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  Eurocurriculum in Electrochemistry

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ISE publishes the following document on behalf of the Federation of European Chemical Societies

Federation of European Chemical Societies Working Party on Electrochemistry
Eurocurriculum in Electrochemistry

Introductory remarks
The Working Party on Electrochemistry (WPEC) of the Federation of European Chemical Societies (FECS) has discussed problems of education in electrochemistry since 1994. It initiated the first Symposium on "Education in Electrochemistry" organized by G.Inzelt at the 47th Annual meeting of the International Society of Electrochemistry (ISE) in Balatonfüred 1996.A summary of topics was prepared by the Education committee of WPEC. The chairman of that Committee and Secretary of the WPEC, G.Sundholm, reported at the Symposium "The Role of Electrochemistry in Chemistry and Chemical Education" on the concepts of the WPEC at the 49th Annual Meeting of ISE in Kitakyushu 1998.The recommendations for an "Eurocurriculum in Electrochemistry" summarize a goal for electrochemical education at universities. They were finally approved by the WPEC in 1998 in Kitakyushu. The FECS Executive Committee and the European Communities Chemistry Council authorized the WPEC to publish the recommendations. The Executive Committee of ISE approved the recomendations in 1999 in Frauenfeld.After first publication in Electrochimica Acta the recommendations should be published in all Journals of member societies of FECS.Düsseldorf, 30 March 1999
J.W.Schultze, Chairman of the WPEC of FECS


1 General Comments
1.1 Background information
1.2 General Character of recommendations
1.3 Teaching levels considered2 Recommendations of topics
2.1 Topics for level 1
2.2 Topics for level 23 Recommendations for practical laboratory work
3.1 Exercises at level 1
3.2 Exercises at level 24 Recommendation of textbooks
4.1 Textbooks for Physical Chemistry
4.2 Textbooks for electrochemistry
Top of page

Based on a proposal of the Working Party on Electrochemistry and the International Society of Electrochemistry, the Council of FECS approved the Eurocurriculum for Electrochemistry on 24 March 1999.
Teaching of electrochemistry is usually imbedded in the courses of physical chemistry for chemists, scientists and engineers. A background information is given for teachers. Two levels of education are considered:- Level 1: Introduction for all fields of science and undergraduate courses
- Level 2: advanced studies in chemistry, chemical engineering and material scienceRecommendations are given for topics, exercises and literature on both levels of educationAddress for correspondence:
Prof. Dr. Göran Sundholm
Laboratory of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry
Department of Chemical Technology
Helsinki University of Technology
P.O. Box 6100
FIN-02015 HUT Finland

1 General Comments
1.1 Background informationThe teaching of electrochemistry within the physical chemistry curricula of European universities is a matter of great concern for the electrochemical community because only a fraction of the curricula give the basics of the kinetics of electrode processes and surface chemistry needed for a real understanding of how electrochemical systems work. A curriculum without the basics of electrode kinetics and surface and interface science included is about 40 years behind modern developments in this field! The problem is enhanced by the fact that in the view of electrochemists there are only a few textbooks in general physical chemistry, which treat the whole basics of electrochemistry and there seems to be no text which does this well. It is therefore very important to modernise the treatment of electrochemistry in the core physical chemistry curriculum at European universities.
The thermodynamics part of electrochemistry is by tradition usually well treated as part of chemical thermodynamics. Although a knowledge of the thermodynamics of electrochemical systems is quite important, without the understanding of the principles of electrochemical kinetics and the structure of electrode-solution interfaces modern electrochemistry cannot be properly conceived. In order for chemists to understand the principles underlying the functioning of such practically important systems as batteries, fuel cells, corrosion and corrosion protection, electrolysis systems as well as membranes and biomembranes (of utmost importance for the understanding of, e.g. membrane separation processes, drug delivery and the functioning of cell membranes) they must therefore be taught the basics of interfacial structure, electrochemical kinetics and transport processes. These subjects can also be seen as part of heterogenous reactions and catalysis in general. In this connection one should not forget that there are a lot of jobs awaiting chemists with a good basic knowledge of how an electrochemical cell works.
There is great reason for concern about the status of modern electrochemistry within the physical chemistry curricula and therefore the Working Party on Electrochemistry has undertaken to produce and publish recommendations for which electrochemistry subjects should be included in the university level physical chemistry curricula. In addition the WPEC also has undertaken to recommend suitable laboratory experiments and recommendations for suitable textbooks.1.2 General Character of recommendationsIt must be pointed out that the recommendations to be presented are to be seen as guidelines, which should draw the attention of those university teachers responsible for planning the courses to the subject of electrochemistry, and in particular to electrode kinetics (dynamic electrochemistry). Obviously the topics to be treated should be illustrated by examples from modern applications of electrochemistry.
In setting up recommendations for suitable laboratory experiments the WPEC has tried to take into account as far as possible that it should be possible to do the experiments using fairly inexpensive instrumentation.1.3 Teaching levels consideredWe consider two levels of university chemistry teaching, for which recommendations as to what electrochemistry should be included are presented. These levels are roughly defined in the following way:Level 1: basic or general chemistry for students, who do not necessarily take chemistry/chemical engineering as their main subject (e.g. biologists, pharmacists, chemistry teachers, civil, electrical and materials engineers etc.). On this level electrochemical principles should be presented rather in a descriptive than in a quantitative wayLevel 2 for students majoring in chemistry/chemical engineering or materials engineering and, who read one or several courses in physical chemistry. This level is the more important one, because if the particular university has a chair/professor in the subject, the students of this level may further study electrochemistry at an advanced level and specialise alternatively in electrochemistry, electroanalytical chemistry, electrochemical engineering, corrosion or materials science.

