Electrochemical methods utilize the controlled flow of electrons to: produce electricity from chemical reactions, drive chemical reactions, and perform analytical measurements of chemical phenomena.
The combination of an oxidation half reaction and a reduction half reaction can produce energy spontaneously. If the overall reaction is carefully controlled, the energy can be used on demand (e.g., galvanic cell, battery, fuel cell).
A non-spontaneous electrochemical reaction can be driven by forced movement of electrons induced by an applied voltage. Aluminum production via such an electrolysis method (reduction of molten aluminum oxide) consumes nearly 5% of the electricity that is generated in the United States.
The flow of electrons can be carefully controlled to study an individual half reaction in an electrochemical cell. Techniques such as voltammetry, amperometry, and potentiometry, can be used to study the interaction between catalyst electrode surfaces and electrochemically active species in solution. A fundamental understanding of these interactions leads to rational catalyst design for efficient and stable energy production and fuel synthesis.