In Class Research

May 31, 2019 at 2:56 pm

Kelsey Turner ǀ Investigating Atomic Force and Magnetic Force Microscopy of Magnetic Materials

By Kelsey Turner
(B.S. Chemical Engineering, Russ College of Engineering and Technology, Class of 2020)

Editor’s Note: During her summer 2018 internship with Dr. Arthur Smith in Physics & Astronomy, Kelsey Turner learned the technique and application of ambient atomic force & magnetic force microscopy. These allow researchers to look at the surface morphology and local magnetic properties of magnetic thin films which are grown using molecular beam epitaxy under vacuum. Making use of an AFM/MFM system retrofitted with newer electronics and software, Turner was initially involved in helping diagnose and solve problems with the system. At the same time, she learned how to operate the system and to take good images. In addition to working with the AFM/MFM system, Turner was trained, alongside physics graduate student Shyam Chauhan, to operate an MBE/STM (scanning tunneling microscope) system. This system produces and separately investigates thin magnetic and semiconducting samples. As one of  Turner’s very first experiences in the lab during her first week, she helped Dr. Smith and graduate student Sneha Upadhyay give lab tours for two groups of Athens middle school students interested in science.

Throughout the summer, my main task was to work with the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). This microscope is used to measure the magnetic and topographical features of different samples at a nanometer level. I also learned how to use the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM). This microscope is used to measure topographical and magnetic features of different samples in a vacuum. Samples are also grown in growth chamber of the STM.

I am a chemical engineering major so I am not familiar with many of the machines that we were using. I got to learn all about the AFM and STM systems. I have also learned how to analyze different images taken on a nanometer scale. In Dr. Smith’s lab, I have improved my overall knowledge about physics. Before working with Dr. Smith, I had only taken one physics course here at Ohio University. After working in the lab, I have gained a greater appreciation for physics and I have found it very interesting that chemistry and physics overlap. I also learned a lot more about nanoparticles and crystalline structures.

One of my challenges was after working on the AFM system for a little over two weeks, it started malfunctioning. I had to work with Dr. Smith’s graduate students to try to figure out the problem. I often met with Dr. Smith once every week or once every two weeks to discuss what I was working on. I met with one or more of his graduate students daily to work on different projects.

I am very intrigued about how my research combines chemistry and physics. I found it very interesting that we are studying these samples that we grow that are nanometers thick. It is important to test the samples that we grow to make sure that they have an even and symmetric crystal structure. It is also important to see how different elements make different patterns. For example, a Gallium Nitride sample will have different features than a Manganese Nitride sample.

Overall, I am very thankful that Dr. Smith gave me this opportunity and I am excited to continue working with him throughout this school year!

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