Image: Assianir

Image: Assianir

A recent pistachio recall is bringing Salmonella and other foodborne illnesses back into the national spotlight. The popularity of the in-shell pistachio brands recalled paired with the long shelf-life of the nut has health experts concerned for the potential of the foodborne illness to spread rapidly. Many are again asking: how can we better control food safety?

Shin Horikawa and his team at Auburn University believe their novel biosensor technology could resolve many of the current issues surrounding the spread of foodborne illnesses. As the principal scientist for a concept hand-picked for the FDA’s Food Safety Challenge, Horikawa is looking to make pathogen detection faster, more specific, and cheaper.

Faster, cheaper, smarter

“The current technology to detect Salmonella takes a really long time, from a few days to weeks. Our first priority is to shorten this detection time. That’s why we came up with a biosensor-based detection method,” Horikawa, Postdoctoral researcher at Auburn University and member of ECS, says.

Horikawa and his team’s concept revolves around the placement of a tiny biosensor—a sensor so small that it’s nearly invisible to the human eye—on the surface of fresh fruits and vegetables to detect the presence of pathogenic organisms such as Salmonella. This on-site, robust detection method utilizes magnetoelastic (ME) materials that can change their shape when a magnetic field is applied. The materials respond differently to each magnetic field, changing their shapes accordingly. This allows the researchers to detect if a specific pathogen—such as Salmonella—has attached to the biosensor.


Christian Amatore has given a new direction to electrochemistry and has had a pioneering role in the development of ultramicroelectrodes worldwide. He is currently the Director of Research at CNRS and will be giving the ECS Lecture at the 229th ECS Meeting in San Diego, CA, May 29-June 2, 2016. His talk is titled, “Seeing, Measuring and Understanding Vesicular Exocytosis of Neurotransmitters.”

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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 #2: Fundamentals of Electrochemistry: Basic Theory and Thermodynamic Methods

Jamie Noël, Instructor

This course covers the basic theory and application of electrochemical science. It is targeted toward people with a physical sciences or engineering background who have not been trained as electrochemists, but who want to add electrochemical methods to their repertoire of research approaches. There are many fields in which researchers originally approach their work from another discipline but then discover that it would be advantageous to understand and use some electrochemical methods to complement the work that they are doing. The course begins with a general, basic foundation of electrochemistry and uses it to develop the theory and experimental approaches to electrochemical problems of a thermodynamic nature. It complements a sister course, “Fundamentals of Electrochemistry: Basic Theory and Kinetic Methods”, offered alternately by the same instructor. The two courses have different emphasis, and each is designed to be a stand-alone introduction to electrochemical fundamentals. If both courses are desired, they can be taken in either order.


Efficiency of water electrolysis

Together with his team, ECS member Wolfgang Schuhmann develops new electrodes, for the production of hydrogen.
Image: Ruhr Universitaet Bochum

New research out of Ruhr Universitaet Bochum is showing big gains for water electrolysis, with new efficiency levels double that of previous efforts.

By applying a layer of copper atoms in conventional platinum electrodes, researchers were able to desorption easier for the catalyst surface. This system then generated twice the amount of hydrogen than a platinum electrode without a copper layer.

This breakthrough could help water electrolysis gain a better reputation as a method for hydrogen production. Prior to this breakthrough, too much energy was lost in the process to prove it efficient. Now, the efficiency level has been doubled.

This from Ruhr Universitaet Bochum:

The researchers modified the properties of the platinum catalyst surface by applying a layer of copper atoms. With this additional layer, the system generated twice the amount of hydrogen than with a pure platinum electrode. But only if the researchers applied the copper layer directly under the top layer of the platinum atoms. The group observed another useful side effect: the copper layer extended the service life of the electrodes, for example by rendering them more corrosion-resistant.

Read the full article.

“To date, hydrogen has been mainly obtained from fossil fuels, with large CO2 volumes being released in the process,” said Wolfgang Schuhmann, ECS member and lead author of the study. “If we succeeded in obtaining hydrogen by using electrolysis instead, it would be a huge step towards climate-friendly energy conversion. For this purpose, we could utilize surplus electricity, for example generated by wind power.”

Measuring the pH level of a solution is usually a relatively simple process. However, that process begins to get more complicated as things get smaller.

Examining changes in acidity or alkalinity at the nanoscale, for example, has been a nearly impossible feat for researchers. Now, a team from the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, including 11 year ECS member Gunter Wittstock, has developed a novel method of pH measurement at the nanoscale.

The group has developed a nanosensor with the ability to continuously monitor changes in pH levels.

This from the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw:

Used as a scanning electrochemical microscope probe, it allows for the precise measurement of changes in acidity/alkalinity occurring over very small fragments of the surface of a sample immersed in a solution. The spatial resolution here is just 50 nm, and in the future, it can be reduced even further.

Read the full article.

“The ability to monitor changes in the acidity or alkalinity of solutions at the nanoscale, and thus over areas whose dimensions can be counted in billionths of a meter, is an important step toward better understanding of many chemical processes. The most obvious examples here are various kinds of catalytic reactions or pitting corrosion, which begins on very small fragments of a surface,” said Marcin Opallo, lead author in the study.

