By: Vera Keller, University of Oregon


Galileo demonstrates a telescope to the doge of Venice. Giuseppe Bertini

While the Nobel Prizes are 115 years old, rewards for scientific achievement have been around much longer. As early as the 17th century, at the very origins of modern experimental science, promoters of science realized the need for some system of recognition and reward that would provide incentive for advances in the field.

Before the prize, it was the gift that reigned in science. Precursors to modern scientists – the early astronomers, philosophers, physicians, alchemists and engineers – offered wonderful achievements, discoveries, inventions and works of literature or art as gifts to powerful patrons, often royalty. Authors prefaced their publications with extravagant letters of dedication; they might, or they might not, be rewarded with a gift in return. Many of these practitioners worked outside of academe; even those who enjoyed a modest academic salary lacked today’s large institutional funders, beyond the Catholic Church. Gifts from patrons offered a crucial means of support, yet they came with many strings attached.

Eventually, different kinds of incentives, including prizes and awards, as well as new, salaried academic positions, became more common and the favor of particular wealthy patrons diminished in importance. But at the height of the Renaissance, scientific precursors relied on gifts from powerful princes to compensate and advertise their efforts.

Presented to please a patron

With courtiers all vying for a patron’s attention, gifts had to be presented with drama and flair. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) presented his newly discovered moons of Jupiter to the Medici dukes as a “gift” that was literally out of this world. In return, Prince Cosimo “ennobled” Galileo with the title and position of court philosopher and mathematician.

If a gift succeeded, the gift-giver might, like Galileo in this case, be fortunate enough to receive a gift in return. Gift-givers could not, however, predict what form it would take, and they might find themselves burdened with offers they couldn’t refuse. Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), the great Danish Renaissance astronomer, received everything from cash to chemical secrets, exotic animals and islands in return for his discoveries.


Electric VehiclesIn 2005, the number of electric vehicles on the road could be measured in the hundreds. Over the years, researchers have made technological leaps in the field of EVs. Now, we’ve exceeded a global threshold of one million EVs, and the demand continues to grow.

However, the ultimate success and growth of the EV hinges on battery technology. With some scientists stating that convention Li-ion batteries are approaching their theoretical energy density limits, researchers have begun exploring new energy storage technologies.

ECS member Qiang Zhang is one researcher focusing on technologies beyond Li-ion, specifically focusing on lithium sulfur batteries in a recently published paper.

“The lithium sulfur battery is recognized as a promising alternative for its intercalation chemistry counterparts,” Zhang says. “It possesses a theoretical energy density of ~2600 Wh kg-1 and provides a theoretical capacity of 1672 mAh g−1 through multi-electron redox reactions. Additionally, valuable characteristics like high natural abundance, low cost and environmental friendliness of sulfur have lent competitive edges to the lithium sulfur battery.”


Flame ChallengeActor, writer, and science advocate Alan Alda recently launched the sixth Flame Challenge science education contest.

Since 2011, Alda has presented scientists with questions asked by kids in an effort to bridge a communication gap and enhance overall scientific communication to those not in the field. After sorting through hundreds of questions proposed by kids, Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science has announced that it will be asking scientists from around the world, “What is energy?”

“As far as I know, nothing happens without energy,” Alda says. “Night and day, we’re surrounded by it, moved by it — we live and breathe by it. But what is it?”

The Flame Challenge will be judged by 11-year-olds from around the world, challenging the scientists submitting answer to easily communicate these complex concepts.

“I hope scientists from every discipline will have a go at answering this fundamental question about energy. Eleven-year-olds all over the world are waiting to hear the explanation,” Alda says. “The kids — and our sponsors, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society — all invite scientists to see if they can explain this complex aspect of nature clearly and vividly. Give it your best shot because, don’t forget, the kids themselves are the judges.”

Scientists and educators looking to participate in this challenge can get more information at

Deadline for Submitting Abstracts
Dec. 16, 2016
Submit today!

talk-imageTopic Close-up #4

Symposium L02: Ion-Conducting Polymeric (or, Polymer-based) Materials

Symposium Focus is on polymeric ion-conducting materials. They are supramolecular systems which comprise/are doped with ions and present a significant conductivity. Polymeric ion-conducting materials are found at the heart of a number of advanced applications, ranging from electrochemical energy conversion and storage systems (e.g., lithium batteries, low-temperature fuel cells, supercapacitors) to sensors, actuators, photo-electrochemical devices, not to mention the fields of microelectronics and biotechnology. This Symposium will place a particular emphasis on all the fundamental and applied aspects of the science and technology of polymeric ion-conducting materials, covering experimental and theoretical studies on their structure, properties, interactions and mechanisms of charge migration.

Ask Us Anything!

r/scienceECS Technical Editor Dr. Gerald Frankel, accompanied by ECS’s Executive Director Roque Calvo, hosted our first ever “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) on Reddit’s r/science. The event gathered over 2,000 upvotes and more than 100 comments. We did this in honor of Open Access Week 2016 (Oct. 24-30), as a means of having an open dialogue regarding Free the Science, ECS’s effort to keep money in scientific research rather than in the publishing industry.

For about an hour Frankel and Calvo fielded questions on topics ranging from Open Access and the staggering cost of APCs, to failed Youtube experiments and electric car batteries.

