Robb Cohen Photography & Video

John W. Weidner of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Cincinnati received the 2019 Carl Wagner Memorial Award at the 236th Electrochemical Society (ECS) Meeting. The award recognizes mid-career achievement, excellence in research areas of interest of the Society, and significant contributions in the teaching or guidance of students or colleagues in education, industry, or government.

Weidner delivers “Mathematical Modeling of Electrochemical Systems” on Tuesday, 15 October, at 1140-1200 in Room 311.

John W. Weidner

John W. Weidner is an ECS Fellow and dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. He published 113 refereed journal articles and contributed to over 200 technical presentations in the field of electrochemical engineering. His research group created novel synthesis routines… (more…)

In September 2019, at the 16th International Symposium on Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC-XVI), Symposium Chair Subhash Singhal presented a plaque from The Electrochemical Society (ECS) to Yukiko Dokiya, the widow of Professor Masayuki Dokiya. Also present were daughter Fumiko Dokiya, her husband Hironobu Dokiya, and their daughter Yoko Dokiya and son Masahiro Dokiya.  The plaque thanked the Dokiya family for their generous contribution in Masayuki’s memory. The gift made possible the creation of the Dokiya Fund of The Electrochemical Society in 2004. From 2004 to 2019, the Fund provided financial travel assistance to 128 Dokiya Fund Travel Grant Recipients to attend ECS and other related meetings around the world in their pursuit of electrochemical science and technology to benefit mankind. (more…)

Elon Musk promised—and Jeff Dahn delivered! With the publishing of a ground-breaking paper in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society (JES), Dahn announced to the world that Tesla may soon have a battery that makes their robot taxis and long-haul electric trucks viable. Dahn and his research group is Tesla’s battery research partner. Dahn says “… that cells of this type should be able to power an electric vehicle for over one million miles and last at least two decades in grid energy storage.

According to Doron Aurbach, JES batteries and energy storage technical editor, “This comprehensive article is expected to be impactful in the field of batteries and energy storage. It is a very systematic study by one of the most renowned and prestigious electrochemistry groups in the world. It was a pleasure for me as a technical editor to handle this paper. It substantiates all the statements about the truly high quality and importance of JES, one of the leading and most prestigious journals in electrochemistry. JES provides an excellent service to the global electrochemistry community—and thousands of ECS members—regardless of ‘impact factors.’” As of today, Dahn’s JES article has received over 31,563 abstract views, over 17,000 articles downloads, and quotes in news outlets around the world. (more…)

Jeff Dahn

More efficient, longer-lasting batteries are needed to ensure the future of the electric vehicle market. Thanks to Jeff R. Dahn and his Dalhousie University research team, a “million-mile battery” may soon be a reality. Dahn is Tesla’s battery research partner. In “A Wide Range of Testing Results on an Excellent Lithium-Ion Cell Chemistry to be used as Benchmarks for New Battery Technologies,” Dahn describes a new Li-ion battery cell with a single crystal NMC cathode and an advanced electrolyte. The new battery should power an electric vehicle for one million miles and last at least 20 years in grid energy storage—making Tesla’s electric-powered semi-autonomous driving cars and trucks viable.

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It’s winter. And with that comes heavy coats, icy winds, and occasionally, below freezing temperatures: conditions not favorable for batteries.

Car batteries

Temperature extremes, in general, are not favorable to batteries. According to Lifewire, lead-acid batteries drop in capacity by about 20 percent in normal to freezing weather, and down to about 50 percent in temperatures that reach about -22 degrees Fahrenheit.

As a result, you may find your car battery giving out on any given winter morning. This is due to reduced capacity and increased draw from starter motors and accessories. This is because starter motors require a tremendous amount of amperage to get going: knocking out the capacity of even the newest batteries. (more…)

Fuel CellApplying a tiny coating of costly platinum just 1 nanometer thick—about 1/100,000th the width of a human hair—to a core of much cheaper cobalt could bring down the cost of fuel cells.

This microscopic marriage could become a crucial catalyst in new fuel cells that use generate electricity from hydrogen fuel to power cars and other machines. The new fuel cell design would require far less platinum, a very rare metal that sold for almost $900 an ounce the day this article was produced.

“This technique could accelerate our launch out of the fossil-fuel era,” says Chao Wang, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University and senior author of a study published in the journal Nano Letters.

