In early December of 2015, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) penned what he deemed the “Wastebook” – a report detailing what the senator believes to be wasteful federal spending, specifically targeted at research dollars.

The report took aim at research the fiscal conservative considered a waste of federal cash, including projects he summed up as a “shrimp fight club,” a study of cows in China, an exploration of why obese women can’t get dates, and a look at shrimp on a treadmill.

Earlier this month, those very same scientists that Flake criticized and reduced their research to mere waste took to Pennsylvania Avenue to reinforce the legitimacy of their work.

Researchers respond

“I am rock solid about my research. I know it is very good,” said Sheila Patek, an associate professor of biology at Duke University who led the so-called shrimp fight club study. “But this ‘Wastebook’ targeted a short paper that was the first paper in my young graduate student’s career. He is from a long line of firefighters. His father, his uncle, his grandfather. There aren’t any other scientists in his family. They are very proud of him. He is extremely civic-minded. I don’t think I’ve had anyone in my lab like that. And this has been crushing for him.”

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Research highlighting transformative scientific discoveries

Editors' ChoiceECS published its first Editors’ Choice article on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. The article, entitled “Communication—Comparison of Nanoscale Focused Ion Beam and Electrochemical Lithiation in β-Sn Microspheres,” details transformative findings in the dosage and spatial distribution of lithiation.

Editors’ Choice articles are a special designation of ECS’s newly established Communication articles, which are designed to highlight breakthrough preliminary research and bolster the scientific discovery process. ECS journal editors designate exemplary Communication articles as Editors’ Choice when the research presented is transformative, detailing either novel advancements in a field or completely new discoveries.

“This paper introduces the use of a focused Li-ion beam (Li-FIB) as a new tool that is designed to probe lithiation mechanism at the nanoscale,” says Nick Wu, Associate Editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. “This technique, which employs a focused Li-ion beam with spot size of a few tens of nanometers and kinetic energy of a few keV, enables precise dosage and spatial distribution of lithiation.”

Papers chosen as Editors’ Choice are regarded as having the highest quality, impact, significance, and scientific or technological interest to electrochemical and solid state science and technology. In order to disseminate these findings to the scientific community at large and open the door to faster developments of practical applications, all Editors’ Choice articles are published Open Access.

“Furthermore,” Wu says, “lithiation in this technique is carried out in the absence of electrolytes so that it allows the study of lithiation dynamics solely in the bulk or surface layers (coatings) of the electrode material without the confounding influences from the electrolyte interactions.”

Each paper undergoes the same rigorous peer-review process associated with ECS journals, with Editors’ Choice articles showing extraordinary direction, concept, interpretation, field, or way of doing something.

Read the full Open Access paper in the ECS Digital Library: http://jes.ecsdl.org/content/163/6/A1010.full.

The Advantages of Studies with Short Titles

As title length increases, the number of citations typically decreases. [Click to enlarge]

As title length increases, the number of citations typically decreases.
[Click to enlarge]

With the use of technical terms and complex formals, scientific journal articles are typically a difficult read for the non-expert. However, sometimes scientists themselves also have a difficult time wading through the highly complicated terms in these studies.

A new analysis of 140,000 scientific papers has recently been released, suggesting that studies with shorter titles are more often cited than those with long titles. The reason? Papers with shorter titles may be generally more concise and easier to comprehend.

The analysis began by looking at 20,000 of the most highly cited scientific papers published from 2007 to 2010. Each year consistently showed that papers with shorter titles received more attention.

This from Popular Science:

The situation gets more complicated, though, when you take journal rankings into account. Papers published in more prestigious journals tend to get more citations. Once the authors controlled for that factor, the correlation between shorter titles and higher citations only held up for the years 2007 to 2010. But the results do show that, overall, journals that publish papers with shorter titles tend to receive more citations per paper.

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Tiny Particle, Big Results

EJ Taylor, ECS Treasurer and Chief Technical Officer at Faraday Technology, recently ran across this article from The Economist discussing an accidental discovery that could yield big results.

Materials scientists Wang Changan of Tsinghua University and Li Ju of MIT may have unintentionally found the answer to developing a battery that can last up to four times longer than the current generation.

Initially, the scientists were simply researching nanoparticles made of aluminum. While these tiny particles are good conductors of electricity, they become less efficient when exposed to air. When air hits these tiny particles, a coating of an oxide film begins to develop, greatly affecting the performance. The research the two scientists were working on was not to create a better battery, but rather to eliminate the oxide that coats the particles.

This from The Economist:

Their method was to soak the particles in a mixture of sulphuric acid and titanium oxysulphate. This replaces the aluminium oxide with titanium oxide, which is more conductive. However, they accidentally left one batch of particles in the acidic mixture for several hours longer than they meant to. As a result, though shells of titanium dioxide did form on them as expected, acid had time to leak through these shells and dissolve away some of the aluminium within. The consequence was nanoparticles that consisted of a titanium dioxide outer layer surrounding a loose kernel of aluminium.

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Are You Using the Right Words and Phrases?

