Summer Research Experience for Teachers

In the summer of 2008, the following teachers have joined the MRSEC team:
Pam Rasmussen

Pam Rasmussen, Raymond Central High School
Worked with Jeff Shield, Mechanical Engineering.

“This summer, I made and characterized Fe-Au nanoclusters produced by inert gas condensation. This is an extension of previous research on core shell structures. The clusters appeared to be single-phase in the fcc structure, although the clusters did show magnetism. This result generates more questions: Do I have a solid solution of immiscible iron and gold? It is the questions that arise during the research experience that get me most excited about returning to my classroom. I want my students to know that it is okay not to know the answers. I will use my experience in my classroom this fall with such specific topics as miscibility and electron spin. It will also influence more general discussions on magnetism and research.”

Steve Wignall

Steven Wignall, Seward High School
Worked with Steve Ducharme, Physics.

“This summer I am working with Professor Ducharme’s group. My main emphasis this year is to develop labs and activities that will be posted on the MRSEC website for science teachers. These activities are meant to help teachers cover current topics in alternate energy, nanotechnology, and research in general. These activities were written so minimal preparation is needed to successfully complete them. Activities include: Planck’s constant using LED’s, Make your own Organic Solar Cell, Homemade Capacitors, and Fuel Cells.”

Lessons and activities (RET Summer program 2008)

Mike Clark

Michael Clark, Creighton Prep High School, Omaha
Worked with Li Tan, Engineering Mechanics.

“This summer I worked on two projects. The first was self assembly of nanoparticles. My responsibilities for this project were to conduct experiments of starting material under very acidic conditions. After the reaction proceeded for a prolonged period of time, slow neutralization of the resulting precipitate was conducted followed by vacuum filtration. A variety of analysis was conducted (SEM, AFM, XRD) to determine the properties and interaction of the resulting precipitate. This data was then subsequently used to adapt the experimental design to eventually produce higher yields of the desired precipitate.
The second project I worked on was nanoindentations of nanoparticles. First, a process of adequately trapping the desired nanoparticles had to be created and refined. Basically using UV photolithography, a series of small wells was generated to trap the particles from moving. Next, nanoindentation experiments on these trapped particles was conducted to determine their mechanical properties for manufacturing purposes.”

Nick Reding

Nicholas Reding, Papillion Lavista High School
Worked with Stephen Ducharme, Physics.

“This summer I am experimenting with capacitor dielectrics made of the ferroelectric material polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). Ferroelectric materials have a uniform polarization due to the alignment of the molecules within the material. Because of the polarization, they can be manipulated and switched by an external electric field. We are specifically using the copolymer of vinylidene fluoride with trifluoroethylene P(VDF-TrFE). The 65/35 ratio P(VDF-TrFE) undergoes a phase transition at around 100 °C. This is the temperature where the material no longer exhibits a net polarization and is said to be in the paraelectric state. One of my main objectives is to compare the ferroelectric properties of the P(VDF-TrFE) samples to samples that also contain barium titanate (BTO) nanoparticles. The sample capacitors are heated to a temperature of 125 °C and then allowed to cool while monitoring the change in capacitance as the material changes states. Capacitance versus voltage tests are also done to see how an applied voltage affects the polarization of the samples. We hope to see an increase in the capacitance due to the combined effect of the ferroelectric properties of P(VDF-TrFE) and the addition of BTO particles that are sandwiched between the polymer.”