“It will not only reduce the cost of fuel cells,” Wang says. “It will also improve the energy efficiency and power performance of clean electric vehicles powered by hydrogen.”

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Fuel CellA closer look at catalysts is giving researchers a better sense of how these atom-thick materials produce hydrogen.

Their findings could accelerate the development of 2D materials for energy applications, such as fuel cells.

The researchers’ technique allows them to probe through tiny “windows” created by an electron beam and measure the catalytic activity of molybdenum disulfide, a two-dimensional material that shows promise for applications that use electrocatalysis to extract hydrogen from water.

Initial tests on two variations of the material proved that most production is coming from the thin sheets’ edges.

Researchers already knew the edges of 2D materials are where the catalytic action is, so any information that helps maximize it is valuable, says Jun Lou, a professor of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University whose lab developed the technique with colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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Researchers have created a way to look inside fuel cells to see the chemical processes that lead them to breakdown.

Fuel cells could someday generate electricity for nearly any device that’s battery-powered, including automobiles, laptops, and cellphones. Typically using hydrogen as fuel and air as an oxidant, fuel cells are cleaner than internal combustion engines because they produce power via electrochemical reactions. Since water is their primary product, they considerably reduce pollution.

The oxidation, or breakdown, of a fuel cell’s central electrolyte membrane can shorten their lifespan. The process leads to formation of holes in the membrane and can ultimately cause a chemical short circuit. Engineers created the new technique to examine the rate at which this oxidation occurs with hopes of finding out how to make fuel cells last longer.

Using fluorescence spectroscopy inside the fuel cell, they are able to probe the formation of the chemicals responsible for the oxidation, namely free radicals, during operation. The technique could be a game changer when it comes to understanding how the cells break down, and designing mitigation strategies that would extend the fuel cell’s lifetime.

“If you buy a device—a car, a cell phone—you want it to last as long as possible,” says Vijay Ramani, professor of environment & energy at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis.

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Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) are taking a closer look at fuel cell catalysts in hopes of finding a viable alternative to the expensive platinum and platinum-group metal catalysts currently used in fuel cell electrodes. Developments in this area could lead to more affordable next-generation polymer electrolyte fuel cells for vehicles.

The research, led by ECS fellow Piotr Zelenay, looks at the fuel cell catalysts at the atomic level, providing unique insight into the efficiency of non-precious metals for automotive and other applications.

“What makes this exploration especially important is that it enhances our understanding of exactly why these alternative catalysts are active,” Zelenay says. “We’ve been advancing the field, but without understanding the sources of activity; without the structural and functional insights, further progress was going to be very difficult.”

This from LANL:

Platinum aids in both the electrocatalytic oxidation of hydrogen fuel at the anode and electrocatalytic reduction of oxygen from air at the cathode, producing usable electricity. Finding a viable, low-cost PGM-free catalyst alternative is becoming more and more possible, but understanding exactly where and how catalysis is occurring in these new materials has been a long-standing challenge. This is true, Zelenay noted, especially in the fuel cell cathode, where a relatively slow oxygen reduction reaction, or ORR, takes place that requires significant ‘loading’ of platinum.

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Fuel CellInterest in electric and hybrid vehicles continues to grow across the globe. The world economy saw EV sales go from around 315,000 in 2014 to 536,000 in 2015, and trends so far for 2016 show that the number of vehicles sold this year is on track to far exceed numbers we’ve seen in previous years.

Moving EVs forward

But in order to make these cars, there needs to be an energy storage source that is not only sustainable, but cheap to produce, with high efficiency, and can be easily mass produced. One of the leading contenders in that race has become fuel cell technology.

In recent years, new materials and better heat management processes have advanced fuel cells. Now, researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s NERSC center (including ECS Fellow Radoslav Adzic and ECS member Kotaro Sasaki) are putting their chips on polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) to be at the forefront of fuel cell technology due recent finds. In a new study, the group showed that PEFCs could be made to run more efficiently and produced more cost-effectively by reducing the amount of a single key ingredient: platinum.

Laboratory curiosity

While fuel cells date back to 1839, they spent a majority of their existence as laboratory curiosities. It wasn’t until the 1950s when fuel cells finally made their way to the main stage, eventually going on to power the Gemini and Apollo space flights in the 1960s.

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