High-current electrochemical probe

Simple, rapid, and accurate mass testing for electrochemical performance of materials


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Scientists at the Army Research Laboratory have invented a new electrochemical test apparatus made from electrically, but not ionically, conductive materials that allow rapid screening at high currents. The patented technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

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Materials for use in electrochemical devices such as fuel cells, batteries, chemical reactors, and catalytic systems have to be rapidly and accurately scanned to determine their electrochemical performance. Various systems for such high throughput testing have been developed; for example, optical screening methods are used to assess proton concentration within small active portions of an array.

These methods are inherently limited because the variations of proton concentration are not easily detectable. Several different approaches and systems exist, all of which are complex and typically require multiple, printed electrical leads. This, in turn, decreases any benefit obtained from large scale scanning systems. Traditional devices are both electrically and ionically conductive, with ionic resistance being relatively high. Therefore, only a minimal current, typically less than 1mA, can be measured by such an apparatus, restricting the utility of the system and the nature of the measurements collected.

There is a significant need for simple, high speed, and accurate mass measurement of electrochemical properties of test samples. ARL scientists have developed a new electrochemical test apparatus for rapidly screening large numbers of materials at relatively high currents, typically at least 100 mA, allowing the system to test a broader range of samples. This is achieved by using device components that are electrically conductive but not ionically conductive.

The base of the device is a support plate which consists of a material which is electrically conductive but not ionically conductive, as well as electrochemically and chemically inert to test samples and other components of the apparatus. There are a variety of materials which meet these criteria, for example, carbon, specifically graphite. Other appropriate materials are ferrous metals and alloys, such as stainless steel or titanium.

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