Scheme 1 follows the workflow in our group, where new analytical methods will be created to conceive, design, develop, and test ideas for new techniques, materials and chemical strategies in energy research.
| || || Electrochemistry plays a central role in creating technologies for energy storage and conversion such as batteries, fuel cells, and photoelectrocatalysts. These systems present a viable alternative for our society to face the challenges posed by a changing and increasingly demanding energy scenario. The analysis, quantification, and unraveling of several fundamental properties of these systems, would positively impact our ability to understand, manipulate, and design better technologies. For example, the performance of electrocatalysts in fuel cells is controlled by dynamic and complex interactions of adsorbed species at the surface of the electrodes. Likewise, the safety of high-performance battery electrodes is greatly determined by the long-term impact of highly energetic reactions occurring at their surface.
Our group tackles the challenge of creating new techniques for the in situ and in operando analysis of the electrode materials and structures in the above-mentioned technologies. We then transform this new knowledge into new materials strategies. Very few methods for understanding and following the evolution of these processes exist, so a priority of my laboratory’s research is to develop highly enabling and creative electroanalytical methods to describe and enhance these systems.
Scheme 2 depicts the interests of our group, where we use advanced techniques such as those based on Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy (SECM) to develop a unique approach to research in catalysis and novel materials such as graphene. Here, micro- and nano-electrode probes can be used to detect adsorbed species and to image their reactivity with high spatial and temporal resolution on electrodes. SECM can use selective species that interrogate surface-bound molecules and reaction intermediates in electrocatalytic reactions, and this allows us to obtain information about their surface dynamics. These include adsorbate interconversion, differential reactivity and surface diffusion, all of which are long-standing challenges in the field of electrocatalysis and critical for the development of platforms for important processes such as H2 and O2 production and activation, and the oxidation of alternative fuels. We are currently developing a distinctive method of analysis for lithium-ion batteries, ion-selective membranes, and ionic conductors that will allow us to assess and tune the impact of different chemical and electrochemical conditions on the ability of these materials to transport charge. We are also interested in designing new strategies to manipulate and measure the reactivity of novel interfaces, such as single-layer graphene (SLG). The unique electronic and mechanical properties of SLG make it the perfect material to tailor and control electrochemical reactions and potentially to unravel emerging molecular interactions that can be used to create new strategies in catalysis.
See our group highlight in "Words of Wisdom", published in Chemical and Engineering News: