ECS will be offering five short courses at the 229th ECS Meeting this year in San Diego.

What are short courses? Taught by academic and industry experts in intimate learning settings, short courses offer students and professionals alike the opportunity to greatly expand their knowledge and technical expertise. 

Short Course #5: Nanobiosensors

Raluca-Ioana Stefan-van Staden, Instructor

This course is intended for chemists, physicists, materials scientists, and engineers with an interest in applying electrochemical sensors on fields like biomedical analysis, pharmaceutical analysis, and food analysis. Also, this course can help understand the manufacturers of new electrochemical tools to explore better the response characteristics of nanobiosensors, and to connect in the best way their sensitivity with the sensitivity of the instrument. The course is best suited for an attendee who has basic knowledge of electrochemistry. The attendee will develop a basic understanding of the principles of molecular recognition, design, response characteristics, a new class of stochastic nanobiosensors, and various applications and features of nanobiosensors.

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Science KombatA new web-based game, Science Kombat, is pitting some of history’s greatest minds against each other.

Gamers can pick from eight of history’s most famous geniuses to play as, including Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Pythagoras, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Alan Turing, and Stephen Hawking.

But this game isn’t just any combat-based game. Each character makes use of a special superpower that is specific to their scientific contributions to the world. For example, Marie Curie can shot polonium and radium and her opponents, while Nikola Tesla unleashes huge bursts of electricity.

Check out more of these geniuses and their superpowers by playing the game.

Improving Access to Clean Water

Access to clean drinking water is something many take for granted. Crises like that of Flint, MI illuminate the fragility of our water infrastructure and how quickly access can be taken away. Even now, hundreds of millions of people around the world still lack access to adequate water.

Gaining access

But it’s not all negative. In the past 25 years, 2.6 billion people worldwide gained access to clean drinking water. This initiative stemmed from part of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in 1990, attempting to cut the number of global citizens without access to clean drinking water in half. While this goal was achieved in 2010, there are still about 663 million without proper water and sanitation.

(MORE: Check out powerful images from the Water Front project.)

The divide

So who doesn’t have clean drinking water? Overall, urban areas tend to have greater access due to improved water infrastructure systems set in place. Access in rural areas has improved over the years, but people in these areas are still hit the hardest.

The major divide is most visible when analyzing the numbers by regions. Africa, China, and India are among the hardest hit, making up the majority of the 663 million citizens without access to water.

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From Trash to (Energy) Treasure

Image: Liz West

Image: Liz West

It doesn’t matter how green you thumb is, there will always be fruits and vegetables in your garden that just don’t quite make it. The same concept goes for commercial farms, where farmers accumulate tons of fruit and vegetable waste every year.

In fact, the state of Florida alone produces an estimated 369,000 tons of waste from tomatoes each year. But what if you could turn that waste into electricity?

That’s exactly what one team comprised of researchers from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Princeton University, and Florida Gulf Coast University are doing.

In order to produce the electricity, the team developed a microbial electrochemical cell that can use tomato waste to generate electric current.

“We have found that spoiled and damaged tomatoes left over from harvest can be a particularly powerful source of energy when used in a biological or microbial electrochemical cell,” says Namita Shrestha, a graduate student working on the project.

This from Tree Hugger:

The bacteria in the fuel cell trigger an oxidation process that releases electrons which are captured by the fuel cell and become a source of electricity. The tomatoes have proven to be a potent energy source. The natural lycopene in the tomatoes acts as a mediator to encourage electricity generation and the researchers say that while waste material usually performs poorly compared to pure chemicals in fuel cells, the waste tomatoes perform just as well or better.

Read the full article.

While their first trial resulted in just 0.3 watts of electricity per 10 milligrams of tomato waste, the researchers believe that more trials will result in improved electricity generation.

ECS will be offering five short courses at the 229th ECS Meeting this year in San Diego.

What are short courses? Taught by academic and industry experts in intimate learning settings, short courses offer students and professionals alike the opportunity to greatly expand their knowledge and technical expertise. 

Short Course #4: Hydrodynamic Electrochemistry Using Rotating Electrodes

Li Sun, Instructor

This course is intended for scientists and engineers who are interested in using rotating electrodes in their projects.  Examples of application include fuel cell catalyst screening, corrosion inhibitor testing, and electroplating.   After a brief introduction of basic concepts of electrochemistry, major kinetic processes at electrode surface are described.  Emphasis is given to mass transport phenomena in fluid dynamics.  These theoretical discussions are designed to help attendees appreciate the simplicity and the wide reach of rotating electrode techniques.  A significant portion of the course will be allocated for a hands-on demonstration when a real experiment is performed.  Specific and practical knowledge, often taken for granted by experts, will be disseminated so that a researcher new to this area can get started quickly.

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Wrinkles and crumples, introduced by placing graphene on shrinky polymers, can enhance graphene's properties.Image: Brown University

Wrinkles and crumples, introduced by placing graphene on shrinky polymers, can enhance graphene’s properties.
Image: Brown University

By now we’ve heard about the seemingly endless possibilities for the wonder material graphene. The engineers at Brown University are looking to make those possibilities even more appealing through a process that could make the nanomaterial both water repellant and enhance its electrochemical properties.