You can read the whole thing on Reddit, or check out an archived version on The Winnower.

And don’t forget, the 132,000 articles and abstracts in the ECS Digital Library will be available free of charge Oct. 24-30.

Have a question that wasn’t answered? Feel free to reach out to us at

ECS is pleased to share the results of our first ever Open Access Week competition! We received many thoughtful entries, and ultimately decided that it was necessary to draw a tie. Our two 1st place winners, Caitlin Dillard and Manan Pathak, will each be receiving a $250 prize, as well as an additional $500 in funding to their respective ECS Student Chapters.

Here’s a bit about our winners:

Manan PathakManan is currently pursuing his PhD with Prof. Venkat Subramanian at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he is a Clean Energy Institute Fellow. He is actively involved with the recently formed University of Washington ECS Student Chapter, and serves as the vice-chair for education and outreach. Manan completed his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering at IIT Bombay in India. He is also one of the co-founders of a start-up called Battery Informatics where they are trying to commercialize their research on electrochemical and thermal physics model based Battery Management Systems (BMS). More details about the same can be found on

“I was fortunate to get admitted to an institute like IIT, in a developing country like India, which has only about 74% literacy rate, and has the highest population of illiterates in the world…Education was a luxury for many of them at such a young age, where schools would shut down during monsoon season…Their hard-work, passion and innate curiosity to study science and engineering inspired me to pursue research…OA is a way to reach out to such people, and bring them closer to the world scientific community. People are no longer bounded by their means but only by their curiosity and passion. The pursuit of knowledge and its free access will ultimately lead to the pursuit of happiness.”


Student Poster Session winners

Congratulations to the PRiME 2016 Student Poster Session winners!

It is with great pride that ECS honors the winners of the General Student Poster Session Awards for the PRiME 2016 meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii.  In following with the meeting tradition, awards recognized the top poster presentations in electrochemical and solid state categories.

ECS established the General Student Poster Session Awards in 1993 to acknowledge the eminence of its students’ work. The winners exhibit a profound understanding of their research topic and its relation to fields of interest to ECS.

In order to be eligible for the General Student Poster Session Awards, students must submit their abstracts to the Z01 General Society Student Poster Session symposium and present their posters at the biannual meeting. First and second place winners receive a certificate in addition to a cash award.

The winners of the General Student Poster Session Awards for the PRiME 2016 Meeting are as follows:


By: Sameer Sonkusale, Tufts University


Image: Alonso Nichols, Tufts University, CC BY-ND

Doctors have various ways to assess your health. For example, they measure your heart rate and blood pressure to indirectly assess your heart function, or straightforwardly test a blood sample for iron content to diagnose anemia. But there are plenty of situations in which that sort of monitoring just isn’t possible.

To test the health of muscle and bone in contact with a hip replacement, for example, requires a complicated – and expensive – procedure. And if problems are found, it’s often too late to truly fix them. The same is true when dealing with deep wounds or internal incisions from surgery.

In my engineering lab at Tufts University, we asked ourselves whether we could make sensors that could be seamlessly embedded in body tissue or organs – and yet could communicate to monitors outside the body in real time. The first concern, of course, would be to make sure that the materials wouldn’t cause infection or an immune response from the body. The sensors would also need to match the mechanical properties of the body part they would be embedded in: soft for organs and stretchable for muscle. And, ideally, they would be relatively inexpensive to make in large quantities.


Lithium-ion battery safety has been a hot topic in the scientific community in light of instances of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 bursting into flames. In order to address these concerns, scientists must first better understand exactly what is causing these safety concerns. In order to do that, a team from the University of Michigan is looking inside the batteries and filming growing dendrites – something the researchers cite as one of the major problems for next-gen lithium batteries.

The study focused primarily on lithium-metal batteries, which have the potential to store 10 times more energy that current lithium-ion batteries. However, researchers believe that issues with dendrites cannot be amended, the future of the Li-metal battery will not be as limitless as some believe.

“As researchers try to cram more and more energy in the same amount of space, morphology problems like dendrites become major challenges. While we don’t fully know why the Note 7s exploded, dendrites make bad things like that happen,” said Kevin Wood, postdoctoral researcher and ECS student member. “If we want high energy density batteries in the future and don’t want them to explode, we need to solve the dendrite problem.”


ImmigrationNobel laureates are speaking out on immigration policies, highlight their own status as immigrants and the importance of open boarders to advance science. Of the year’s Nobel Prize winners, six affiliated with U.S. universities are immigrants.

Across the globe, many countries have been discussing and legislating new immigration policies that make it more difficult to travel from place to place. These immigration conversations have led to moves such as the UK’s Brexit, Hungary’s attempts to keep “outsiders” from crossing its boarder, and U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border.

Research conducted in late 2015 revealed that as immigration policies harden globally, scientists in the developing world are caught in the crosshairs, causing innovation and research to suffer.

“I think the resounding message that should go out all around the world is that science is global,” James Fraser Stoddart, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and a professor at Northwestern University, who was born in Scotland, told The Hill. “It’s particularly pertinent to have these discussions in view of the political climate on both sides of the pond at the moment…. I think the United States is what it is today largely because of open borders.”


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