The American Electrochemical Society honored C. Austen Angell, an ASU Regents' professor of chemistry and biochemistry, with the Max Bredig award for his pioneering work on ionic liquids.
The award recognizes Angell’s years of innovation in the field of molten salts and ionic liquids chemistry.
Angell was presented with the Bredig award on Oct. 13, at an awards banquet during the Electrochemical Society’s 218th meeting in Las Vegas.
The Electrochemical Society is the fourth professional society in the U.S. to recognize Angell’s work with one of its internationally contested awards. He won the Materials Research Society’s David Turnbull award in 2007 and the American Chemical Society’s Joel Henry Hildebrand award in 2004. The American Ceramic Society (Glass Division) was the first with its George Morey award in 1990, the year after Angell joined ASU.
Molten salts and ionic liquids are actually the same thing but at different temperatures. They are exotic liquids in which every particle carries an electric charge – like table salt, except they flow like water – even at room temperature in the case of “ionic liquids.”
Molten salts are great carriers of electric current, as needed in batteries. If General Electric Company succeeds in its ambitions, molten salts will be central to immense electric power storage facilities of the future in which excess grid energy will be used to convert sodium in the molten salt, quickly and temporarily, to metallic sodium. Such systems are urgently needed to “load-balance” sustainable, but erratic, renewable energy sources and better serve industrial society. The molten salt in the GE system is NaAlCl4, obtained by combining table salt with the chloride of aluminum, AlCl3. NaAlCl4 is a liquid at temperatures above 157 C (315 F).
Angell is best known for his studies on glass-forming liquids and super-cooled water. Working with colleague Jeff Yarger two years ago, he reported in Nature the first successful vitrification (turn into glass-like substance) of a pure metal. Then in a recent paper in Nature Physics (Nov. 28), he and other colleagues showed how the paradoxical behavior of an iron-cobalt alloy could be used to help understand how all these very different glass-formers might relate to one another.
“I’ve truly enjoyed working with my colleagues to delve into these materials and chronicle their exotic behaviors,” Angell said. “It helps, being part of one of the top-five high-impact research chemistry departments in the country.”