Before leaving Chicago State University in 2017, I took a sabbatical to explore a very different avenue of research from which I was originally trained. I became interested in learning how digital fabrication tools, such as 3D printing, can be used to create inexpensive or customized scientific instrumentation that could be used for education or specialized research applications. Now at The College at Brockport, I’ve finally put together my first 3D printed scientific instrument, which was recently published in the journal HardwareX. The article, OMIS: The Open Millifluidic Inquiry System for small scale chemical synthesis and analysis, is open access, which means that anyone can read and download the article by heading here.
I’d like to think that when people do something important (like publish an article) they get interviewed. Unfortunately, it’s that time of the semester where students are so stressed out, the last thing they want to do is talk to professors about anything other than “what’s on the test.” So, if I were to give an interview, here’s the questions I’d answer (and ask) about the paper.
I’ve just gotten back from another wonderful BCCE conference (that’s Biennial Conference on Chemical Education) which was held at Notre Dame. It was a great opportunity to catch up with some friends and colleagues that I’ve missed since leaving CSU last year to join the College at Brockport.
I presented some of the work I’ve been doing on 3D printed periodic tables and will blog about their construction and use in the near future. There were some folks in the audience who wanted to get started right away with the objects, so I’ve posted them here on my website. You can download a zip file that contains 19 tables (about 3 MB).
The zip file contains the following periodic trends:
exceptions to the aufbau principle
absolute (Pearson) hardness
For the first four, there are four different sizes
132×76 $mm^2$ table with title, f-block elements and symbols on each of the blocks. These objects take about 3 hours to print.
150×21 $mm^2$ table with no title, no f-block elements and symbols on each of the blocks. These objects take about 2.5 hours to print.
108×36 $mm^2$ table with no title, no f-block elements and symbols on each of the blocks. These objects take about 2 hours to print.
60×24 $mm^2$ table with no title, no f-block elements and no symbols on the blocks. These objects take about 45 minutes to print.
As I build a collection of posts and materials for 3D-printed periodic tables, I will collect them here, so if you have interest in this project, bookmark that page.
Megan and Shauna presented their first semester’s work on developing sensors and methods for OMIS: the Open Millifluidic Inquiry System. Shauna is developing a method to perform alkalinity measurements in small volumes under dynamic flow conditions and Megan is working on a pH sensor based on anodically electrolyzed iridium oxide films. They’ve made some great progress not only building confidence in their laboratory skills but also learning how to present their research (in addition to actually doing the work). I’d consider that a good set of outcomes for their first semester in independent study (as Freshmen, no less). Expect big things from these ladies.
Last week, I posted an early photo of a Chemistry lab from Brockport. Not to be outdone, my wife Rozenn (historian of the Western Monroe Historical Society at the Morgan Manning House) found this picture in one of her books:The caption for the picture reads:
The [Brockport] Chemistry Laboratory: The 1899 yearbook describes the chemistry laboratory as “one of the best appointed in the state, having ample table room for 50 students at one time … The department has over $2,500 worth of physical apparatus, over 2,500 stereopticon slides and some 3,000 specimens.”
That $2,500 in instrumentation would be a bit over 70 thousand in today’s dollars, and I’m happy to say that our department has far more instrumentation than that. The reference to thousands of specimens and stereopticon slides got me thinking about what was taught in Chemistry 118 years ago (hey that’s one year for every element on the periodic table). A quick web search brought me to this article, (which is behind a paywall if you don’t have access to ACS journals) that reviews an historical Chemistry textbook from 1809. It was written by Jane Marcet to “… provide women with a method of educating themselves in chemistry …” and uses a conversational style that is not seen in contemporary instructional materials. This #ThrowbackThursday has me thinking about revisiting some teaching styles (to justify procrastinating on that pile of grading for one more day).
From the Daily Eagle, courtesy of librarian Charlie Cowling, a snapshot of Chemistry instruction from the 1950s. Apparently, Chemistry wasn’t dangerous enough to necessitate safety goggles back then, (but it was too dangerous for girls…). How times have changed.
Back in the 1950s the College was, as its own literature stated, a “single purpose” institution, and that purpose was teacher training. Later in the mid-1960s the College would as part of its ongoing expansion become a comprehensive liberal arts college, with various majors, such as chemistry for example. But before then we still were teaching chemistry here, to aspiring science teachers, and one of the faculty was Robert Brandauer, who taught here from 1946-1970.
In a 1947 Stylus article he is described as “…the man with a million dollar smile…” He had an MS in Chemistry from Cornell (1939,) and at the time was working on his doctorate. In a curious coincidence he had previously taught at Roberts College in Istanbul, where Professor Martin Rogers had also taught. Faculty like Brandauer were in from the beginning of that incredible arc the school traveled, from a small teachers college with less than 1,000 students to a major comprehensive institution with almost 10,000 students.
Recently, I published a paper in the Journal of Physical Chemistry, A with lead author Kyle Grice at DePaul University. He’s an inorganic chemist studying catalytic transformations using transition-metal complexes . One active area in catalysis is the development of systems that are photoactive. Using light to activate a chemical reaction (think photosynthesis) is interesting because the process is considered environmentally friendly. There are other research areas that seek to develop and better understand photochemically active systems, such as organic light-emitting diodes and solar cells. Yes, you read that correctly, better blinky-lights through chemistry.
My wife has been tending to these orchids for a number of years. When we were in Chicago, they looked kind of sad. They seem to like the Brockport air (which has much less traffic pollution, so I don’t blame them).
Click on the picture to get a bigger image. The purple orchid seems to be very pleased by finally having a non-south-facing window to sit in. Speaking of purple, today is Henry Perkin’s 180th birthday (thank you for honoring a Chemist, Google). Perkin is known for discovering a way to produce purple dye. His story, which is detailed in a very readable book by Simon Garfield, is worth picking up if you have a few hours to spare.
I’ve been a little quiet lately; some of that was end of the semester and family activities, but part of it was that I’ve been trying to put the finishing touches on a new project. I now think that OMIS – the open millifluidic inquiry system, is ready for display.
No, there’s no typo in the title. While this post does describe building an instrument (a colorimeter) from scratch, it also uses the Scratch programming language to control the operation of the instrument. Read on to learn the why’s and how’s.