2 Recommendations of topics
2.1 Topics for Level 1The following subjects are recommended at this level: Ionic structure of electrolytes. Acid-base equilibria. pH. Buffer solutions. Faraday's laws of electrolysis. Galvanic cells. Electrode potentials and the SHE scale. The Nernst equation. Determination of equilibrium constants of cell reactions. Types of reversible electrodes. Ion selective electrodes, biosensors. Conduction and conductivity of electrolytes. Transport numbers and mobilities. Polymer and other solid electrolytes. The electric double layer. Overpotentials and current-potential curves. Electroanalysis. The basics of corrosion. The hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell. Conductive polymers. Metal deposition.2.2 Topics for Level 2At this level a balanced presentation of the physical chemistry of electrolytes, electrochemical thermodynamics, transport processes in electrochemical cells, the physical chemistry of metal-liquid interfaces and the kinetics of electrochemical reactions should be given. The following subjects are recommended:
Thermodynamics (These topics are usually well covered in the physical chemistry courses). Chemical and electrochemical potentials. The activity concept in electrolyte solutions. The Debye-Hückel model. The Born hydration energy model. Thermodynamics of ions in solution. Definition of electric potential including Galvani and Volta potentials, electrode potentials, the SHE scale, and standard electrode potentials. Thermodynamic equilibrium in an electrochemical cell. Derivation of the cell reaction and the Nernst equation. Classification of reversible electrodes. The relation between equilibrium potential and other thermodynamic quantities. Different types of electrochemical cells. Potentiometric titrations. The membrane potential. Ion selective electrodes.
Examples of the thermodynamics and application of modern electrochemical power sources (e.g. metal-air and lithium batteries, fuel cells) and potentiometric sensors (the relationship to, e.g. environmental, food and water control) could be treated.
Transport properties. Definition of flux. The equation of 1-dimensional transport in the steady state. Ohm's law and Fick's 1. law. Electric conduction in electrolytes. The main transport quantities for ions in solution (mobility, transport number, molar conductivity, diffusion coefficient). The Nernst-Einstein and Stokes-Einstein relations. The basics of nonsteady state diffusion (Fick's 2. law). Measurement of conductivities, transport numbers and diffusion coefficients. The conductivity of strong and weak electrolytes. The dependence of conductivity on temperature, electric field and frequency. Conductivity in molten salts and solid electrolytes.
Interface and kinetics of electrode reactions. Structure of the metal-liquid interface: the electric double layer. The main reaction steps and overpotentials. Kinetics of electron transfer and the current-potential relationship (the Butler-Volmer and Tafel equations). Marcus' theory of homogenous and heterogenous electron transfer. The kinetic parameters of electrode reactions. The diffusion layer model and the limiting current in electrolysis. The rotating disc electrode. Steady-state voltammetry. Electrolysis cells and galvanic cells. The concept of electrocatalysis. The electrochemical mechanism of metallic corrosion and passivity.
Practical examples are, e.g. amperometric sensors including biosensors, conductive polymers, primary and secondary batteries, fuel cells, supercapacitors, galvanic and electroless deposition of metals, electrodeposition of oxides and semiconductors, electropolishing and etching, electrochemical effluent treatment, electrosynthesis of inorganic and organic compounds, corrosion protection.

