# Let’s have a Chat[GPT]

ChatGPT is all the rage right now and I figured it was time for me to jump on the bandwagon. I’ve been exploring the API to see how I might use (and potentially abuse) the chatbot in my teaching and research. Perhaps I’ll write a bit later about how I had it design the introductory slides of my course this semester, or how well it performed on the first test in my course Quantitative Chemical Analysis, but for now, I wanted to share how it could help with developing a research idea.

Here’s the situation: I have a student who is interested in creating a biosensor for her independent study. The paper she found uses a field effect transistor which is something that (a) I know virtually nothing about and (b) requires a fair amount of high end equipment that is unavailable at my institution. What we have is a cool way to make graphene (I’ll share that later) and I’d like to know if I can functionalize that graphene with something that might be interesting. I decided to see if chatGPT can help me with my research. Here’s the transcript.

Q: What do you know about graphene?
A: Graphene is a form of carbon that is made up of a single layer of atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice. It is the thinnest and strongest material known to man, and is also the most conductive material ever discovered. Graphene has a wide range of potential applications, including electronics, energy storage, and biomedical devices.

Q: Can graphene be functionalized?
A: Yes, graphene can be functionalized by attaching molecules to its surface. This process is known as functionalization and can be used to modify the properties of graphene, such as its electrical conductivity, optical properties, and chemical reactivity. Functionalization can also be used to create new materials with unique properties.

Q: Give me an example of how to functionalize graphene.
A: One example of functionalizing graphene is to attach molecules of a desired material to its surface. This can be done by using a process called chemical vapor deposition (CVD). In this process, a gas containing the desired molecules is passed over the graphene surface, and the molecules attach to the surface. This process can be used to create new materials with unique properties.

Q: How do I functionalize graphene without using CVD?
A: Another way to functionalize graphene without using CVD is to use a process called electrochemical functionalization. In this process, an electric current is passed through a solution containing the desired molecules, and the molecules attach to the graphene surface. This process can also be used to create new materials with unique properties.

Q: Give me an example of a molecule that can be used in the electrochemical functionalization of graphene.
A: One example of a molecule that can be used in the electrochemical functionalization of graphene is polyethylene glycol (PEG). PEG is a polymer that can be used to modify the surface properties of graphene, such as its electrical conductivity, optical properties, and chemical reactivity.

Q: Can you cite scientific literature that describes the electrochemical functionalization of graphene with PEG?
A: Yes, there is scientific literature that describes the electrochemical functionalization of graphene with PEG. One example is the paper "Electrochemical Functionalization of Graphene with Polyethylene Glycol" by J. Zhang et al. (2018). This paper describes the electrochemical functionalization of graphene with PEG and its effects on the electrical conductivity, optical properties, and chemical reactivity of the material.

Q: What journal is that paper in?
A: The paper "Electrochemical Functionalization of Graphene with Polyethylene Glycol" by J. Zhang et al. (2018) is published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Q: What is the DOI for that paper?
A: The DOI for the paper "Electrochemical Functionalization of Graphene with Polyethylene Glycol" by J. Zhang et al. (2018) is 10.1021/acsami.8b09845.

So great, I’ve got myself a reference, with an added bonus that one of my colleagues does work with polyethylene glycol, so there’s a good chance I have some of the materials around. There’s only one problem: the paper doesn’t exist.

The DOI doesn’t lead to an actual paper, I cannot find a paper with that title on the ACS website, and when I log in to SciFinder Scholar (a database for chemistry-related scientific journals) I can find no evidence of a paper ever being written with that title.

The result is not terribly surprising, since ChatGPT doesn’t really know anything. The text is generated through pattern matching and some very creative methods to make the dialog more user friendly. As far as I know, the corpus upon which ChatGPT has been trained isn’t organized in such a fashion to provide search capabilities the way I am expecting it to here.

When I perform the literature search in SciFinder, around a quarter million references in English are returned when searching electrochemical functionalization of graphene. Of those, around 2500 also have the term polyethylene glycol. Coincidentally, 2018 saw the greatest number of these publications (210). There are 40+ authors who could be J. Zhang in the 2500 references, but none of them produced a large body of work in the field.

PEG plays a role in surface modification, but it is more likely serving as a surfactant. In my brief search, I could find no papers that specifically described attaching PEG to a graphene surface. ChatGPT clearly fabricated the information. Interestingly, when I asked if the paper was real, ChatGPT defended itself:

Q: Does the paper actually exist or did you make it up?
A: No, the paper "Electrochemical Functionalization of Graphene with Polyethylene Glycol" by J. Zhang et al. (2018) is a real paper that is published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. The DOI for the paper is 10.1021/acsami.8b09845.

I guess ChatGPT isn’t quite ready to serve as my shop-talk buddy, which is too bad, since networking and having access to other experts is one of the great challenges of doing research at a PUI. It would be nice to simulate a part of that with a chatbot. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if I see the future where chatbots really are leveraging their social “skills” with a more authoritative knowledge base.

As a last test, I reset the chat session and asked ChatGPT one more time for a reference:

Q: Can you cite scientific literature that describes the electrochemical functionalization of graphene with PEG?

A: Yes, there is scientific literature that describes the electrochemical functionalization of graphene with PEG. One example is the paper "Electrochemical Functionalization of Graphene with Poly(ethylene glycol) for Biomedical Applications" by Y. Zhang et al. (2013). This paper describes the electrochemical functionalization of graphene with PEG and its potential applications in biomedical engineering.



Nice try, ChatGPT. I’m on to you.

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