An online platform that had once offered a voice to scientists – to join in on debates and discussions of other scientists and inquisitive minds – may now be a thing of the past. Social news website Reddit hosts r/science, one of the world’s largest online science communities, which ran a popular Ask Me Anything Q&A (AMA) series that picked the brains of academics about topics like climate change, physics, and astronomy has come to an end. This was all due to a change in Reddit’s algorithm, changing how posts were ranked and making it nearly impossible to compete with the charm of cute animal GIF’s in the competition of upvotes.

The demise of the Ask Me Anything Q&A series is considered a major setback for the science community. The forum grew to nearly 19 million users, now left with no other platform that offers quite the same reach, accessibility, and engagement.

With flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, and the rest of the anti-science brigade making their views heard in almost every corner of the internet, it’s a difficult time for those who value insightful discussion of peer-reviewed science online,” says Alastair McCloskey, a digital content coordinator in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield. Read his full article here.


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Hydro-Québec (an ECS institutional member) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory have announced a breakthrough in the lithium-ion battery materials field, publishing their research results in the Journal of Power Sources. Using a cathode made with new high voltage safe materials, the researchers have achieved a world first: building a 1.2 Ah lithium-ion cell with a voltage of 5 V.

“With the high voltage of this new cell, we can reach a very high energy density,” says Karim Zaghib, General Director of the Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage. “This highly desirable property can improve batteries used in a wide range of applications.” Army Research Laboratory scientists Jan Allen and Richard Jow, also inventors of this high voltage cathode material, believe that the high cell voltage can, in addition to enabling high energy density, improve the design of devices.

Lithium-ion batteries are widely used to power many electronic devices, including smartphones, medical devices and electric vehicles. Their high energy density, excellent durability and lightness make them a popular choice for energy storage. In response to the growing demand for their use in a wide range of products, there are many teams working to improve their storage capacity. In particular, there is great interest in developing new compounds that could increase energy storage capacity, stability and lifespan. That is why the innovation announced today has such a strong commercial potential.


Reinventing the Inductor

ECS member Kaustav Banerjee, and his team, recently discovered a materials-based approach to reinventing inductors.

A basic building block of modern technology, inductors are everywhere: cellphones, laptops, radios, televisions, cars. And surprisingly, they are essentially the same today as in 1831, when they were first created by English scientist Michael Faraday.

The particularly large size of inductors made according to Faraday’s design are a limiting factor in delivering the miniaturized devices that will help realize the potential of the Internet of Things, which promises to connect people to some 50 billion objects by 2020. That lofty goal is expected to have an estimated economic impact between $2.7 and $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.

According to Banerjee, this new approach yields a smaller, higher-performing alternative to the classic design.


Editor’s note: This briefing was written by Admiral Instruments. Admiral Instruments will be exhibiting (booth 309) at the 233rd ECS Meeting in Seattle, WA this May. See a list of all our exhibitors.

You’ve probably heard your potentiostat ‘click’ while running a cyclic voltammetry experiment or similar sweep methods. Have you ever wondered where that clicking comes from, and why it happens?

The clicking sound is made by a series of electromechanical relays (AKA switches) when they turn on or off to direct the flow of current (I) to a different shunt resistor. A shunt resistor is a specialized resistor with high accuracy and a low temperature coefficient. In most commercially-available potentiostats, current is not directly measured. Rather, current readings are calculated by dividing the voltage drop (V) across the shunt resistor by the resistance (R) of the shunt resistor.

I = V/R


National Academy of EngineeringRaymond J. Gorte, Yang Shao-Horn, and M. Stanley Whittingham, all of whom are ECS fellows, were recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Election to the NAE is one of the most prestigious professional distinctions bestowed upon engineers.

According to the NAE, academy membership honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature” and to “the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.”


By: Neal Dawson-Elli, Seong Beom Lee, Manan Pathak, Kishalay Mitra, and Venkat R. Subramanian

This article refers to a recently published open access paper in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, “Data Science Approaches for Electrochemical Engineers: An Introduction through Surrogate Model Development for Lithium-Ion Batteries.”

Electrochemistry and Data Science

Image via Neal Dawson-Elli
(Click to enlarge.)

