A research team working in a lab located 18 feet beneath the Engineering Quad of Stanford University, recently registered success in observing a microscopic level reaction with the help of most developed microscopes. These lab experiments were performed after arduous labor by the team member who had to work continuously for 30 hours in a stretch many a times This hectic work schedule provided them with the required opportunity to capture dynamic, real-time visualizations of atoms that may help our phone batteries to last longer and extend the range of our electric vehicles one fine day.
While working in these underground labs, they were able to register movement of atoms in and out of nanoparticles measuring far less than 100 nanometers under a resolution of approx. 1 nanometer. According to Jeh Donne, the associate professor of engineering and material sciences at Stanford, “The ability to directly visualize reactions in real time with such high resolution will allow us to explore many unanswered questions in the chemical and physical sciences. While the experiments are not easy, they would not be possible without the remarkable advances in electron microscopy from the past decade.”
These experiments focused over hydrogen’s movement into palladium, a specific reaction class known as interaction-driven phase transition. Physically, the reaction is pretty much analogous to flow of ions inside a fuel cell or battery during the charging-discharging process. Observation of this process in real time offers insights into how nanoparticles make way better electrodes as compared to other bulk materials and perfectly fit into the larger interest of Dionne in energy storage devices that can recharge faster, hold better energy, and keep permanent failure at bay. The experiment had several complexities and Dionne’s team worked quite hard to overcome those. The process included months of trials and errors while the final results were highly detailed with real-time videos of alterations that took place as hydrogen was introduced in the process.
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