The research team is looking to improve upon the already impressive graphene by wrinkling and crumpling sheets of the material by placing it on shrink polymers to enhance its properties, potentially leading to new breakthroughs in batteries and fuel cells.

This from Brown University:

This new research builds on previous work done by Robert Hurt and Ian Wong, from Brown’s School of Engineering. The team had previously showed that by introducing wrinkles into graphene, they could make substrates for culturing cells that were more similar to the complex environments in which cells grow in the body. For this latest work, the researchers led by Po-Yen Chen, a Hibbit postdoctoral fellow, wanted to build more complex architectures incorporating both wrinkles and crumples.

Read the full article.

Crumpling the graphene makes it superhydrophobic, a property that could be used to develop self-cleaning surfaces. Additionally, the enhanced electrochemical properties could be used in next-generation energy storage and production.

“You don’t need a new material to do it,” said Po-Yen Chen, co-author of the study. “You just need to crumple the graphene.”

Empowering Girls in STEM

In an effort to encourage young girls in STEM, Marvel and the National Academy of Sciences’ Science & Entertainment Exchange are working to creating scientific superheroes through the “Girls Reforming the Future Change” challenge.

In conjunction with the upcoming release of Captain America: Civil War, the two organizations have created a program for girls ages 15 to 18 to submit projects they believe could change the world. Through short videos, each contestant is encouraged to explain a STEM related project that could have a far-reaching impact globally.

The project will select five finalists to receive a $500 savings account. Additionally, one lucky contestant will receive the grand prize of an internship at Marvel Studios.

“I’m really excited to meet these exceptional young women who have STEM backgrounds and who maybe also want to be part of more of a creative- and science-based world,” says Elizabeth Olson, actor in the film. “And Marvel’s a perfect place for that.”

Learn more about the project at captainamericachallenge.com.

ECS will be offering five short courses at the 229th ECS Meeting this year in San Diego.

What are short courses? Taught by academic and industry experts in intimate learning settings, short courses offer students and professionals alike the opportunity to greatly expand their knowledge and technical expertise. 

Short Course #3: Advanced Impedance Spectroscopy

Mark Orazem, Instructor

This course is intended for chemists, physicists, materials scientists, and engineers with an interest in applying electrochemical impedance techniques to study a broad variety of electrochemical processes. The attendee will develop a basic understanding of the technique, the sources of errors in impedance measurements, the manner in which experiments can be optimized to reduce these errors, and the use of graphical methods to interpret measurements in terms of meaningful physical properties.

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Upcycling has become a huge trend in recent years. People are reusing and repurposing items that most wouldn’t give a second glance, transforming them into completely new, high-quality products. So what if we could take that same concept and apply it to the greenhouse gas emissions in the environment that are accelerating climate change?

An interdisciplinary team from UCLA is taking a shot at upcycling carbon dioxide by converting it into a new building material named CO2NCRETE, which could be fabricated by 3D printers.

“What this technology does is take something that we have viewed as a nuisance – carbon dioxide that’s emitted from smokestacks – and turn it into something valuable,” says J.R. DeShazo, senior member of the research team.

The fact that the team is attempting to produce a concrete-like material is also important. Currently, the extraction and preparation of building materials like concrete is responsible for 5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The upcycling of carbon could cut that number drastically all while reducing the enormous emissions being released from power plants (30 percent of the world’s emissions).

“We can demonstrate a process where we take lime and combine it with carbon dioxide to produce a cement-like material,” says Gaurav Sant, lead scientific contributor. “The big challenge we foresee with this is we’re not just trying to develop a building material. We’re trying to develop a process solution, an integrated technology which goes right from CO2 to a finished product.”

When the loaves in your breadbox begin to develop a moldy exterior caused by fungi, they tend to find a new home at the bottom of a trash can. However, researchers have recently developed some pretty interesting results that suggest bread mold could be the key to producing more sustainable electrochemical materials for use in rechargeable batteries.

For the first time, researchers were able to show that the fungus Neurospora crassa (better known as the enemy to bread) can transform manganese into mineral composites with promising electrochemical properties.

(MORE: Read the full paper.)

“We have made electrochemically active materials using a fungal manganese biomineralization process,” says Geoffrey Gadd of the University of Dundee in Scotland. “The electrochemical properties of the carbonized fungal biomass-mineral composite were tested in a supercapacitor and a lithium-ion battery, and it [the composite] was found to have excellent electrochemical properties. This system therefore suggests a novel biotechnological method for the preparation of sustainable electrochemical materials.”

This from University of Dundee:

In the new study, Gadd and his colleagues incubated N. crassa in media amended with urea and manganese chloride (MnCl2) and watched what happened. The researchers found that the long branching fungal filaments (or hyphae) became biomineralized and/or enveloped by minerals in various formations. After heat treatment, they were left with a mixture of carbonized biomass and manganese oxides. Further study of those structures show that they have ideal electrochemical properties for use in supercapacitors or lithium-ion batteries.

Read the full article here.

The manganese oxides in the lithium-ion batteries are showing an excellent cycling stability and more than 90 percent capacity after 200 cycles.