These past four weeks have flown by with tasks ranging from submerging myself in the lab culture of recording data, fixing equipment, attending meetings and conferences, as well as initiating my own research! Each day presents a new challenge, each week presents a new journey, and this month presents a new focus.
The first week kicked off with a variety of BET problems. The machine is used to read the surface area and cumulative pore volume over the absorption and desorption processes. The absorption process consists of change in volume as relative pressure increases; desorption describes the volume of the particle as the relative pressure decreases back to its original state. The BET is can record surface area varying in size of micropores (<3 nm), mesopores (3-50 nm), and macropores (>50 nm).
Upon being asked to use the BET more often, we (interns) noticed a gap in the data when the relative pressure increased higher than 1 atm. This glitch in the vacuum resulted in “error” readings. Therefore, the search to understand the originating source of a non-sealed vacuum initiated.
Xiao Zhou, another post-doctorate student of Professor Park, gave us a few tips about using the BET. He mentioned to always use gloves when touching these tubes because it prevents body oils from affecting the tube weights (recorded in milligrams) and air tightening seal. In addition, Xiao Zhou showed us an effective and productive way to wash the tubes. He placed the tubes in the sonicator with soap and DI water to vibrate the particles stuck onto the walls. Then, the tubes were placed in the vacuum oven to dry.
While we continue to do research to answer our curiosity and perform the tasks Greeshma has gives us, we are simultaneously exposing ourselves to green energy ideas through the work of creating pamphlet descriptions about Millennium Villages Project technologies (like LifeStraw and the Hippo Water Rollers) and attending the North American Student Energy Summit conference. The Millennium Villages Project pamphlet compiled a list of advanced technologies being used in third world countries.
This idea of technology to better the planet and people was then reestablished at the UN conference. The North American Student Energy Summit challenged me, along with a group of undergraduate and graduate students, to project the key energy issues in the world.
Melanie Kenderdine, director of the Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis for the United States, along with other important speakers such as Mark Jacobson and Professor Lackner spoke at the conference. Each of them offered a distinct perspective to energy needs and resources with political and scientific reasoning. Some believed that renewable energy would prevail to be the new source, while others believe that as long as it is existent, there is no problem! However, it was interesting how they all seemed to present a fear of reliability and dependency on other countries for energy resources.
I hope to achieve the goals listed in my last report by continuing on this track of peaks and valleys, trial and error, and refocusing my views on what is crucial towards Earth’s future. I am slowly understanding the reasoning behind each experiment and the final results anticipated. I also mentioned that I wanted use my time efficiently to learn more background on the current research to understand the statistical and chemical reaction analysis.
Now, I am fully submerging myself in this sea of mysteries. Within this transition, I am setting up a new goal in mind: designing a new experiment to work on throughout the next month and incoming fall semester.