Logan Streu, ECS Content Associate & Assistant to the CCO, recently came across a video that takes a close (albeit funny) look at the misleading or misused words frequently used in scientific research.

Is “scientific proof” an oxymoron? Is there really a gene for everything? Check out the video below to see some of the phrases that are often misused.

Want more science videos? Check out our YouTube channel!

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Mario Hofmann of National Cheng Kung University shows the example set up of electrochemical synthesis.
Image: Mario Hofmann/IOP Publishing

Graphene has been affectionately coined the “wonder material” due to its strength, flexibility, and conductive properties. The theoretical applications for graphene have included the five-second phone charge, chemical sensors, a way to soak up environmentally harmful radioactive waste, and even the potential to improve your tennis game. While everyone has big expectations for the wonder material, it’s still struggling to find its place in the world of materials science.

However, a team of researchers may have found a way to expand graphene’s potential and make it more applicable to tangible devices and applications. Through a simple electrochemical approach, researchers have been able to alter graphene’s electrical and mechanical properties.

Technically, the researchers have created a defect in graphene that can make the material more useful in a variety of applications. Through electrochemical synthesis, the team was able to break graphite flakes into graphene layers of various size depending on the level of voltage used.

The different levels of voltage not only changed the material’s thickness, it also altered the flake area and number of defects. With the alternation of these three properties, the researchers were able to change how the material acts in different functions.

“Whilst electrochemistry has been around for a long time it is a powerful tool for nanotechnology because it’s so finely tuneable.” said Mario Hofmann, a researcher at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, in a press release. “In graphene production we can really take advantage of this control to produce defects.”

The defected graphene shows promising potential for polymer fillers and battery electrodes. Researchers also believe that by revealing and utilizing the natural defects in graphene, strides could be made in biomedical technology such as drug delivery systems.

This new extended-release device has less risk of breaking or causing intestinal blockage than previous prototypes.Image: MIT

This new extended-release device has less risk of breaking or causing intestinal blockage than previous prototypes.
Image: MIT

Researchers and engineers in all corners of science have been looking at the ways their specific technical interest area can affect medicine and health care. Whether it be implantable microchip-based devices that could outpace injections and conventional pills or jet-propelled micromotors that can swim through the body to take tissue samples and make small surgical repairs, researchers have been seeing the interdisciplinary nature of science and how it could impact quality of life.

A team of researchers from MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research have teamed up with Massachusetts General Hospital to develop the latest scientific advancement in health care in the form of a polymer gel that will allow for ultra-long drug delivery.

The prototype that the team has built is essentially a ring-shaped device that can be folded into a capsule. Once the patient has ingested the capsule, the device can expand back to its original form and deliver drugs over a number of days, weeks, or potentially months.

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Unique IdentifierBack in March, I wrote a post gushing about the utility of ORCID identifiers. For those of you who haven’t seen it you can find it here, and for those of you who have seen it, but have yet to sign up, it’s probably time to think about it!

Because everyone likes lists, here’s ECS’s top 5 reasons to register for your ORCID ID today:

1. Differentiate yourself.
Think about how many “J. Smith”s there are in the world. ORCID lets you stand out from the crowd and ensures that your research is appropriately attributed.

2. Names change, affiliations change, e-mail accounts change.
There is little about an individual’s research profile that is static – people find new jobs, change names, or just switch from Outlook to Gmail. No matter what the change is, your professional contacts will be able to find your current information—even if they’re reaching out to you about a paper you wrote four jobs ago or in grad school.

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The new solar cell developed by the University of Texas at Arlington team is more efficient and can store solar energy at night.
Image: UT Arlington

A research team from the University of Texas at Arlington comprised of both present and past ECS members has developed a new energy cell for large-scale solar energy storage even when it’s dark.

Solar energy systems that are currently in the market and limited in efficiency levels on cloudy days, and are typically unable to convert energy when the sun goes down.

The team, including ECS student member Chiajen Hsu and two former ECS members, has developed an all-vanadium photoelectrochemical flow cell that allows for energy storage during the night.

“This research has a chance to rewrite how we store and use solar power,” said Fuqiang Liu, past member of ECS and assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department who led the research team. “As renewable energy becomes more prevalent, the ability to store solar energy and use it as a renewable alternative provides a sustainable solution to the problem of energy shortage. It also can effectively harness the inexhaustible energy from the sun.”

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8 New Job Postings in Electrochemistry

Job GraphicECS’s job board keeps you up-to-date with the latest career opportunities in electrochemical and solid state science. Check out the latest openings that have been added to the board.

P.S. Employers can post open positions for free!

ECS Journals Technical Editor
The Electrochemical Society – Pennington, NJ
ECS (The Electrochemical Society) is seeking to fill the position of Technical Editor of the Electronic and Photonic Devices and Systems Technical Interest Area for the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology and ECS Solid State Letters.

Materials Scientist
Nano One Materials Corp. – Burnaby, Canada
Nano One is looking for an experienced, ambitious and creative scientist with proven organizational skills and an interest in industrial technology development. The successful candidate will be developing lithium ion cathode processing technologies as part of a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, engineers and technologists.

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