Why do so many chemists fear electrochemistry? Is it because there is no formal home for it in the chemistry curriculum? At any rate, electrochemistry is here to stay, and it’s worth the effort to understand it well. Electron transfer reactions are at the heart of modern energy applications, and electrochemistry is a useful tool for studying mechanistic inorganic chemistry. If our analytical colleagues aren't going to assume the mantle, then it's up to us, the inorganic chemists, to add it to our ever-growing list of topics.
Luckily, help is here! IONiC member Jillian Dempsey and her research group at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill recently published a thorough tutorial in the Journal of Chemical Education. Titled “A Practical Beginner’s Guide to Cyclic Voltammetry”, the article will be immensely useful to anyone in the field of electrochemistry, from beginning graduate students to professors moving in new research directions. The group uses an easy-to-digest format to carefully outline the anatomy of a CV scan, answering the age-old question about why the CV scans of reversible redox reactions end up resembling a duck.
The authors also discuss the components of an electrochemical cell, providing practical advice and tips related to the choice of solvent, supporting electrolyte, and electrodes. If you find yourself trying to interpret a CV scan more complex than a simple duck shape, the authors explain why this may have happened as a result of irreversibility, coupled chemical reactions, and multielectron processes. The article’s supporting information includes extensive training modules - with solutions.
Thus, the article can also serve as a teaching module on electrochemistry and electrochemical reactions for undergraduates and graduate students alike. If you use it in your courses please post your experiences to VIPEr!