Monday, July 29, 2013

Research Update

Research Update

“Science, my boy, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.” 
― Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth

This quote nearly perfectly describes my past weeks of research. Substituting problems for mistakes would more appropriately describe my research,  but, the step-by-step nature of learning is entirely accurate. My research focuses on expanding a previously published limited study, and modeling charge generated strain in any carbon electrode present in any ionic liquid electrolyte. Reproducing the previous work is a necessary baseline to ensure all subsequent results accurately deviate, solely due the the variable difference, and not other factors. Replicating the aforementioned study has been far more complex than initially anticipated, as many problems arose. Solving each of those problems one by one has ultimately lead to similar results as the prior study. Each week the IMN's energy materials group meets, and presents their current research . Below are some powerpoint slides I prepared for the meeting, which outline all of the problems/solutions I have come across in my research quest. 

Initially, an insufficient amount of  ionic liquid electrolyte
infiltrated into the device. This was solved by increasing
the number of syringe evacuation/injection cycles. 

The dilatometer contains a porous T-shaped frit to act as a separator
in-between the working and counter electrodes, and allow electrolyte
 to flow between them. Carbon particles were getting inside the frit
thereby contaminating it. I went through a series of mini experiments,
using various spacers, trying to reproduce the prior study (which
had not used a spacer). 

Unfortunately, introducing the separator hindered the performance as
you can see in this cyclic voltammetry curve.  In experiments,
I am just going to cycle in new glass frits to prevent this problem. 
Another problem that persisted throughout the prior experiments,
is faulty sealing of the dilatometer. Frequently, when a syringe was used to
evacuate the cell, and inject electrolyte, there would be air leakage. This was
discovered to be a result of poor sealing between the dilatometer housing
and the tubing. 

Another problem involved the spacing between this membrane disk and a spacing disk
in the dilatometer. The spacing disk was too thin, preventing good electrical
contact between it and the membrane, yielding CV as seen above.  This was solved by
introducing a additional gold membrane disk to allow proper contact. 

And after solving all of these problems the results finally are similar to
the prior study's data! Now that a proper baseline has been obtained,
I can begin varying the ionic liquid electrolyte to see if it performs
as expected.  

 In addition to all of this lab work, I have been seeing a lot of different cities on weekends. I will upload another blog containing pictures and descriptions shortly.

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