ECS Classics: Pillars of Modern Electrochemistry

pillars_of_electrochemAn article by A. K. Shukla and T. Prem Kumar in the Fall 2008 issue of Interface.

Although there is some archaeological evidence which suggests that some form of a primitive battery (sometimes called a Baghdad battery) was used for electroplating in Mesopotamia ca. 200 BC, electrochemistry as we know it today had its genesis in the pile of crowns of Alessandro Volta in 1800. The inspiration for his studies might have come from the famous frog leg experiments of Galvani, who, however, was content to conclude that the phenomenon was of biological origin. A metamorphosis took place with seminal contributions from John Daniell and Michael Faraday. From such humble beginnings, electrochemistry today has matured into a multidisciplinary branch of study. Built on the precision of physics and depth of materials science, it encompasses chemistry, physics, biology, and chemical engineering.

The uniqueness of electrochemistry lies in the fact that the application of a potential or electric field can help overcome kinetic limitations at low temperatures. Moreover, electrochemical processes can be tuned to obtain chemically and sometimes stereochemically specific products. Electrochemical reactions are also sensitive to electrode-surface characteristics and electrolyte composition, which opens up several analytical and characterization avenues. Like many forward thinkers who have strived to make life easier for us to live, history pages are littered with the names, some of them long forgotten, of those who have made electrochemistry what it is today. This article is an attempt to provide a glimpse of these pillars of electrochemistry through their contributions.

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ECS Talk – Ralph Brodd

Ralph Brodd has become a pillar of electrochemical science and technology over his 40 year career in the electrochemical energy conversion business.

He joined The Electrochemical Society in 1954 and served as President from 1981-1982. His ties to the Society run deep, beginning with his studies in 1950 at the University of Texas under ECS legend Norman Hackerman.

Take a moment to get to know him in this episode of ECS Talk.

Join Brodd and other top scientists in electrochemical and solid state science by joining the Society and attending our meetings!

The Science of Distilling

One brave man is distilling his own potent, yet drinkable, biofuel. Of course, there’s quite a bit of electrochemistry involved via this reflux still.

WARNING: Distilling alcohol is illegal in many places. (It can also be pretty dangerous for the novice distiller, so let’s leave this one to Hackett.)

Modeling Corrosion, Atom by Atom

corrosion_atom_by_atomAn article by Christopher D. Taylor in the latest issue of Interface.

In the late 20th century, computer programs emerged that could solve the fundamental quantum mechanical equations that control the interactions of atoms that give rise to bonding. These tools, first applied to molecules and bulk solid materials, then began to be applied to surfaces and, in the early 21st century, to electrochemical environments. Commercial and open-source programs are now readily available and can be used on both desktop and high-performance computing platforms to solve for the electronic structure of a given configuration of atomic centers (nuclei) and, in so doing, provide the basis for determining a whole host of properties, including electronic and vibrational spectra, electrical moments such as the system dipole, and, most importantly, the energy and forces on the atoms. Other derived properties include the extent to which each atom is charged and bond-orders, although to compute these latter properties one of a variety of methods for dividing up and quantifying the electron density associated with each atom must be selected.

The physics behind these codes is complex, and, challengingly, has no rigorous analytical solution that can be obtained within a finite allotment of time. Thus, the computer programs themselves take advantage of approximations that allow for a feasible solution but, at the same time, constrain the accuracy of the result. Nonetheless, solutions can usually be reliably obtained for model systems representing materials, interfaces, or molecules that do not exceed thousands, and, more realistically, hundreds of atoms. Given that system sizes of hundreds or thousands of atoms amount to no more than the smallest nanoparticle of a substance, the question arises: What can atomistic simulations teach us about corrosion?

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4 New Job Postings in Electrochemistry

Find openings in your area via the ECS job board.

Find openings in your area via the ECS job board.

ECS’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!

Post Doc (NIR/EIS)
Irstea – Montpellier, France
This Post Doc is integrated to a binational project, NEXT. The goal of this project is to investigate the in-line and real-time use of novel holistic sludge descriptors to measure, monitor, model and predict sludge behaviour through sludge treatment processes and use this knowledge for the optimization of design and operation of treatment processes. It will lean on previous works developed by two Irstea teams (on the one hand on organic fluids characterisation based on electrical measurements and rheology and on the other hand on near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy on turbid fluids and soils).


sponsor_blogFrom coffee breaks to technical demonstrations, exhibitors and sponsors help support the Chicago meeting while presenting their products and services to scientists and engineers from around the world.

