Week 3 : Frustrations ensue

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Friday, June 12, 2015


Teresa Turmanian

This week got off to a good start.  I learned how to use a probe station to measure the electronic behavior of nanoscale devices.  Once again, despite its complex appearance, the gist of using this machine was basically delicate hand movements and keeping track of what cables connected to which ports.  My research partner and I played around with a wafer full of hundreds of tiny devices, learning to align the metal pads with the wire probes.  Up until now I have enjoyed uncommonly good luck in which all of the equipment has behaved itself nicely.......

learning to use a probe station

But that was not to last...BAM!   We hit a brick wall and once again we faced the reality of research: inanimate objects are temperamental, and sometimes they just don’t work.  First, one of our probe holders was not maintaining its vacuum seal and refused to respond to any of our attempts to fix it. Thus, it was banished to the cabinet and replaced.  

Ok, we’ve had a hardware problem so how about a software problem? Sure- in the form of, you guessed it, a data collection program.  Three hours and five frustrated people later we still could not get it to talk to the analyzer so we decided to call it a day. The next few days were computer days.  I spent them playing around with some practice data in Excel by plotting it in different ways and manipulating it to calculate the ease of flow of the electrons in our test material.  Meanwhile my partner worked on an AutoCAD drawing of some new features that will eventually be added to our device.  After a boatload of dimensional analysis and painstakingly processing data in Excel, I was able to make my calculation.  Turns out that the value I found was reasonable given the composition of the sensor material but in general for a transistor material it was horrible!  By horrible I mean the value was five, yep five, orders of magnitude too small. Thankfully we have a different material in mind for the real device ;)  Thursday brought news of more misbehaving equipment which brought our progress to a temporary halt.  On a more upbeat note, I am looking forward to Friday evening when all of us SPS interns will have dinner with the executive committee of the American Institute of Physics.  Nothing beats free food that also happens to be delicious!

Teresa Turmanian