Motivation

Electrochemistry - the manipulation of electrical charge to drive chemical change - is central to applications and devices in fields as varied as medicine, environmental remediation and energy, and integrates concepts spanning chemistry, physics and engineering.  Despite its reach and importance, electrochemistry has advanced far more slowly over the last two decades than many companion fields such as nanoscience, semiconductors, photon science and scanning probe microscopy.  Next Generation Electrochemistry (NGenE) will focus on the existing and emerging challenges in electrochemistry, and the application of innovative strategies in synthesis, characterization, theory and simulation to address these challenges.

Impact

NGenE will be an annual event with content rotating among the unsolved fundamental electrochemical challenges and applications. Students and lecturers are expected to spend significant time talking, developing relationships that may become long term mentor-protégé bonds. The most talented students may return for subsequent institutes to continue developing relationships and exploring electrochemistry frontiers.  With 25 students per year, in ten years the Institute will produce over 200 alumni, who will have significant influence in shaping the foundations and strategic directions of electrochemical science in the U.S.

Intellectual Approach

The graduate students and postdocs will be among the best in their fields, and thus able to absorb and exchange information at a high level.  The lecturers will be challenged to identify the barriers set by physical laws from those defined by our current inability to manipulate chemistry and physics in these reactions.  The goal is for students to be shown the frontiers of the field, as opposed to focusing on the intricacies of what is already known.

Relevant questions that are to be formulated include:

  • What are the most important unsolved issues in a given area of electrochemistry?

  • What do we know for each part and how do we know it- from experiment, from simulation, from intuition, from speculation?  

  • What do we want to know but do not know, and how we would go about finding it out – from next generation experiment, simulation or a synergy of the two?  

  • What intuition or experience guides our speculation about what could happen? 

Proceeding in this way, introducing fundamental electrochemical concepts in a focused manner, then elaborating what we know, how we know it, and spending time elaborating what we want to know but do not know and how we would find it out, the Institute will identify the most important questions for next generation electrochemistry and design innovative experimental and theoretical approaches to answer these questions.  The content falls naturally into phenomena spanning statics and dynamics, and materials spanning conventional and un-conventional, a rich space with wide frontiers. 

For the first year, beyond the basic science questions, the emphasis will be placed on the host of energy-related applications of electrochemistry, including (among others) solar cells, batteries, supercapacitors, fuel cells, artificial photosynthesis and catalysis.  These applications shall be used to structure the basic science frontiers: answers to what set of next generation electrochemical questions would most rapidly advance artificial photosynthesis, or batteries, or catalysis? The lecturer-organizers of the Institute will structure the programs in succeeding years to embrace the rich space of basic science and applications of electrochemistry, potentially moving beyond energy, into topics spanning from environmental remediation to medicine.