3 Recommendations for practical laboratory work
3.1 Exercises at level 1

  • pH measurement
  • Potentiometric measurements with ion selective electrodes
  • Potentiometric titration
  • Study of corrosion (Al or Zn corrosion in acidic solution using volumetric determination of H2)
  • Conductivity of electrolyte solutions (e.g. KCl)
  • Efficiency of a secondary battery (e.g. lead-acid battery)
  • The preparation and study of a conductive polymer(polyaniline or polypyrrole on Au)
  • Testing (and possibly preparation) of a reference electroe (e.g. Ag/AgCl)
3.2 Exercises at level 2
  • Standard potentials and activity coefficients from potentiometric measurements
  • The temperature dependence of the equilibrium potential of an electrochemical cell reaction
  • Determination of the molar conductivity of a strong electrolyte
  • Dissociation constant of a weak electrolyte from conductance measurements
  • Polarographic measurement of the reduction of metal ions (e.g. Pb2+, Cd2+ )
  • Voltammetry of a redox couple (e.g. ferro-/ferricyanide or Fe2+/Fe3+ in aqueous solution ) using a rotating disc electrode (Pt, C or Au)
  • Cyclic voltammetry of a redox system (e.g. ferro-/ferricyanide; simulation of the voltammogram may be included if a suitable program is available)
  • Measurement of the overpotential of the hydrogen evolution reaction (using different electrode materials, e.g. Pt, Hg, Pb, Cu)
  • The study of a secondary battery (alkaline, Ni-hydride or Pb acid: measurement of efficiency, capacity, charge-discharge)
  • The preparation and study of a conductive polymer (polyaniline or polypyrrole on Au)
  • Corrosion of a metal (e.g. Fe, steel, Cu) and the effect of inhibitors using potentiodynamic polarisation

     4 Textbooks
    As already pointed out in the introduction there are actually no textbooks in general physical chemistry, which give a good treatment in particular of electrode kinetics (dynamic electrochemistry). After careful consideration the WPEC would like to mention the following

    4.1 Textbooks for Physical Chemistry

    • P.W. Atkins, Physical Chemistry (6th edition 1998)
    • R.A. Alberty, R.J. Silbey, Physical Chemistry (1st edition 1997)
    • G. Wedler, Lehrbuch der Physikalischen Chemie (4th edition 1997) as a reasonable choice for a physical chemistry curriculum at level 2 (as defined above).

    4.2 Textbooks for Electrochemistry
    In particular for teachers and students, who look for supporting texts, that also include examples of practical applications of electrochemistry, the following textbooks can be recommended:

    • C.M.A. Brett, A.M.O. Brett, Electrochemistry: Principles, Methods and Applications, Oxford University Press 1993
    • E. Gileadi, Electrode Kinetics for Chemists, Chemical Engineers and Materials Scientists, VCH Publishers Inc.1993
    • C.H. Hamann, A. Hamnett, W. Vielstich, Electrochemistry, Wiley-VCH 1998
    • C.H. Hamann, W. Vielstich, Electrochemie, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 1998
    • D. Pletcher, F. Walsh, Industrial Electrochemistry, 2nd ed. Chapman and Hall 1993
    • D.T. Sawyer, A. Sobkowiak, J.L. Roberts, Electrochemistry for Chemists, 2nd Ed. J. Wiley & Sons, New York 1995
    • E. Heitz, G. Kreysa, Principles of Electrochemical Engineering, VCH, Weinheim 1986. The last mentioned text also contains descriptions of electrochemical laboratory exercises.
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