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Some Issues

     Our reliance on fossil fuels has implications for the environment, our economy, and global security.  This reliance can be mitigated by reducing energy use and by developing alternative energy sources.  Technologies such as fuel cells and solar cells will be critical for meeting our energy needs in a world where fossil fuel use is increasingly undesirable.

How can an understanding of electrochemical materials and interfaces help?

We seek to improve the production and operation of existing technologies for efficient energy conversion, by:

    (i) developing diagnostic tools that help manufacturers to link small-scale transport and kinetic processes to the large-scale performance of energy conversion systems.

    (ii) creating new electrochemical processes for the growth of high-quality semiconductors from electrolyte baths with minimal waste.



Our microfluidic tool for measuring characteristic transport properties for porous GDL materials

Examples of how we are doing it (Publications)

A Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) system is a high-efficiency alternative to internal combustion engines in motor vehicles.  However, the formation of liquid water often limits the performance of PEMFC stacks, blocking fuel and oxygen from catalyst sites.  Joseph Fairweather and Perry Cheung are developing tools for the analysis of water transport through PEMFC gas diffusion layers (GDLs).  Joe constructs and tests new microfluidic tools that conveniently measure characteristic transport properties for these porous GDL materials.  Perry uses finite-element modeling to simulate and analyze water transport behavior.  These diagnostic tools help link materials manufacturing and properties to the end performance of the PEMFC system.

Jamie Wilson has developed an electrochemical diagnostic tool that we call Non-Linear Impedance Spectroscopy (NLEIS).  This tool applies a rapidly cycling voltage or current signal to an electrochemical system and measures the corresponding cyclic response.  Unlike traditional impedance spectroscopy, Jamie’s method gathers additional distinct information by looking at the different harmonics of the system response.  These harmonics are characteristic of the transport and kinetic processes that limit the system, much like the harmonics of a musical instrument produce its distinctive sound.  Jamie has applied this tool to analyzing the oxidation reaction in Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) electrodes.  SOFCs are promising high-efficiency systems for large-scale electricity production.

Sathana Kitayaporn is developing methods for the protein-directed growth of semiconductors from an electrolyte bath.  This method allows selection of a desired product from a range of possible materials, and offers a promising new way to manufacture solar cells with minimal waste or environmental impact.



Our work in this area is largely funded by the Ballard and the National Science Foundation

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Daniel T. Schwartz, Director
The Electrochemical Materials and Interfaces LAB
Department of Chemical Engineering
 BOX 351750 University of Washington Seattle, WA 98195
E-mail address:
Last updated : 04/05/11