Second year student Emma Sackville recently attended the 11th ECHEMS meeting in Bad Zwischenahn, near Bremen. Here's how she got on:
What does a statue of a chicken-on-a-cat-on-a-dog-on-a-donkey have in common with electrochemistry? Admittedly not much, but I was able to experience both of them when I visited Bremen in mid-June for the 11th EChems meeting. As the conference was on a Monday I made the most of the weekend to explore the town. A beautiful little city in North West Germany, with a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site for a town centre, Bremen was hosting a festival called ‘La Strada’ during my stay. Inexplicably this included people driving round the town square on spikey quad bikes and dancing with suitcases. Whilst I still can’t tell you what the festival was for/about it did lend a certain party atmosphere to the town; who says the Germans don’t have a sense of humour?!
After a very enjoyable weekend soaking up the German atmosphere, I made the short train journey over to Bad Zwischenahn where the conference was being held.
First started in 2006, the EChems Meeting is held annually to bring together researchers working in electrochemistry and its application to topical scientific problems. The theme for this year was molecular electrochemistry for application in renewable energy; an area which was of direct relevance to my own PhD research looking at molecular electrocatalysts for energy conversion. We enjoyed excellent talks in a wide range of areas, from batteries to biofuel cells and everything in between. Amongst many excellent presentations, Tsukasa Yoshida gave a particularly memorable talk about solar cells where he compared them to artificial intelligence robots that could have children and grandchildren; I’ll never think of them in the same way…!
On the last day I caught up with one of the plenary speakers, Professor Francesco Paolucci, from the University of Bologna. Given my own work in water oxidation catalysts I particularly enjoyed his talk about nano-composites for use in the Artificial Leaf, and I chatted to him about his beer preferences and what he thinks the challenges are for electrochemistry.
What did you enjoy most about the conference?
Not the weather! No seriously it was very well organised and there were lots of speakers from areas that were very different to mine. I particularly enjoyed hearing from speakers related to applications and engineering as I don’t often hear about that area so it made for a very varied programme. In general I think one of the main points of the EChems meeting is to push research in the area of molecular electrochemistry; an area which seemed to be disappearing. This is really bad because the new generation just don’t know what has been done 30-40 years ago and so you are losing some of the know-how about procedures, protocols and theoretical interpretation of data. I think this is one of the things that the EChems meetings have been so successful with over the years.
What do you think the most important challenge for electrochemistry is?
Exactly what we’ve been talking about this week; for me energy related work is the most important challenge. So managing to split water and reduce CO2 is something that should be the main focus for most of the financial schemes in the next 10 years. In fact this is what’s starting to happen. On national levels we have projects that have been funded by the national government on CO2 reduction and water splitting – they’re big, important projects and I hope they continue.
And lastly, German or Italian beer?!
(laughs) What do you think?! If it were wine it’d be different but it’s got to be German beer!
Despite not being an electrochemist by training I really enjoyed the conference. I feel that it has broadened my knowledge of areas where electrochemistry is important, and for me really highlighted its relevance and application. I would like to thank the RSC again for its generous support for my attendance.
Emma's is working towards her PhD on "Molecularly defined electro-catalysts for energy conversion and biomass valorisation" with Uli Hintermair and Frank Marken.