Women in Nanoscience


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Jennifer Rupp (ETH) controls mechanical buckling of membranes in fuel cells and batteries

Posted on July 7, 2015 at 6:50 PM

Ceramic membranes are used widely for energy conversion applications, such as fuel cells and batteries. In these applications, the membrane takes the form of a thin film, which is vulnerable to mechanical strain and buckling. Mechanical deformation could alter the properties of the thin films, which leads to device performance with wide variability. However, the underlying relationship between mechanical deformation and membrane properties remains only partially understood.


In a recent publication in Nature Materials, Jennifer Rupp, professor of Electrochemical Materials at ETH Zurich, and her group demonstrated a correlation between the mechanical strain and oxygen's ionic conductivity for ceria-based thin-film membrane devices. Her research team fabricated free-standing ceria-based membrane with different patterns of platinum electrode, and another membrane supported by a flat substrate for comparison. Rupp's work showed that the free-standing membrane has a higher oxygen ionic conductivity than the substrate-supported membrane, and followed an Arrhenius behavior over a wide range of temperatures. Rupp's team selectively controlled membrane buckling using different patterns of electrode. These results provide important insights to understand the influence of mechanical and structural heterogeneity of thin-film membranes on fuel cell and battery performance, which could aid the improvements and optimization of such devices.


Rupp is a leading researcher in the field of material development and understanding structure-transport relations for information memory storage, micro-systems, and energy-conversion and storage systems. She was nominated as one of the top 40 international scientists under the age of 40 to speak at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in China on new innovative "Materials and Devices for Global Energy Challenges" in 2014 and again in 2015. She was awarded the Spark Award by ETH Zurich, "for the most innovative and economically important invention of the year," for her work on new memristor information storage concept, the Kepler Award by European Academy of Science, and the Young Scientist Award by the International Solid State Ionics Society.

- Written by Eugene Choi, Edited by Paulette Clancy

(Photo credit: Provided by and used with permission from Prof. Rupp).

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