The Electrochemical SocietyThe San Francisco Section is currently accepting nominations for the following award:

Daniel Cubicciotti Student Award: established in 1994 to assist a deserving student in Northern California in pursuing a career in the physical sciences or engineering. Qualified candidates will be full or part-time graduate or advanced undergraduate student(s) in good standing at a university or college in Northern California.

The award consists of an etched metal plaque and a $2,000 prize which is intended to assist with the educational expenses. In addition to the main award, up to two honorable mentions will be given consisting of a framed certificate and a $500 prize.

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By: Richard E. Peltier, University of Massachusetts Amherst

DIY Sensor

In an experiment sponsored by Intel, a Portland, Oregon household uses a low-cost sensor to measure air quality and stream real-time data online. Intel Free Press/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Until recently, measuring air pollution was a task that could be performed only by trained scientists using very sophisticated – and very expensive – equipment. That has changed with the rapid growth of small, inexpensive sensors that can be assembled by almost anyone. But an important question remains: Do these instruments measure what users think they are measuring?

A number of venture capital-backed startup or crowd-funded groups are marketing sensors by configuring a few dollars’ worth of electronics and some intellectual property – mainly software – into aesthetically pleasing packages. The Air Quality Egg, the Tzoa and the Speck sensor are examples of gadgets that are growing in popularity for measuring air pollutants.

These devices make it possible for individuals without specialized training to monitor air quality. As an environmental health researcher, I’m happy to see that people are interested in clean air, especially because air pollution is closely linked with serious health effects. But there are important concerns about how well and how accurately these sensors work.

At their core, these devices rely on inexpensive, and often uncertain, measurement technologies. Someday small sensors costing less than US$100 may replace much more expensive research-grade instruments like those used by government regulators. But that day is likely to be far away.

New territory for a known technology

Pollution sensors that measure air contaminants have been on the market for many years. Passenger cars have sophisticated emission controls that rely on data collected by air sensors inside the vehicles. These inexpensive sensors use well-established chemical and physical methods – typically, electrochemistry or metal oxide resistance – to measure air contaminants in highly polluted conditions, such as inside the exhaust pipe of a passenger vehicle. And this information is used by the vehicle to improve performance.

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Electric vehicleJust over ten years ago, the number of electric vehicles on the road could be counted in the hundreds. Now, more than 1.3 million EVs have been deployed across the globe. But even as EVs become a stronger force in the transportation sector, many buyers still cite one major deterrent in going electric: range anxiety.

Range anxiety refers to the fear that during longer trips, the EV battery may run out of energy and leave drivers stranded without a charging station. However, Ford, BMW, and VW are planning to but this fear to rest in Europe where they’re planning to develop a networking of charging stations along major highways.

The car companies believe this implementation of these stations will help enable long-rage travel and facilitate the mass-market adoption of EVs. Because current EVs cannot exceed a 300 mile driving range on single charge, the establishment of ultra-fast charging stations will help take away some of the anxiety drivers feel behind the wheel.

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Powin Energy, a company focused on creating dynamic energy storage solutions, recently announced their plan to install a 30 kW/40 kW-hour battery system at the University of Washington’s Washington Clean Energy Testbeds. The testbed facility was developed by UW to scale-up, prototype, test, and validate new clean energy solutions. Powin Energy hopes to assist the researchers at the facility in their quest to develop clean energy innovation.

“We’re excited about this installation at the University of Washington because it will give our technology a more rigorous workout than most real-world installations that don’t approach the far ends of usage parameters,” Virgil Beaston, CTO of Powin Energy, said in a statement.

Venkat Subramanian, technical editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society and UW professor, discussed this energy storage opportunity, stating the he and his team could “use the Powin BESS to measure the performance of energy devices and algorithms when integrated into real and simulated system environments.”

Powin’s partnership with UW comes after the company’s development of its newly patented Battery Pack Operating system, which was designed to make its way into the utility-scale storage market. The company has already installed a 2MW/8MW-hour battery system in Irvine, CA.

Board RoomAt its most recent board of directors meeting during PRiME 2016, ECS leadership approved the addition of students who are ECS members as voting members of the Individual Membership Committee and Education Committee. This governance change is many years in the making with the understanding that if the student member voice is most warranted, it is within these two committees. The timing is perfect as ECS student membership is burgeoning with 64 student chapters around the world and more to come. Our student population takes full advantage of our biannual meetings to network, share, and learn so volunteer leadership within our governance structure is an appropriate next step.

About the Committees

The Individual Membership Committee is charged with retaining and recruiting our organization’s membership on a Society, student and institutional level. The Education Committee has the responsibility of providing educational and career development opportunities to that group. The scope of the work of the two committees are broad with the potential for further growth that parallels the growth of our constituency, its needs and external forces such as new technology and shifts in best practices.