“The main opportunity for us is to meet our customers… We gain valuable information about the newest techniques and the newest applications that people are trying to address.” —Bill Eggers, BioLogic USA

Exhibitors connect with customers—old and new—and stay on the cutting edge of research in their field.

If you are interested in partnering with ECS as an exhibitor or sponsor, please submit your application by February 20th to Becca Jensen Compton,

corrosion_blog_interfaceAn article by Kenji Amaya, Naoki Yoneya, and Yuki Onishi published in the latest issue of Interface.

Protecting structures from corrosion is one of the most important challenges in engineering. Cathodic protection using sacrificial anodes or impressing current from electrodes is applied to many marine structures. Prediction of the corrosion rates of structures and the design of cathodic protection systems have been traditionally based on past experience with a limited number of empirical formulae.

Recently, application of numerical methods such as the boundary element method (BEM) or finite element method (FEM) to corrosion problems has been studied intensively, and these methods have become powerful tools in the study of corrosion problems.

With the progress in numerical simulations, “Inverse Problems” have received a great deal of attention. The “Inverse Problem” is a research methodology pertaining to identifying unknown information from external or indirect observation utilizing a model of the system.

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The Arizona Section of ECS will be hosting a meeting with special guest speaker Professor Robert F. Savinell.

The Arizona Section of ECS will be hosting a meeting with special guest speaker Professor Robert F. Savinell.

Date: January 26, 2014

Time: Networking and refreshments at 6:15 PM; Seminar begins at 7:00 PM

Place: University of Arizona
Tuscon, AZ 85721
Agave Room, 4th Floor of Student Union Building

Cost: Free to attend; $5 for light refreshments

Speaker: Professor Robert F. Savinell
George S. Dively Professor of Electrochemical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University
Professor Savinell is recognized as a leading authority on electrochemical energy storage and conversion. His research has been directed at fundamental science and engineering research for electrochemical systems and novel device design, development, and optimization. Dr. Savinell has over 100 publications and seven patents in the electrochemical field. He is a past chair of ECS’s Electrolytic and Electrochemical Engineering Division, a former editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, and a Fellow of ECS.


Member Spotlight – Ryohei Mori

The aluminum-air battery has the potential to serve as a short-term power source for electric vehicles.Image: Journal of The Electrochemical Society

The aluminum-air battery has the potential to serve as a short-term power source for electric vehicles.
Image: Journal of The Electrochemical Society

A new long-life aluminum-air battery is set to resolve challenges in rechargeable energy storage technology, thanks to ECS member Ryohei Mori.

Mori’s development has yielded a new type of aluminum-air battery, which is rechargeable by refilling with either salt or fresh water.

The research is detailed in an open access article in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, where Mori explains how he modified the structure of the previous aluminum-air battery to ensure a longer battery life.

Theoretically, metal-air technology can have very high energy densities, which makes it a promising candidate for next-generation batteries that could enable such things as long-range battery-electric vehicles.

However, the long-standing barrier of anode corrosion and byproduct accumulation have halted these batteries from achieving their full potential. Dr. Mori’s recently published paper, “Addition of Ceramic Barriers to Aluminum-Air batteries to Suppress By-product Formation on Electrodes,” details how to combat this issue.


computer_simulation2An article by N.J. Laycock, D.P. Krouse, S.C. Hendy, and D.E. Williams published in the latest issue of Interface.

Stainless steels and other corrosion resistant alloys are generally protected from the environment by ultra-thin layers of surface oxides, also called passive films. Unfortunately, these films are not perfect and their Achilles’ heel is a propensity to catastrophic local breakdown, which leads to rapid corrosion of the metallic substructure. Aside from the safety and environmental hazards associated with these events, the economic impact is enormous.

In the oil and gas and petrochemical industries, it is of course usually possible to select from experience a corrosion-resistant alloy that will perform acceptably in a given service environment. This knowledge is to a large extent captured in industry or company-specific standards, such as Norsok M1.

However, these selections are typically very conservative because the limits tend to be driven by particular incidents or test results, rather than by fundamental understanding. Decision-making can be very challenging, especially in today’s mega-facilities, where the cost of production downtime is often staggeringly large. Thus significant practical benefits could be gained from reliable quantitative models for pitting corrosion of stainless steels. There have been several attempts to develop purely stochastic models of pitting corrosion.

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