E-Chem for Everyone
Electrochemistry is an abstract subject to most, and many students are not taught modern techniques in electrochemistry outside of theoretical calculations of cell potential and corroboration using a multimeter. Electrochemistry is most useful when everyone has access to instrumentation to deepen their understanding of modern and industrially/analytically useful techniques, such as bulk electrolysis and cyclic voltammetry. Unfortunately, access to instrumentation is limited despite the rather inexpensive nature of devices capable of making electrochemical measurements.
We have the tremendous goal of making North Carolina the heart of electrochemical innovation beginning with high school students via undergraduate and graduate education here at UNC. In Fall 2018, students in CHEM 445 (Electroanalytical Chemistry), featured above, are piloting a program through UNC's Quality Enhancement Plan, wherein they build their own electrochemical measurement devices (we lovingly call them SweepStats). Students take advantage of the Be A Maker (BeAM) Makerspace here at UNC, where they build their electronic topologies by soldering, learn the basics of 3D printing to build a box for their SweepStat, test their SweepStats in our laboratory, use COMSOL Multiphysics Digital Simulation Software to simulate experimental results to validate their experiments, and eventually donate their SweepStat to a high school or university interested in integrating electrochemistry into their curriculum. These SweepStats are built with state-of-the-art materials for less than $55. So far, nearly 25 different schools around the United States will receive SweepStat v1 early in 2019 for testing, and we expect to grow the program to focus on high schools in North Carolina in the coming years.