For-science or For-profit?

Overcoming barriers in scholarly publishing

In 1995, Forbes published an article entitled, “The Internet’s first victim?” In the article, author John Hayes predicted the world of commercial, for-profit scholarly publishing would suffer under the thumb of the internet and begin the slow process of fizzling out for lack of ability to turn a profit.

Turns out he was wrong.

Commercial scientific publishing has adapted to the times, becoming a multi-billion dollar industry; a $25.2 billion industry to be exact.

The rise of the for-profits

According to CBC News, the top for-profit scientific publishers report profit margins of nearly 40 percent, making some of those margins even higher than that of companies like Apple and Google.

The divide between ECS publications and that of top commercial publishers has deep roots. In the early days of scientific publishing, most journals came out of nonprofit scientific societies like ECS. However, the digital age changed things. It did not stifle the commercial publisher as Hayes though, instead it hurt the scientific societies. Because the cost to make the switch from print to digital was so high, many societies sold their journals to large, for-profit publishers.

The top five largest for-profit academic publishers now publish 53 percent of all scientific papers in natural and medical sciences, but ECS still remains as one of the last independent scientific society publishers, and is still committed to the initial vision of the journals: to disseminate scientific research to the broadest possible audience with the fewest barriers.

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2016 ECS Outstanding Student Chapter

Congratulations to the University of South Carolina for being named ECS’s Outstanding Student Chapter of 2016!

University of South Carolina Award Application

Members of the University of South Carolina Student Chapter with Dr. Thomas F. Fuller

The award, consisting of a recognition plaque, $1,000 toward student chapter funding, and chapter recognition in Interface, will be presented to the University of South Carolina at PRiME 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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Two researchers from Cornell University recently put forward research describing their development of an aluminum-based electrochemical cell that has the potential to capture carbon emissions while simultaneously generating electricity.

Globally, carbon dioxide is the number one contributor to harmful greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions accelerate climate change, leading to such devastating effects as rising sea levels that can dislocate families and radical local climates that hurt food production levels.

(MORE: Read past meeting abstracts by co-author of the research, Lynden A. Archer, for free.)

While there have been efforts to reduce the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere, the current levels are still far too high. Because of this, some researchers – including the duo from Cornell – have turned their attention to capturing carbon.

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The transportation industry is evolving, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a driving force behind that evolution.

Ten years ago, Musk first outlined his master plan, which included the development of affordable electric cars (including the recently released Tesla Model 3). Now, Musk has released his “Master Plan, Part Deux,” which shifts emphasis from the development of electric cars to the implementation of new (sometimes controversial) autonomous driving technology. Not only does Musk hope to apply this technology to Tesla vehicles, but also expand to self-driving buses and trucks. This could mean trucks on autopilot that could lead to “a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transportation” in long trips.

According to Musk, the purpose of these plans is to “[accelerate] the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That’s what ‘sustainable’ means. It’s not some silly, hippy thing – it matters for everyone.”

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Grass could become an affordable source of clean, renewable energy, according to a team of researchers from Cardiff University.

A recently published study states that significant amounts of hydrogen could be extracted from grass with the help of sunlight and a cheap catalyst.

This from Cardiff University:

It is the first time that this method has been demonstrated and could potentially lead to a sustainable way of producing hydrogen, which has enormous potential in the renewable energy industry due to its high energy content and the fact that it does not release toxic or greenhouse gases when it is burnt.

Read the full article.

“Hydrogen is seen as an important future energy carrier as the world moves from fossil fuels to renewable feedstocks,” says Michael Bowker, co-author of the study, “and our research has shown that even garden grass could be a good way of getting hold of it.”

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Does this summer feel a little warmer than usual? Well, that’s because it is.

According to NASA, the first six months of 2016 have been the warmest half-year ever recorded. Pair that with the smallest monthly Artic Sea ice extent in that same period of time, and these two indicators give a grim image of the accelerating pace of climate change.

In a report, NASA states that the global temperature has increased by 2.4°F since record keeping began in the 1800s. Additionally, Artic Sea ice has been declining at a rate of 13.4 percent per decade.

“It has been a record year so far for global temperatures, but the record high temperatures in the Arctic over the past six months have been even more extreme,” says Walt Mkeier, a sea ice researcher with NASA. “This warmth as well as unusual weather patterns have led to the record low sea ice extents so far this year.”

If climate continues down this same path, the effects could be devastating for the world. However, electrochemical and solid state science may have some of the answers to mitigate climate change.

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As the landscape of energy harvesting evolves, so do the devices that store that energy. According to researchers from Toyohashi University, all-solid-state lithium rechargeable batteries are at the top of the list of promising future energy storage technologies due to their high energy density, safety, and extreme cycle stability.

ECS member Yoji Sakurai and a team from the university’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Information Engineering recently published a paper detailing their development to advance the all-solid-state batteries, which pushes past barriers related to electrochemical performance.

(MORE: Read Sakurai’s previously published paper in ECS Electrochemistry Letters.)

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Fuel cells have existed (at least in theory) since the early 1800s, but have spent much of their existence as laboratory curiosities. It wasn’t until the mid-1900s that fuel cells finally got their time in the spotlight with the first major application in the Gemini and Apollo space flights.

While fuel cells have moved forward in the competitive field of energy storage, there are still many barriers that researchers are attempting to overcome. Especially today, with society making a conscious effort to move toward more sustainable types of power, much emphasis has been put on solid oxide fuel cells and moving them from the lab to the market.

(MORE: Get additional information on the evolution of fuel cell technology.)

A team of researchers from Washington State University believes they may have taken a crucial step in doing just that.

Moving fuel cells forward

The team recently published a paper detailing what they believe to be a key step in SOFC improvement and eventually implementation in the marketplace. These small improvements could mean big changes.
SOFCs, unlike other types of fuel cells, do not require the use of expensive materials (i.e. platinum) to develop.

“Solid oxide fuel cells are very fuel flexible in contrast to other kinds of fuel cells, like alkaline fuel cells,” Subhash Singhal, Battelle Fellow Emeritus at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and esteemed fuel cell expert, told ECS in a previous interview. “Solid oxide fuel cells can use a variety of fuel: natural gas, coal gas, and even liquid fuels like diesel and gasoline.”

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A new breakthrough in the measurement of solar energy flow has emerged from Lund University.

For the first time ever, researchers have successfully demonstrated the accurate measurement of solar energy in and between different parts of a photosynthetic organism. Gaining this basic understanding could potentially open doors to the development of solar energy technologies with much higher efficiency levels.

Researchers have known about the photochemical reactions inside organisms for over 80 years, but have not understood exactly how solar energy is transported to the organism.

“Not even the best solar cells that we as humans are capable of producing can be compared to what nature performs in the first stages of energy conversion,” says Donatas Zigmantas, co-author of the study. “That is why new knowledge about photosynthesis will become useful for the development of future solar technologies.”

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ECS_268Are you a student with plans to attend PRiME 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii this October? Help ECS help you! Apply to work six hours at the meeting as a student volunteer and receive a FREE PRiME 2016 meeting registration!*

In addition to the free meeting registration, selected volunteers will receive an exclusive behind-the-scenes experience, countless networking opportunities, a PRiME shirt, and a certificate of participation!

As a student volunteer, you will work closely with the PRiME staff and gain first-hand experience in what it takes to execute a PRiME meeting. Take advantage of the opportunity to network and engage with meeting attendees, symposium organizers, and PRiME staff while learning how registration operates, technical sessions run, and how major meeting programs are facilitated.

Ready to apply? Click here to fill out your application today!

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