Real-time Observation of Atomic Motion at Solid-Liquid Interfaces

– Expected to elucidate solid-liquid interfacial phenomena related to the performance of fuel cells and secondary batteries –

Researchers: Tetsuroh Shirasawa, Senior Researcher, Nanostructured Materials Characterization Research Group, the Research Institute for Material and Chemical Measurement


The researcher has developed a high-speed method (~100 times faster than conventional methods) for measuring X-ray diffraction profiles from interfaces and realized monitoring of atomic motion on an electrode surface during electrochemical reaction.

Conventional (left) and developed (right) surface X-ray diffraction measurement


Fuel cells and secondary batteries are regarded as key energy devices for the realization of sustainable society. In the batteries, the electric energy is generated through the electrochemical reactions at the surface of electrodes. Understanding the mechanisms of the reactions is essential to drastic improvement in the energy conversion efficiency. There was a need for a technology that allows atomic motion on an electrode surface to be observed during the reactions in real time.

New findings

In collaboration with the Japan Science and Technology Agency, the National Institute for Materials Science, Tokyo Gakugei University, and the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, the researcher has developed a method for measuring the X-ray diffraction profile at once, by using multi-wavelength X-rays generated from synchrotron radiation x-rays and a bent crystal that works like an optical prism. Using this method, he has developed a technique for real-time observation of interface structure in less than one second, about 100 times faster than conventional techniques. He applied this technique to the electrolysis of methanol and found that a significant increase in reaction activity occurred simultaneously with the removal of a reaction intermediate adsorbed on the electrode surface.

Future plans and potential for application

The researcher will observe the degradation process of fuel cell electrodes and the reaction processes at the interfaces of secondary batteries, investigate the mechanism of these reactions, and provide the obtained knowledge to those involved in development of new devices and materials.

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