Thursday, July 21, 2011

We need to have a "Plan B"

As we heard during Dr. Bifano's presentation, Marvin and I need to come up with a "Plan B" for our proposed experiment.  We had been marching right along in anticipation of being able to start our testing the end of this week or early next week.  Our chips had been prepared, the solution that is sprayed onto the surface was all set, the room seemed to be ready, we had been trained on the use of the surface enhanced Raman microscope, etc., but then we read the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the chemical we were planning on using and everything had to change.

Our original idea was to step outside the lab and test our proposed sensor in a more "real-world" environment.  Marvin and I had thought of a way to test the effectiveness of the sensor as it is moved farther away from the explosive material.  This information would be helpful in knowing how close we would need to position our robot before running the test.  The MSDS stated that the chemical material we were using was more dangerous than I had originally thought. Yes, I know it is an explosive material, but just the handling of the material and the vapors/dust it gives off are both very hazardous.  Therefore, we needed to drop back and think of a "Plan B" for our testing program.

It now appears that all of our testing will have to be conducted inside a fume hood.  We are trying to think of ways to modify the space within the hood to simulate non-lab conditions.  We have sent some thoughts out to several people to get their initial impressions about our revised plan.  Once we get comments back, Marvin and I can revise our original testing plan and submit it for approval.

In the meantime, Bo has been able to show us how to use the surfaced enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS).  We will use this machine after we expose our chips to the explosive material.  This was another piece of very sophisticated equipment that is available within the Photonics Building.

I am amazed at how helpful the grad students have been in showing us how to use all the different pieces of equipment.  Also, how willing they have been to take time out of their own research to assist us with our project.  I feel that we will be able to actually get something done within the limited time frame we have in the Photonics Center.

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