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Nobel laureate and climate advocate Al Gore is optimistic about climate change in his new TED Talk. In his talk, Gore proposes three questions — the answers of which help make the case for optimism on climate change.

We may understand melanin best as the pigment that dictates our skin tone, but these pigments are actually super plentiful – existing in almost every organism on earth. While melanin is all around us, there is still much to learn about its chemical structure.

A group of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University set out to better understand melanin, and in doing so, found that its chemical structure may be conducive to creating certain kinds of batteries.

“Functionally, different types of melanin molecules have quite different chemistries, so putting them together is a little like solving a jigsaw puzzle, with each molecule a puzzle piece,” says Venkat Viswanathan, ECS member and co-author of the study. “You could take any number of these pieces and mix and match them, even stack them on top of each other. So what we researched was, which of these arrangements is really correct?”


Carbon nanotubes have a potentially wide variety of applications due to their strength, flexibility, and other promising properties. While many researchers have been focused on applying carbon nanotubes in nanotechnology and electronics, ECS members Kris Dahl and Mohammad Islam are looking to give the nanotubes a new use in medical applications.

Dahl, a chemical and biomedical engineer; and Islam, a materials scientists; are taking their respective skills and putting them to use in the novel interdisciplinary development, making possible carbon nanotubed-based structures for drug delivery.

This from Carnegie Mellon University:

Picture feeding a dog a pill. In order to do so, one would wrap it in cheese to mask the medicine and make it more appealing. In a similar vein, to enhance drug delivery, Dahl and Islam have engineered proteins that wrap around the drug-coated carbon nanotubes. The cells, which love these proteins, more readily take up the drug—much as a dog would more readily eat the cheese-coated pill.


We’re delving into our archives as part of our continuing Masters Series podcasts. In 1995, ECS and the Chemical Heritage Foundation worked to compile various oral histories of some of the biggest names in electrochemical and solid state science.

One of those key figures was Norman Hackerman, a giant among giants. Hackerman was a world renowned scientist, an outstanding educator, a highly successful administrator, and a champion for basic research. Hear his voice once again as he tells colorful stories of the science, his life, and everything in between.

Listen and download these episodes and others for free through the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher.

As far back as 1839, the English scientist William Grove had the idea that the reactants of a battery could be gases fed into it from external tanks. For most of their history, fuel cells existed only as laboratory curiosities. But fuel cells have gained much more attention in recent years, with many considering these power sources for applications in vehicles and alternative grid technology.

New research from Harvard University shows just how promising fuel cell technology could be. According to the study, the researchers were able to develop more efficient fuel cells that get more robust as they age instead of degrading.

“The elegance of this process is that it happens naturally when exposed to the electrons in fuel,” says Shriram Ramananthan, lead author of the study and past ECS member. “This technique can be applied to other electrochemical devices to make it more robust. It’s like chess—before we could only play with pawns and bishops, tools that could move in limited directions. Now, we’re playing with the queen.”

batteries-1379208_640In late 2015, a team of Cambridge University researchers led by ECS member Clare Grey, detailed research in the journal Science on the path to the “ultimate” battery. According to the study, the researchers stated they had successfully demonstrated how to overcome many of the problems preventing the theoretically promising lithium-air battery from being commercially viable.

The key component to this research relies on a highly porous, “fluffy” carbon electrode made from graphene. The researchers cautioned that although the preliminary results were very promising, much work was yet to be done to take lithium-air batteries from the lab to the marketplace.

However, the research got many scientists in energy science and technology talking. Like all groundbreaking results, there has been much discussion and some controversy over the research published by Grey and her team.


Two ECS members from Drexel University have recently been awarded for their exemplary work in the sciences.

Yury Gogotsi 2016Yuri Gogosti, Fellow of ECS and advisor of the Drexel ECS Student Chapter, has been awarded the 2016 Nano Energy Award. The award, presented by the journal Nano Energy, recognizes outstanding research in the field of nano energy, whose work reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the field and helps solves major energy problems facing society.

Gogostsi’s work is highly regarded in the scientific community. Among his most notable accomplishments, Gogotsi was a member of a team that discovered a novel family of two-dimensional carbides and nitrides, which have helped open the door for exceptional energy storage devices. Additionally, Gogotsi’s hand in discovering and describing new forms of carbon and the development of a “green” supercapacitor built of environmentally friendly materials has advanced the field of energy technology.

ekaterinapomerantsevajpgEkaterina Pomerantseva, ECS member and advisor of the Drexel ECS Student Chapter, has been awarded a three-year $360,000 National Science Foundation Division of Materials Research grant for her project, “Advanced Electrochemistry of Na-ion Battery Cathodes Through Chemically Controlled Materials Synthesis.”

Her work looks to address some of the current barriers prevention Na-ion batteries from competing with their Li-ion cousins. Pomerantseva believes that the grant money could help develop sustainable energy storage that is cheaper, reliable, and environmentally friendly – opening the door to next generation energy storage systems and new possibilities for grid storage.

Researchers from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory have developed a lithium-ion battery that is safer, cheaper, more powerful, and extremely environmentally friendly – all by adding a pinch of salt.

The team, led by ECS members Chunsheng Wang and Kang Xu, built on previous “water-in-salt” lithium-ion battery research – concluding that by adding a second salt to the water-based batteries, efficiency levels rise while safety risks and environmental hazards decrease.

(WATCH: Wang’s presentation at the fifth international ECS Electrochemical Energy Summit, entitled “A Single Material Battery.”)

“Our invention has the potential to transform the energy industry by replacing flammable, toxic lithium ion batteries with our safe, green water-in-salt battery,” says Wang, professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. “This technology may increase the acceptance and improve the utility of battery-powered electric vehicles, and enable large-scale energy storage of intermittent energy generators like solar and wind.”


After Toyota’s 2015 release of the first mass-market fuel cell car, the Japanese automaker is gearing up to release the second generation of its fuel cell vehicle in 2019.

The initial version of the Mirai, which was heralded by Toyota as the ultimate “green car,” could travel up to 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen and refuel in less than five minutes. The starting price for the vehicle is currently $57,460.

Toyota’s new version of the Mirai promises to be more affordable than its predecessor, potentially making the clean energy vehicle well-received among consumers.