Recently, I have passed my safety training by my supervisor and have been approved to work independently but not alone. This is for safety purposes. I am soon going to be entrusted with performing certain reactions that have unfurled in my supervisor’s head. In my head, I think his chemistry prowess is magic, but he tells me it’s just experience. However, as he is currently occupied with applying for grants, I have been helping Max on the sidelines with his reactions. I wrote the overnight form, cleaned glassware, and fitted the water pipes with locks. Cleaning glassware can be therapeutic and relaxing when accompanied by the absence of sound or the presence of some soothing tunes.
On days when I am not assigned a reaction to perform, I would read about what my other coworkers are working on. For example, Jon tries to maximize cycle-life and efficiency by reducing ROM (redox-active organic molecules) crossover between electrode compartments during cycling while maintaining a good transport of the lithium ion. Kira tests the battery’s performance in terms of the impedance and voltages obtained from PEIS, GCPL, and CP.
I have been purifying the 60 g batch of PIM-1 with the help of Max. Purification involves removing reactants and solvents. We use a Buchner funnel and filter paper to try to remove impurities, such as the salt used or remnants of aluminum foil. Although it has taken a while, we were able to obtain a honeycomb structure of PIM-1 which is shown in the first picture.
In addition, I have performed an organoborate synthesis reaction to create a new polymer material for the membrane. This involved using solvents, catalysts, and spirobisindane. This reaction was similar to Max’s, except the mole ratio of the reactants are now all equal at 1. The reaction mixture was placed under a reflux condenser to cool the vaporized product and reduce loss of product. Then, the product was mixed with DCM (dichloromethane) to see if we could precipitate, or as my coworkers and supervisors called “crash out”, the product. This was successful for the first try with 10 mL DCM where this cloud of precipitate appeared (3:10 reaction mixture to DCM ratio). However, upon creating an NMR sample with the rotavapped product, the NMR spectrum appeared with 4 peaks, 2 indicating water and DMSO, but the small number of two indicating that no products were formed. Again, we mixed the remaining 7 mL of reaction mixture with 50 mL DCM. Upon adding 5 mL of DCM, no precipitate appeared. Upon adding another 5 mL of DCM, no precipitate appeared again.
I think another valuable part of this internship is getting familiar with instrumentation and equipment in the laboratory. For example, I have learned about how to operate the Schlenk line, which is used when you do not want your reactants to contain moisture. I have also learned it is important to label flasks for each step to allow for an easy navigation between the lab notes and lab chemicals. I have learned about silation. If a mixture does not appear dissolved, it is an indication that silation did not occur.
I have improved in my presentation skills, whereupon I have realized I need to speak confidently. Confidence lends to a louder voice and greater enunciation of words. It is important to give the audience a background of the situation before diving into the results. Even if I was not sure about my presentation, it is important to avoid concentrating on insecurity and saying “I don’t know”, but to be strong and open to criticism. Graciously accept so; they only want you to improve.