I’m fortunate and honored to have received an NSF CAREER Award to use synchrotron techniques to continue studying the Mn-Bi interaction in rechargeable alkaline batteries. The full title of the project is “Engineering electrochemical reversibility in disordered materials for high energy density batteries.” Special thanks to Dr. Andrea Bruck and Matthew Kim, whose data were essential to the proposal. Northeastern did a nice magazine writeup about the project, which has a subheading called “Saving the World,” a level of drama/sincerity that I wholeheartedly endorse.

Our lab group

Introducing our lab group, seen here at our second ever Friday afternoon group meeting. From left to right, Ben Howell, Matthew Kim, and Zhicheng Lu. All devouring electrochemistry and coming up to speed. The future is truly bright.

I’ve been mulling over what to call the group. “Gallaway Group” would be fine, but as is the fashion these days perhaps it should be something both punchier and more descriptive, with an acronym involved. The Complex Electrochemical Systems Lab (CESL, pronounced “sessil” if you like) is what told Northeastern I might do before I got here, so maybe that’s it. What do I mean by complex? All electrochemistry is complex from a certain point of view. But here I specifically mean systems when multiple phenomena are important throughout the regime of operation, such as two kinds of diffusion (e.g. in a solid crystal and in an electrolyte) or three kinds of kinetics (e.g. both substrate and mediator of an enzyme, also with mediator electrode kinetics). To that you could say “That means all real battery or fuel cell systems are complex.” To which I would say “Yes that’s right.” But this is a defined viewpoint, a worldview, and those are good to set down for all to see. It tells you we will always be trying to break down a complex system, and then build it back up … engineered to be better of course.

National Synchrotron Light Source II User Profile

The Brookhaven National Lab newsroom has a nice profile about the work we did at the SRX beamline as one of the first user groups to work there. As soon as beamtime proposals were being accepted in 2015, we submitted one to study the mechanism of a new battery formulation we had just discovered (and which has since been published). Since then we made three trips to collect data, all of which were insightful. I just gave a preliminary account of what we found in a talk at ECS, and I hope to have the paper out in the fall.

In the article I tried to lay out why the SRX beamline was the perfect tool to do what we wanted, electrochemically. If you’re interested in the simultaneous oxidation/reduction of several different elements (in our case Mn, Bi, Cu) SRX lets you map them spatially and also sample their redox states on the fly.

Many thanks to Laura Mgrdichian who interviewed me and Gautam and wrote the article. She started by asking “What draws you to this research?” and I’m always happy to answer that. Electrochemistry is instrumental in getting society to the ultimate goal of energy sustainability.

Some exciting news: New job

I’m happy to announce that beginning this fall I’ll be the DiPietro Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University. There I’ll continue working to improve kinetics and transport within complex electrochemical systems. You can expect batteries, phase changes, and synchrotron science, as well as some new tricks. It’s an understatement to say I’m looking forward to it. See you soon.