Inspired by nature, Shelley Minteer and her research group at the University of Utah are looking for a way to merge electrochemistry and biology. With a little inspiration, Minteer aims to bring to life innovative devices that can be applied to anything from fuel cells to electrosynthesis.

“We’re looking at biological inspiration,” says Minteer. “As electrochemists, we’re looking at things in terms of the molecular biology of living cells and seeing how we can make a better electrochemical cell from that.”

Inspiration from Biology

The sciences of biology and electrochemistry tend to have many fundamental concepts in common. On the biological side, one can look at how humans eat and metabolize food in a comparative way to the functions of a fuel cell. Additionally, plants and electrosynthesis work similarly in the way they take in CO2 and produce fuel.

“As a group, we’re looking to see if we could use biology as our inspiration to do electrochemistry, and that has taken us into a lot of different applications,” says Minteer.

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How Your Car Could Be Powered by the Sun

By concentrating sunlight into reactors, H20 and CO2 can be split to form liquid fuels.Image: The Conversation/David Hahn

By concentrating sunlight into reactors, H2O and CO2 can be split to form liquid fuels.
Image: The Conversation/David Hahn

The sun produces an astronomical amount of energy each day, but scientists and engineers are still trying to better understand how to convert that energy into an efficient, usable form. Recently, work in photovoltaics deals with utilizing different materials, new arrangements of cell components, and interdisciplinary work to improve efficiently levels. However, a new and exciting area of photovoltaics is now rising in the ranks: turning sunlight into liquid fuels.

With this new development on the rise, the possibility of one day filling our cars with solar-generated fuel is on the horizon.

Researchers are giving more attention to the production of solar fuels because energy conversion and storage and simultaneously covered under one technique. It will give solar energy a wider scope due to more utilization opportunities, whereas conventional photovoltaic energy is only being used for one-third of the day when sunlight is at its peak.

Currently, the greatest roadblock lies in commercialization of the man-made solar fuels due to the substantial amount of energy it takes to break down stable CO2 and H2O molecules.

However, researchers are also exploring aspects of artificial photosynthesis through electrochemistry to help produce efficient, affordable man-made solar fuels.

Further material from the ECS Digital Library:

Read more about processes and current projects on The Conversation.

PS: Watch Ralph Brodd, a pillar of electrochemical science and technology with over 40 years in the electrochemical energy conversion business, talk about the future of the energy infrastructure and how it has transformed over the years.

ECS Transactions, Chicago, 227th Meeting

With the largest digital collection of electrochemistry and solid state related proceedings, ECST has published 800+ issues and over 17,000 articles since its launch in 2005.

With the largest digital collection of electrochemistry and solid state related proceedings, ECST has published 800+ issues and over 17,000 articles since its launch in 2005.

New issues of ECS Transactions have now been published from the upcoming 227th ECS Meeting in Chicago, to be held May 24-28, 2015. 

Seven “enhanced” issues of ECST are now available. They will also be for sale at the ECS bookstore at the meeting.

As always, issues of ECST are continuously updated and all full-text papers will be published here as soon as they are available. Get currently published issues of ECST. To be notified of newly published articles or volumes, please subscribe to the ECST RSS feed.

Posted in Uncategorized

jss-sensorWith U.S. healthcare costs of juvenile diabetes approaching $14.9 billion annually due to the upwards of 3 million Americans affected by this type of diabetes, researchers and scientist are looking for more affordable and effective ways to diagnose and treat. Now, researchers from Oregon State University believe they have found that answer.

A paper recently published in ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology (JSS) entitled, “Fabrication of a Flexible Amperometric Glucose Sensor Using Additive Processes”, details a novel development in sensor technology to create an improved type of glucose sensor for those with juvenile diabetes. The researchers state that this new technology cold provide a more cost effective and comfortable sensor with better efficiency.

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ECS Membership is Going Green!

Just in time for the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, a day known for wearing green, we at ECS are making a conscious decision to become more “green” and environmentally friendly.

If you have renewed your ECS membership lately, you may have noticed a recent addition to all our email communications.

PS: Did you know? We are going green! In the era of sustainability, we want to do our part. Membership renewals for 2015 will be paperless. To request a paper invoice, please contact customerservice@electrochem.org.

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Predicting Structure Strength

Researchers from Rice University have developed a novel theory that combines strength, stiffness and toughness of composites into a single design map. The dimensionless computer-drawn maps can be applied to anything from nanoscale to buildings.

“That’s the beauty of this approach: It can scale to something very large or very small,” said Rouzbeh Shahsavari, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and engineering.

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Be an Exhibitor!

ECS event sponsors and exhibitors put their organizations right in front of the leading members of the scientific community. By partnering with ECS as an exhibitor or sponsor, these institutions are supporting scientific innovation, education and advancement! Check out what our exhibitors say about ECS meetings!

Join ECS in Glasgow this July as an exhibitor at the Conference on Electrochemical Energy Conversion & Storage with SOFC-XIV. Due to the growing popularity of the conference, ECS has updated the exhibit hall floor plan to expand and better situate the technical exhibits. We also have multiple sponsorship options to provide high-visibility with our incredible group of attendees. Check out our online brochure!

The Nano Electromechanical “Squitch”

A MIT graduate student is changing the landscape of electromechanical switches.

Farnaz Niroui, an electrical engineering graduate student at MIT, has developed a squeezable nano electrochemical switch with quantum tunneling functions. Her development combats the longstanding problem of the switch locking in an “on” position due to metal-to-metal contacts sticking together.

The challenge of this permanent adhesion is called stiction, which often results in device failure. Niroui looks to solve this issue by creating electrodes with nanometer-thin separators.

She has effectively turned stiction from a problem into a solution.

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Nanoscale Microscopy

The microscope they developed produces x-ray images by scanning a sample while collecting various x-ray signals emerging from the sample.Image: Brookhaven National Laboratory

The microscope they developed produces x-ray images by scanning a sample while collecting various x-ray signals emerging from the sample.
Image: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Researchers have developed a new x-ray microscope that will provide scientists with the opportunity to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to the nanometer.

The new class of x-ray microscope allows for nanoscale imagining like never before. This development brings researchers one step closer to the ultimate goal of nanometer resolution.

This from Brookhaven National Laboratory:

The microscope manipulates novel nanofocusing optics called multilayer Laue lenses (MLL) — incredibly precise lenses grown one atomic layer at a time — which produce a tiny x-ray beam that is currently about 10 nanometers in size. Focusing an x-ray beam to that level means being able to see the structures on that length scale, whether they are proteins in a biological sample, or the inner workings of a fuel cell catalyst.

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Graphene Fights Cancer

Graphene oxide is stable in water and has shown potential in biomedical applications.Image: Oncotarget

Graphene oxide is stable in water and has shown potential in biomedical applications.
Image: Oncotarget

They don’t call it the wonder material for nothing. Since its inception, graphene has shown an amazing array of possibilities – from its potential in renewable resources to its ability to revolutionize electronics. Now, it may even be able to aid in the fight against cancer.

Scientists at the University of Manchester have used graphene to target and neutralize cancer stem cells without harming non-cancerous cells. By taking a modified form of graphene called graphene oxide, the researchers have discovered a quality in the material that acts as an anti-cancer agent that selectively targets cancer stem cells.

The graphene oxide formulations show the potential to treat a broad range of cancers with non-toxic material, including: breast, pancreatic, lung, brain, ovarian, and prostate cancer. The scientist state that if the new treatment were to be combined with existing treatment, it could eventually lead to tumor shrinkage as well as stop the spread of cancer and its reassurance after treatment.

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