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Did you know that if you put a penny inside a lemon with a strip of zinc, you could create a low-voltage battery? Interesting fact. Many people relate batteries to the field of electrochemistry. Since electrochemists study the movement and separation of charge in matter, electrochemistry is the study of the interchange of chemical and electrical aspects of reactions or energy.

The elements involved in an electrochemical reaction are characterized by the number of electrons each side has. More simply put, electricity is the movement of electrons from one place to another and an electrochemical cell converts chemical energy into electrical energy using a redox reaction. Redox is the term used to label reactions in which the acceptance of an electron (reduction) by a material is matched with the donation of an electron (oxidation).

Oxidation is whether or not a metal is attached to an oxygen atom. Since metals can be oxidized or reduced depending upon their chemical environment, they can be used to create important breakthroughs in scientific discovery and create commercial products. This also helps electrochemists understand why metals rust and the effects of this rust.

As electron positives and negatives flow together, electrochemists try to solve the problem of all the charges building up on one side. Therefore, they use forms of electricity to create chemical reactions and analysis. Accordingly, electrochemists study voltage very carefully. For instance, if you had two plates of iron, voltage is related to the amount of energy released every time a certain number of electrons jump from one of the plates to the other. By studying the effects of flowing electrons, or electrical charges, they create more powerful sources of energy, longer lasting batteries and other new inorganic feats.

Electrochemists search for ways to utilize energy sources. They use sophisticated scientific equipment and create experiments that study electric reactions that are dependent on chemicals. Due to the rapid pace of technological advances, it is recommended that electrochemists become computer literate.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
What does it take to become an electrochemist? Electrochemists need good communication skills including reading and writing, and an affinity for mathematics, science and problem-solving. They should be able to work independently as well as with a team, have incredible patience, and meticulousness. Electrochemists should also enjoy synthesizing information and finding innovative solutions to physical problems, working with instruments at tasks requiring precision, and directing the work of others. They should also be persistent because experiments will not always yield the desired results.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Use chemistry to understand why chemical compounds, namely electrons behave the way they do
  • Analyze the components of solid, liquid or gas mixtures
  • Study the chemistry of electrical and electronic things
  • Develop methods and equipment, such as batteries to make and study chemical compounds
  • Study mainly inorganic chemistry
  • Study the physical characteristics of matter to better understand the fundamental principles of chemical structure and behavior
  • Guide research by eliminating non-feasible options and highlighting those with the best chance of success
  • Develop analytical instrumentation and related analytical methods
  • Write reports on experiments and publish articles in scientific journals
  • May lecture and supervise students
  • Electrochemists often work in research and development teams. They work variable hours in offices, laboratories and classrooms. Depending on their specialty area, they may be required to put in longer hours. Those employed in research facilities, industrial plants or hospitals may be required to work shifts. Since they use complex, high-tech scientific equipment to mix chemicals and test their effects, they must use safety precautions when conducting experiments.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Electrochemists teach at universities and high schools and work for the government. They are also employed by manufacturing and telecommunications companies, utilities, laboratories, hospitals, the chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and pulp and paper industries, private consulting companies and other organizations. They may specialize within their fields.

  Long Term Career Potential  
With further education, electrochemists can move into related professional disciplines such as medicine, law and engineering, along with other areas of chemistry. Some go on to become scientific writers and even journalists. With experience, they can move into more managerial and supervisory roles, training junior level scientists and guiding the work of research assistants.

  Educational Paths  
Most electrochemists begin their postsecondary education by taking a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, focusing on electrochemistry. Those who wish to specialize usually continue their education to the master's or doctoral level. In general, the entrance requirement for master's degree programs in electrochemistry is an acceptable average in a four-year BS degree program in chemistry (or equivalent). A PhD is often required for research and teaching positions.

Students planning careers as electrochemists should take courses in science and mathematics, and should like working with their hands building scientific apparatus and performing laboratory experiments and computer modeling.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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