Taking Electrochemistry to the U.S. House of Representatives

In a push for more basic research funding for electrochemical science, past ECS President Daniel Scherson testified before a U.S. House subcommittee to discuss innovations in solar fuels, electricity storage, and advanced materials.

“I want them to understand where electrochemistry fits in many aspects of our lives,” Scherson, the Frank Hovorka Professor of Chemistry at Case Western Reserve University, said prior to the hearing.

During the hearing, Scherson emphasized to the subcommittee that in order to solve some of society’s most pressing problems, more federal funding to basic electrochemistry research is critical. He further explained that without efforts in electrochemistry, nearly all aspects of energy storage and conversion – including batteries, fuels cells, EVs, and wind and solar energy – would cease to be viable.

“Electrochemistry is a two century old discipline that has reemerged in recent years as a key to achieve sustainability and improve human welfare,” Scherson told the subcommittee.

In recent years, budget cuts in federal spending have adversely affected scientific research. In April of this year, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) launched an attack on federal research dollars in the form of the Wastebook – a report detailing specific studies that the senator believes to be wasteful spending.

Many of these accusations of wasteful spending are often derived from the misunderstanding of basic research. Basic research, in any discipline, is critical for the long term success of a product. However, because the money invested doesn’t immediately yield a commercially viable product, does not mean those dollars are wasted.

Take, for instance, the cellphone. The technology behind the first radio telephone service for motorists emerged in 1959, but it wasn’t until 1983 that the first cellphone was approved for commercial use. Additionally, the cellphone of 1983 is much different than the cellphone of today due to basic research in fields such as battery, materials science, display technology, sensor technology, and many more.

Now, focus on the pace of innovation in basic research has seen a great shift toward energy storage technology. Scherson’s basic message to the U.S. House subcommittee was that if we want to see practical devices in energy storage and a shift in the energy landscape, there must be more basic research funding for the field.

“Electrochemistry has become a central way to generate, store, and manage electricity derived from such intermittent energy sources as wind,” Scherson said in the testimony.

Advances in energy storage could make a huge impact in the future of the electrical grid, widespread implementation of electric vehicles, and mitigating the effects of climate change. The grid and transportation sectors currently account for two-thirds of all energy used in the U.S. Additionally, these changes, according to Scherson, could help bolster a global economy.

“Technological advances in these areas will bring about a reduction in operating costs, spur economic growth, create new jobs, and promote new assimilation in the global marketplace,” Scherson said.

Watch the entire hearing below.

Read Scherson’s full oral testimony.

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