Data science is often hailed as the fourth paradigm of science. As the computing power available to researchers increases, data science techniques become more and more relevant to a larger group of scientists. A quick literature search for electrochemistry and data science will reveal a startling lack of analysis done on the data science side. This paper is an attempt to help introduce the topics of data science to electrochemists, as well as to analyze the power of these methods when combined with physics-based models.

At the core of the paper is the idea that one cannot be successful treating every problem as a black box and applying liberal use of data science – in other words, despite its growing popularity, it is not a panacea. The image shows the basic workflow for using data science techniques – the creation of a dataset, splitting into training-test pairs, training a model, and then evaluating the model on some task. In this case, the training data comes from many simulations of the pseudo two-dimensional lithium-ion battery model. However, in order to get the best results, one cannot simply pair the inputs and outputs and train a machine learning model on it. The inputs, or features, must be engineered to better highlight changes in your output data, and sometimes the problem needs to be totally restructured in order to be successful.


SemiconductorObjects with “negative mass” react to the application of force in exactly the opposite way from what you would expect.

Researchers have created particles with negative mass in an atomically thin semiconductor, by causing it to interact with confined light in an optical microcavity.

This alone is “interesting and exciting from a physics perspective,” says Nick Vamivakas, an associate professor of quantum optics and quantum physics at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics. “But it also turns out the device we’ve created presents a way to generate laser light with an incrementally small amount of power.”

The device, described in Nature Physics, consists of two mirrors that create an optical microcavity, which confines light at different colors of the spectrum depending on the spacing of the mirrors.

Researchers in Vamivakas’ lab, including co-lead authors Sajal Dhara (now with the Indian Institute of Technology) and PhD student Chitraleema Chakraborty, embedded an atomically thin molybdenum diselenide semiconductor in the microcavity.


By: Richard Gunderman, Indiana University

Nikola TeslaMatch the following figures – Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, Alfred Nobel and Nikola Tesla – with these biographical facts:

1. Spoke eight languages

2. Produced the first motor that ran on AC current

3. Developed the underlying technology for wireless communication over long distances

4. Held approximately 300 patents

5. Claimed to have developed a “superweapon” that would end all war

The match for each, of course, is Tesla. Surprised? Most people have heard his name, but few know much about his place in modern science and technology.

The 75th anniversary of Tesla’s death on Jan. 7 provides a timely opportunity to review the life of a man who came from nowhere yet became world famous; claimed to be devoted solely to discovery but relished the role of a showman; attracted the attention of many women but never married; and generated ideas that transformed daily life and created multiple fortunes but died nearly penniless.


Quantum dotsIn a new paper, researchers describe the underlying mechanisms involved in creating a widely used class of quantum dots that use cadmium and selenium compounds as their molecular precursors.

For more than 30 years, researchers have been creating quantum dots—tiny, crystalline, nanoscale semiconductors with remarkable optical and electronic properties.

They’ve applied them to improve television sets, for example, to greatly enhance color. A host of other applications are in the works, involving integrated circuits, solar cells, computing, medical imaging, and inkjet printing, among others.

But quantum dot synthesis has occurred largely by trial and error, because little has been understood about how the chemicals involved in making quantum dots—some highly toxic—actually interact to form the resulting nanoparticles. The new research may change that, revealing more about the process of quantum dot formation.

Ironically, the team also discovered that, at one point during this process, the safer, more controllable compounds now employed decompose into the same highly toxic compounds that were used in initial quantum dot production 30 years ago.


A team of researchers from MIT recently demonstrated a new electrochemical method to study thermodynamic processes in an ultra-high temperature molten oxide. In an effort to find new insights into the thermodynamic properties of refractory materials, researchers have developed a container-less electrochemical method to study thermodynamic properties of materials like aluminum oxide, which melts at temperatures above 2,000 degrees Celsius.

The finding were reported in the open access paper, “Electrochemical Study of a Pendant Molten Alumina Droplet and Its Application for Thermodynamic Property Measurements of Al-Ir,” which was recently published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

“We have a new technique which demonstrates that the rules of electrochemistry are followed for these refractory melts,” says senior author Antoine Allanore, an associate professor of metallurgy and member of ECS. “We have now evidence that these melts are very stable at high temperature, they have high conductivity.”


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