficiency decreases, they enter what researchers call “capacity fade,” which occurs when the amount of charge your battery could once hold begins to decrease with repeated use.

But what if researchers could reduce this capacity fade?

That’s what researchers from Argonne National Laboratory are aiming to do, as demonstrated in their open access paper, “Transition Metal Dissolution, Ion Migration, Electrocatalytic Reduction and Capacity Loss in Lithium-Ion Full Cells,” which was recently published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

The capacity of a lithium-ion battery directly correlates to the amount of lithium ions that can be shuttled back and forth as the device is charged and discharged. Transition metal ions make this shuttling possible, but as the battery is cycled, some of those ions get stripped out of the cathode material and end up at the battery’s anode.

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Climate changeAfter an unusually intense heat wave, downpour, or drought, Noah Diffenbaugh and his research group inevitably get phone calls and emails asking whether human-caused climate change played a role.

A new framework will help them respond.

“The question is being asked by the general public and by people trying to make decisions about how to manage the risks of a changing climate,” says Diffenbaugh, a professor of earth system science at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

“Getting an accurate answer is important for everything from farming to insurance premiums, to international supply chains, to infrastructure planning.”

In the past, scientists typically avoided linking individual weather events to climate change, citing the challenges of teasing apart human influence from the natural variability of the weather. But that’s changing.

“Over the past decade, there’s been an explosion of research, to the point that we are seeing results released within a few weeks of a major event,” says Diffenbaugh, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Four steps

In a new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Diffenbaugh and colleagues outline a four-step “framework” for testing whether global warming has contributed to record-setting weather events. The new paper is the latest in a burgeoning field of climate science called “extreme event attribution,” which combines statistical analyses of climate observations with increasingly powerful computer models to study the influence of climate change on individual extreme weather events.

In order to avoid inappropriately attributing an event to climate change, the authors began with the assumption that global warming had played no role, and then used statistical analyses to test whether that assumption was valid. “Our approach is very conservative,” Diffenbaugh says. “It’s like the presumption of innocence in our legal system: The default is that the weather event was just bad luck, and a really high burden of proof is required to assign blame to global warming.”

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BatteryResearchers from Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science recently developed a method that could result in safer, longer-lasting, bendable lithium-ion batteries. To do this, the team applied ice-templating to control the structure of the solid electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries.

Recent reports of cell phones and hoverboards bursting into flames have made people aware of the safety concerns related to the lithium-ion battery’s liquid electrolyte. The researchers behind this new work decided to confront the safety issues by exploring the use of a solid electrolyte, therefore developing an all-solid-state lithium battery.

[The researchers] were interested in using ice-templating to fabricate vertically aligned structures of ceramic solid electrolytes, which provide fast lithium ion pathways and are highly conductive. They cooled the aqueous solution with ceramic particles from the bottom and then let ice grow and push away and concentrate the ceramic particles. They then applied a vacuum to transition the solid ice to a gas, leaving a vertically aligned structure. Finally, they combined this ceramic structure with polymer to provide mechanical support and flexibility to the electrolyte.

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SingaporeECS hosts over 20 region-specific sections, offering local scientists and engineers an opportunity to connect with researchers in their area and participate in a variety of events. The ECS Singapore Section is the most recent addition to that list, chartered by the ECS Board of Directors on March 7, 2017. While the section is just getting its legs, the section’s chair believes that it could help bolster a growing field in Southeast Asia.

“There are extensive research activities in electrochemical science in Singapore and Southeast Asia,” says Alex Yan Qingyu, chair of the ECS Singapore Section and professor at Nanyang Technological University. “It is important to have an organization with good leadership to promote extensive interaction and collaboration between the researchers, and increase student and researcher interests and involvement in the electrochemical community.”

Yan hopes that the establishment of the ECS Singapore Section will help connect all interested parties from academia, industry, and government in an effort to bridge a scientific gap and provide networking opportunities that could lead to new developments or help members advance their careers.

“We would like to organize workshops and conferences to promote the students’ and researchers’ activities and encourage them to join the ECS community,” Yan says. “We would also like to create a good platform to connect the local electrochemists to international scientists and industry representatives.”

Future plans for the section include the potential for a small workshop in late 2017 and a summer school to be further conceptualized for 2018.

By: Jeffrey Gardner, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

EnzymeWhen people hear about prospecting, they might imagine old forty-niners (miners) with pickaxes hunting for gold, or maybe an agent for the San Francisco 49ers (football team) scouting for new talent. In my lab we do another version, called bio-prospecting – searching for useful substances from natural sources. Bio-prospecting has produced many valuable products, including anti-cancer drugs derived from plants and extremely strong silks spun by tropical spiders. The Conversation

Our work focuses on enzymes, which are proteins that speed up chemical reactions. We are looking for new and powerful enzymes that can break apart polysaccharides – common molecules that consist of long chains of sugars. Polysaccharides are extremely abundant in the fruits and vegetables that we eat, the cotton clothes we wear and the lumber we use to build houses.

Enzymes that can break down polysaccharides have many uses – for example, in detergents that dissolve stains on clothes. Similar types of enzymes can also be used to release sugars found in plants, which can then be used for manufacturing biodegradeable plastic.

In my lab, we are searching for new enzymes that could improve biotechnology for making renewable fuels and chemicals.

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Tech Highlights

Tech HighlightsECS journals was prepared by Colm Glynn and David McNulty of University College Cork, Ireland, David Enos of Sandia National Laboratories, Zenghe Liu of Verily Life Science, and Donald Pile of Rolled-Ribbon Battery Company. Each article highlighted here is available free online.


Performance of Three-Dimensional LiMn2O4/Carbon Composite Cathodes Prepared Via Sol-Gel Impregnation

With the ever advancing improvements in electronics and display technologies, it is crucial that Li-ion batteries are able to rise to the challenge of powering next generation consumer electronics. Consequently, the development of electrode materials for Li-ion batteries that are capable of delivering high capacities with stable capacity retention is of the utmost importance. Researchers from the University of Bremen have investigated the fabrication of 3D composite cathodes consisting of LiMn2O4 particles deposited directly onto an electrically conductive matrix of carbon fibres via sol-gel impregnation. The electrochemical performance of the composite cathodes was evaluated as a function of the number of sol impregnation steps. Through systematic galvanostatic cycling, the researchers determined that high capacity cathodes could be obtained from increased filling of the carbon matrix with the LMO sol. A cathode sample after four filling cycles demonstrated a discharge capacity of 132mAh g-1 after 50 cycles, corresponding to ~89% of the theoretical capacity of LiMn2O4.

Additionally, as a proof-of-concept, LMO cathodes were cycled against Lithium Titanate (LTO) anodes in a solid state battery (SSB) setup. The evaluation of these cells offers valuable insight for future SSB applications.

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ECSTA new issue of ECS Transactions (ECST) has just been published from the XXXI National Congress of the Mexican Society of Electrochemistry/9th Meeting of the ECS Mexican Section.

The papers in this issue of ECST were presented in Monterrey, Mexico on May 30, 2016 – June 3, 2016. ECST Volume 76, Issue 1 can be found here.

Full text PDF issues of ECST can also be purchased in the ECS ONLINE STORE as full-text digital downloads.

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