Juan Pablo EsquivelIn its first Science for Solving Society’s Problems Challenge, ECS partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to leverage the brainpower of electrochemists and solid state scientists, working to find innovative research solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues in water and sanitation. A total of seven projects were selected, resulting in a grand total of $360,000 in funding.

The researchers behind one of those projects recently published an open access paper in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society discussing their results in pursuing a single-use, biodegradable and sustainable battery that minimizes waste. The paper, “Evaluation of Redox Chemistries for Single-Use Biodegradable Capillary Flow Batteries,” was published August 18 and authored by Omar Ibrahim, Perla Alday, Neus Sabaté, Juan Pablo Esquivel (pictured with prototype at right), and Erik Kjeang.

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Science for Human Sake

Electrochemical Energy SummitECS’s Electrochemical Energy Summit brings together policymakers and researchers from around the globe to discuss the ways in which science impacts the planet’s key sustainability issues. During the 232nd ECS Meeting, taking place October 1-6 in National Harbor, MD.

The 7th International ECS Electrochemical Energy Summit: Human Sustainability – Energy, Water, Food, and Health, is set to include three distinct symposia: Energy-Water Nexus; The Brain and Electrochemistry; and Sensors for Food Safety, Quality, and Security.

The deadline for abstract submission for the 232nd ECS Meeting is April 7. Submit today!

Energy-Water Nexus

The Energy-Water Nexus symposium, organized by ECS fellow Eric Wachsman, will focus on the connection between energy and water and emerging technologies that could improve access to clean, safe, and affordable resources across the globe. In addition to technical sessions ranging from membranes for water purification to fuel cells, the symposium will feature talks from members of federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Interior, to discuss funding opportunities.

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ECS Toyota Fellowship
The Electrochemical Society with Toyota North America
2017-2018 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship
for Projects in Green Energy Technology

Proposal Submission Deadline: January 31, 2017

ECS, in partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), is requesting proposals from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.

Global development of industry and technology in the 20th century, increased production of vehicles and the growing population have resulted in massive consumption of fossil fuels. Today, the automotive industry faces three challenges regarding environmental and energy issues: (1) finding a viable alternative energy source as a replacement for oil, (2) reducing CO2 emissions and (3) preventing air pollution. Although the demand for oil alternatives—such as natural gas, electricity and hydrogen—may grow, each alternative energy source has its disadvantages. Currently, oil remains the main source of automotive fuel; however, further research and development of alternative energies may bring change.

Fellowship Objectives and Content

The purpose of the ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship is to encourage young professors and scholars to pursue research in green energy technology that may promote the development of next-generation vehicles capable of utilizing alternative fuels. Electrochemical research has already informed the development and improvement of innovative batteries, electrocatalysts, photovoltaics and fuel cells.

Through this fellowship, ECS and TRINA hope to see more innovative and unconventional technologies borne from electrochemical research.

The fellowship will be awarded to a minimum of one candidate annually. Winners will receive a restricted grant of no less than $50,000 to conduct the research outlined in their proposal within one year. Winners will also receive a one-year complimentary ECS membership as well as the opportunity to present and/or publish their research with ECS.

Meet previous winners.

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Researchers from the University of Connecticut are pushing toward a hydrogen economy with the development of a new catalyst for cheaper, light-weight hydrogen fuel cells.

The catalyst — made of graphene nanotubes infused with sulfur — could potentially work to make hydrogen capture more commercially viable.

This development comes during a time where many people are looking to hydrogen in the search for a new, sustainable energy source. While hydrogen may be abundant, it often requires a costly and energy-consuming process to produce. However, if scientists could find an affordable and efficient way to capture hydrogen, it may begin to shift society away from the fossil fuel-driven economy toward a hydrogen economy.

The material developed by the University of Connecticut professors currently shows results that are competitive with some of the top materials traditionally used in these processes, but at a fraction of the cost.

The secret lies in the non-metal catalyst that has many of the same electrochemical properties as rare earth materials.

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When the loaves in your breadbox begin to develop a moldy exterior caused by fungi, they tend to find a new home at the bottom of a trash can. However, researchers have recently developed some pretty interesting results that suggest bread mold could be the key to producing more sustainable electrochemical materials for use in rechargeable batteries.

For the first time, researchers were able to show that the fungus Neurospora crassa (better known as the enemy to bread) can transform manganese into mineral composites with promising electrochemical properties.

(MORE: Read the full paper.)

“We have made electrochemically active materials using a fungal manganese biomineralization process,” says Geoffrey Gadd of the University of Dundee in Scotland. “The electrochemical properties of the carbonized fungal biomass-mineral composite were tested in a supercapacitor and a lithium-ion battery, and it [the composite] was found to have excellent electrochemical properties. This system therefore suggests a novel biotechnological method for the preparation of sustainable electrochemical materials.”

This from University of Dundee:

In the new study, Gadd and his colleagues incubated N. crassa in media amended with urea and manganese chloride (MnCl2) and watched what happened. The researchers found that the long branching fungal filaments (or hyphae) became biomineralized and/or enveloped by minerals in various formations. After heat treatment, they were left with a mixture of carbonized biomass and manganese oxides. Further study of those structures show that they have ideal electrochemical properties for use in supercapacitors or lithium-ion batteries.

Read the full article here.

The manganese oxides in the lithium-ion batteries are showing an excellent cycling stability and more than 90 percent capacity after 200 cycles.

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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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Breaking Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Abruna_Hector_D“You’re not going to solve the energy problem by separating paper and plastic. We need to transition out of our dependency on fossil fuels and into renewables. As a society, it is really up to us to change.”

ECS Fellow Héctor D. Abruña recently spoke on the importance of developing better batteries to change the energy landscape at a Charter Day Weekend lecture at Cornell University.

The energy infrastructure as it exists today cannot maintain in its current form in the years to come. The United Nations expects the world’s population to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Compare this to the current 7.2 billion population and the current issues with the energy infrastructure and the need for change becomes quite apparent.

Fortunately, Abruña and scientists like him are working to move us toward a more energy efficient and sustainable future through developments in fuel cells and batteries, which will power energy efficient and environmentally safe cars, as well as reshape the energy infrastructure itself.

“If we have any hope of solving the energy problems, we need better energy conversion and storage,” said Abruña.

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Smart Streets: The Highway Is Getting Brighter

The painted road markings are said to be able to glow up to eight hours in the dark.Credit: Roosegaarde

The painted road markings are said to be able to glow up to eight hours in the dark.
Credit: Roosegaarde

There has been a great deal of debate and innovation in smart cars recently, but why just stop at the car? Why not make a smart highway?

At least that’s the question Dutch developer Heijmans and designer Daan Roosegaard are asking. Since 2012 the duo have been talking about and drumming up game plans for innovative designs that would improve road sustainability, safety, and perception.

These ideas include: electric priority lane, which would allow electric cars to charge themselves while driving; dynamic paint, which would glow or become transparent upon sensing temperature in order to let you know road conditions; and interactive light, which would be controlled by sensors to active only when traffic approaches in order to create sustainable road light.

But the company’s main, and most tangible, development is their glow-in-the-dark lining.

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