Yesterday was the beginning of my internship. The group of people I work with consists of four zany people called Kira, Peter, Jon, and Max, although Max hasn't arrived in the office yet. He was an intern who was recently employed into the startup; he took a month off in between the end of his internship and the beginning of employment. My mentor and my coworkers are very welcoming and positive people. I feel myself shrinking throughout the days though. My voice has turned into a squeak. Perhaps it is a feeling of paranoia that I am just going to do poorly, but that is not the spirit. I will have to try my best and believe in myself, as the time people have spent teaching me should be appreciated.
Now on to more positive things. As shown in the first picture, this laboratory Totoro sits in front of my desk. Kira drew that. She is a very nice person and always takes the time to answer my questions and lead me to resources. About my summer project, I have learned that I will be focusing on the synthesis of polymer membranes for use in lithium metal batteries. The polymer membrane is called PIM, or a polymer with intrinsic microporosity due to its kinks that lead to irregular folding of the polymer. This irregularity leads to a rigid structure which can help inhibit dendrite formation. Dendrites can cause for short circuits in the battery by growing on the anode and puncturing the separator. The PIM chemical structure is shown in the second picture. I seek to create 60 g of this PIM tomorrow. PIM appears a fluorescent yellow, which according to my mentor, is due to the HOMO/LUMO concept. That is all I can say. :)
The third picture is proof of my sweat and tears for trying to recollect whatever organic chemistry knowledge I had attained in Fall 2015. My mentor gave me two reactants and prodded me to draw and explain the reaction to reach the polymer product which is actually not the final product! It is the smallest repeat of the actual polymer. Although the experience was grueling, I felt quite proud that I remembered snippets of organic chemistry such as a nucleophile, resonance, polar aprotic solvent, and etc. I am reminded that I like knowing why reactions work.
He then showed me around the laboratory spaces and introduced to me the instruments they used. They had battery cyclers, glove boxes with argon to avoid lithium combustion in the presence of water and oxygen, and a machine used to measure the weight of polymers. He highlighted safety practices such as never touching the door using gloves and disposing of organic wastes except for nitrous acid in the FlamCan. He also showed me the location of the fire alarm and fire extinguishers.
Today, I attended a talk about "Waste Plastics for New Materials Production: Design and Reversibility in Polymer Networks" by Dr. Jamie Garcia. Most of our plastic waste is not recycled, even when we put them in recycling bins! I wish I was more awake to more fully understand her talk though. Something about the fluffy carpet floors pulled me into the world of sleepiness.
I also attended the fire extinguisher training. The regimen of using a fire extinguisher is as follows. I am not certified but I can teach you a little bit. The protocol is P.A.S.S. Pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep! There are two kinds of extinguishers. Class ABC is for materials that are not combustible metals such as wood, paper, and liquid. Class D are for combustible metals. Also, before extinguishing the fire, it is important to trigger the fire alarm.
Random, fun highlights of my day was seeing a deer peep from the tall grass and eating at the cafeteria where scientists congregated to have their meal.