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Interview: Sensors, batteries and electrochemistry

“Hopefully I can make those who are a little resistant to try electrochemistry more interested in using this method”, says Professor Shelley Minteer, one of the speakers at the meeting TOC2021.

The next Trends in Organic Chemistry meeting, TOC, takes place on the 6th of December. The topic of the hybrid seminar is electrochemistry, and one of the speakers is Professor Shelley Minteer from the University of Utah.

The work in her lab is quite diverse. The focus was initially on using electrochemistry for sensors for different applications, such as identifying biomarkers in medical devices. As an example, her lab has built smart contact lenses with flexible electrodes for sensing lactate levels in tear fluid.

Shelley Minteer’s research group works with developing sensors, more effective energy conversion and storage, and electrochemistry.
Photo: University of Utah

– Lactate levels are interesting for a few different diseases but also for people who want to monitor their fitness, says Shelley Minteer.

She points out that the contact lenses haven’t been tested on real eyeballs yet.

In another project, her group has worked on developing sensors for measuring the levels of different substances in waste water.

– If you look worldwide, there is a big variation in waste water composition – from pretty clean to water with a lot of contaminants. Also, in some places like Hong Kong, they use salt water to flush their toilets. This makes it challenging to find sensors that would work everywhere. We have tried to solve this problem by using a scaffold found in halotolerant (salt tolerant) bacteria to make sensors.

In 2006, the lab expanded from its work with sensors to also designing electrodes for more efficient energy storage and conversion, and today one third of Shelley Minteer’s group works with the development of batteries and fuel cells.

Another focus area, which half of the group is working on, is electrosynthesis. It started with CO2 and nitrogen reduction, but the focus has now expanded into organic electrosynthesis.

How did you develop an interest in electrochemistry?

– I have always been interested in measurement science. In undergraduate courses, electrochemistry was not covered much so I signed up for a class on the subject to learn more about it in graduate school. I immediately realized that I wanted to know more and decided to continue to work with electrochemistry.

Who should listen to your talk?

– People with an interest in synthesis. Hopefully I can make those who are a little resistant to try electrochemistry more interested in using this method.

TOC2021 is a hybrid meeting, which will take place at the IVA Conference Center in Stockholm on December 6. The registration for physical attendance has closed but it is still possible to register to attend the meeting digitally. Read more about TOC2021 here: Electrochemistry in Organic Synthesis – Trends in Organic Chemistry (