Week 6: Prepare, test, tweak, repeat

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Sunday, July 6, 2014


Kelby Peterson

I know, I know, I'm cutting this week short; but don't you worry I'll get the 4th of July celebration in to next week's post.

This week my research has been a series of prepare, test, tweak, repeat, all in an effort to finally get my mono-layered sample. This week I have focused on attempting to exfoliate my material via liquid exfoliation rather than the mechanical (tape-based) exfoliation of last week. I started by researching what liquid exfoliation was and how it worked, then finding ways to apply it to our situation. For liquid exfoliation you suspend your sample in a solution and then sonicate (basically vibrate) the liquid to break apart the sample. Then you centrifuge (spin) the liquid so that the sample gathers near the bottom. This is suppose to help break apart the material and hopefully get a mono-layer suspended in there that can then be deposited on the sample.

The liquid exfoliation method seems really promising but brings with it its own set of challenges. My week has been spent trying to figure out how to deposit the material on the sample and eliminate the liquid without losing the material. It's been a process of trying different methods, learning new equipment, and imaging these samples as much as possible to find a way to optimize the circumstances and obtain the ideal sample. I've been able to image flakes with the atomic force microscope (AFM) smaller than many of us can even imagine, but sadly they are all still much larger than we can use.

Photo: 3-D representation of AFM image of an exfoliated flake

In all honesty this weekend was my lazy, rejuvenate, netflix weekend. I decided to take most of the weekend to myself to just vegetate, cuddle with my blankets, and prepare myself for the crazy, busy, excitement that will be the upcoming weekend with the 4th of July in DC. I did break free of my mental rejuvenation long enough to go grocery shopping, and spend a wonderful Saturday evening at a concert. I was lucky enough to be invited along with Nick and his parents to a bluegrass concert. I have just enough background in bluegrass to know I enjoy it, but the extent of it is an occasional song here and there.

So this evening was a whole new adventure for me. To start Nick and I were at least two or three standard deviations below the norm age group for this concert, which just added to the joy of people watching. Next this concert was structured in such a unique way, which was quite refreshing from the normal crowded, loud, bubbly concerts of mainstream music. We got there a couple hours early to get our number, this number is what order you get to go into the concert hall in, we then are invited into what was basically a giant waiting room, with a full service drink station. When it was an hour and a half before the show seating began. When they began calling numbers everyone gathered around the doors with excited grins, much like kids watching someone scoop ice cream for them. Once our number was called we could go in and find a table from which to watch the concert. They then had a full dinner menu to eat as a pre-show event. It was quite fascinating. The music itself was quite entertaining. The band was called Seldom Scene, and the show was a fun mix of upbeat music and entertaining, eclectic people on stage (and off). It was a great addition to my weekend and concert experiences.

Kelby Peterson