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PhotosynthesisResearchers from the University of California, Riverside recently combined photosynthesis and physics to make a key discovery that could lead to highly efficient solar cells.

Nathan Gabor, a physicist, began exploring photosynthesis when he asked himself a fundamental question in 2010: Why are plants green? This question probed him to combine his physics training with biology.
Over the past six years, Gabor has been rethinking energy conversion in light of these questions. His goal was to make solar cells that more efficiently absorb intermittent energy from the sun and increase past the current 20 percent efficiency. In this, he was inspired by the plants that had evolved over time to do exactly what he hoped solar cells would be able to do.

This from University of California, Riverside:

[The scientists] addressed the problem by designing a new type of quantum heat engine photocell, which helps manipulate the flow of energy in solar cells. The design incorporates a heat engine photocell that absorbs photons from the sun and converts the photon energy into electricity.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the quantum heat engine photocell could regulate solar power conversion without requiring active feedback or adaptive control mechanisms. In conventional photovoltaic technology, which is used on rooftops and solar farms today, fluctuations in solar power must be suppressed by voltage converters and feedback controllers, which dramatically reduce the overall efficiency.

Read the full article.

At the core of the research, Gabor and his team are looking to connect quantum mechanical structure to the greenest plants.

The Future of Electronics is Light

By: Arnab Hazari, University of Michigan

ElectronicsFor the past four decades, the electronics industry has been driven by what is called “Moore’s Law,” which is not a law but more an axiom or observation. Effectively, it suggests that the electronic devices double in speed and capability about every two years. And indeed, every year tech companies come up with new, faster, smarter and better gadgets.

Specifically, Moore’s Law, as articulated by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, is that “The number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months.” Transistors, tiny electrical switches, are the fundamental unit that drives all the electronic gadgets we can think of. As they get smaller, they also get faster and consume less electricity to operate.

In the technology world, one of the biggest questions of the 21st century is: How small can we make transistors? If there is a limit to how tiny they can get, we might reach a point at which we can no longer continue to make smaller, more powerful, more efficient devices. It’s an industry with more than US$200 billion in annual revenue in the U.S. alone. Might it stop growing?

Getting close to the limit

At the present, companies like Intel are mass-producing transistors 14 nanometers across – just 14 times wider than DNA molecules. They’re made of silicon, the second-most abundant material on our planet. Silicon’s atomic size is about 0.2 nanometers.

Today’s transistors are about 70 silicon atoms wide, so the possibility of making them even smaller is itself shrinking. We’re getting very close to the limit of how small we can make a transistor.

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BacteriaBy using mild electric current, a team of researchers from Washington State University has demonstrated the ability to beat drug-resistant bacterial infections – a technology with the potential to treat chronic wound infections.

Lead by ECS member Haluk Beyenal, the team combined an antibiotic with electrical current to kill the highly persistent Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 bacteria. That very same bacteria can seen in infections of the lung, cystic fibrosis, and even chronic wounds.

“I didn’t believe it. Killing most of the persister cells was unexpected,” Beyenal says. “Then we replicated it many, many times.”

The 21st century has brought new light to strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In many cases, this bacterial resistance is caused by the widespread use of antibiotics in the 20th century. According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 23,000 deaths per year are attributed to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

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High Temperature Materials Division
J. Bruce Wagner, Jr. Award
Nomination Deadline: January 1, 2017

J. Bruce Wagner, Jr., ECS President (1983-1984)

J. Bruce Wagner, Jr., ECS President (1983-1984)

ECS is currently accepting nominations for the following award:

J. Bruce Wagner, Jr. Award was established in 1998 to recognize a young Society member who has demonstrated exceptional promise for a successful career in science and/or technology in the field of high temperature materials. The award consists of a framed certificate and a $1,000 prize. The division will recognize the recipient at the 232nd ECS meeting in National Harbor, MD in fall 2017.

Please review the award rules carefully before completing the application.

High Temperature Materials Division Awards are part of the ECS Honors & Awards Program, one that has recognized professional and volunteer achievement within our multi-disciplinary sciences for decades. Learn more about various forms of ECS recognition and those who share the spotlight as past award winners.

grace-hopper

Grace Hopper

Two female tech pioneers won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Grace Hopper, known as the “first lady of software,” and Margaret Hamilton, regarded for her leadership role in a NASA software team that helped land a man on the moon, continued to break the glass ceilings in computer science upon receiving this prestigious award.

Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I and a pioneer in computer science until she passed away in 1992.

When discussing Hopper’s achievements, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “If Wright is flight, and Edison is light, then Hopper is code.”

Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton

Hamilton played a major role on the 1960s NASA team that got a man to the moon. She was critical in developing the on-board flight software for the Apollo space program.

President Obama said, “Luckily for us, Margaret never stopped pioneering. She symbolizes that generation of unsung women who helped send humankind into space.”

From cellphones to cyber command, the work of these women has helped shape the world we currently live in.