The team hopes that this new method could lead to monitoring of pH changes taking place in the vicinity of individual chemical molecules.

Nikola Tesla is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable scientists in history, unfortunately much of his groundbreaking research lived in the shadows for the majority of his life. His pioneering contributions to science included alternating current, hydroelectricity, cryogenic engineering, the remote control, neon lighting, and wireless communication just to name a few.

While Tesla may have died around 30 years before the first call made made via a wireless cellphone, his advances in science helped make that reality achievable.

In an effort to offer the man at the core of wireless communication, a new statue has been erected in Tesla’s likeness in Silicon Valley that is equipped with free Wi-Fi.

The statue is the brainchild of Dorrian Porter, and entrepreneur that finds likeness with Tesla in that they were both immigrant that found scientific success in the U.S.

“This unique project… is also intended to inspire the entrepreneurs who come to the Silicon Valley to think big and selflessly—as Tesla did,” says Porter. “The free exchange of information and affordable access to sustainable energy have the potential to solve the critical issues of poverty and education, and inspire peace.”

CO2 to CO

An important innovation is the optimized interface between gas, fluid and copper particles, allowing the very efficient supply of CO2 and removal of the product, CO.
Image: University of Twente

In an effort to convert carbon dioxide into carbon dioxide, researchers have developed an electrode in the form of a hollow porous coper fiber that completes this transformation at an extremely efficient level.

The researchers, including ECS member Marc T.M. Koper, believe that this development could give the industrial industry an edge, where it would be extremely beneficial for chemical processes that require gas conversion.

(MORE: Read additional research by Koper.)

The process is not confined to the conversion of carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, however. Because the manufacturing method is suited for other fibers, it could also be applied to the conversion of oxygen in a fuel cell or hydrogen conversion in the electrochemical production of ammonia.

While the principal idea behind the process is straightforward, the efficiency and selectivity of the reaction is the surprising factor.


There is no doubt that women have made an immense impact on the sciences. From Marie Curie to Esther Takeuchi, women have made outstanding contributions to innovation, research, and technology.

In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating by (briefly) highlighting a few women who have changed STEM.

Marie Curie

A list of pioneering women in STEM would be incomplete if it did not include the extraordinary Marie Curie. Her inspiring story and discovery or radium helped pave the way to inspire many future women in STEM. Curie was the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, and the only person to win in multiple sciences.

Irene Joliot-Curie

Continuing the work of her mother Marie Curie, Irene Joliot-Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1935 for the synthesis of new radioactive elements. Her work included the study of natural and artificial radioactivity, transmutation of elements, and nuclear physics. Joliot-Curie’s work lead to research by German physicist that eventually resulted in the discovery of nuclear fission.

Lili Deligianni

Lili Deligianni’s innovative work in chemical engineering has led to cutting-edge developments in chip technology and thin film solar cells. She has been with ECS for many years, currently serving as the Society’s secretary. Her current research interests in the development of materials for low power on-chip converters and thin film solar cells are game changing technologies that could have applications in solar panel sand electric cars.


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 #1: Basic Corrosion for Electrochemists

Luis F. Garfias-Mesias, Instructor

This course covers the basics of corrosion science and corrosion engineering. It is targeted toward people with a physical sciences or engineering background who have not been trained as corrosionists, but who want to understand the basic concepts of corrosion, learn to select the appropriate materials an know which will be the typical techniques and methodologies to test and qualify materials (resistant to corrosion).

The course will begin with a general, basic foundation of electrochemistry and corrosion. It will cover the typical engineering materials (metals, non-metals, composites, etc.) and their interaction with their environment (temperature, pressure, gasses, liquids, etc.) and the common methodologies to prevent and control their degradation (material selection, adding inhibitors, applying a protective coating, using cathodic or anodic protection, etc.). Basic knowledge of corrosion monitoring and inspection as well as field and laboratory testing will be covered.


Graphene is at it again, outperforming all known materials (including superconductors) in a recent study testing the transmission of high frequency electrical signals.

The researchers found that when the electrical signals pass through graphene, none of the energy is lost – opening the door to a new realm of electrical transmission.

This from the University of Plymouth:

And since graphene lacks band-gap, which allows electrical signals to be switched on and off using silicon in digital electronics, academics say it seems most applicable for applications ranging from next generation high-speed transistors and amplifiers for mobile phones and satellite communications to ultra-sensitive biological sensors.

Read the full article.

“An accurate understanding of the electromagnetic properties of graphene over a broad range of frequencies (from direct current to over 10 GHz) has been an important quest for several groups around the world,” said Shakil Awan, leader of the study. “Initial measurements gave conflicting results with theory because graphene’s intrinsic properties are often masked by much larger interfering signals from the supporting substrate, metallic contacts and measurement probes. Our results for the first time not only confirm the theoretical properties of graphene but also open up many new applications of the material in high-speed electronics and bio-sensing.”