Extend Service Life and Reduce Cost Help Chemical Energies. The devices around us that generate and store the energy that powers our electronics and drives our cars to rely on complex chemistry that often occurs in small spaces. But these nanometer reactions are sometimes incredibly difficult to study, which makes scientists wish to magically shrink to view chemistry in real-time.
For example, Jasna Yanukovych, a specialist in imaging at the University of Connecticut, wants to spy on hidden pockets of nanoscale water in materials used in auto fuel cells. Anna Flavia Nogueira, a solar cell chemist at the University of Campinas, Brazil, will try to observe how moisture and oxygen break down some materials of solar cells.
But these researchers do not need magic to assist them in their scientific research. They are part of a large group of scientists designing sophisticated methods that rely on microscopy, spectroscopy, and other types of analysis to detect hard-to-observe phenomena in electrodes, catalyst layers, and other important materials in batteries, fuel cells and photovoltaic devices.
Their goal is to use new information to enhance device performance, extend service life and reduce costs.
Several recent studies use new analytical procedures to interrogate some components, often one component of a thin layer inside a multilayer device, in its natural or working state. For example, scientists have studied chemistry in battery electrodes while charging and discharging. Known as positional methods or operating methods, these methods are often dependent on intelligently designed energy devices and analytical tools, as well as advanced imaging software.