Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The TEM Dungeon

Today we got to explore the depths of building 13.  Weaving our way through the maze of the building, we finally found ourselves in a cramped little room with a bulky machine towering over us.   It was dark and cold room, and it certainly felt a bit like we were in a dungeon.

Once again, there was some pressure to be the first to satisfy Belcher’s hopes and dreams for our experimental results; the goal was to locate gold nano-particles on our grids, however, no gold particles had yet been spotted.  The researcher loaded our grid – tinier than my pinky nail – into the ginormous TEM machine, and we began searching for gold.  Overall, we had great titanium; the titanium particles were neatly spread out throughout the samples and were consistently sized.  We had a few hopeful moments in searching for gold; we kept seeing dark bundles that we had thought could be that long yearned for nugget.  However, we never struck gold!!! Bummer.  But we switched groups, and almost immediately, the researcher located some 50nm gold particles on the other group’s grid! Eureka!!!!

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And boy, the particles were beautiful.  Upon zooming in, we observed that the particles had an interesting hexagonal shape.  Upon further magnification we got to see the actual rows of atoms in the gold.  It’s the smallest I’ve ever seen!!!! It was crazy!!!  It’s fascinating to know we can observe particles with such intense detail!  My eyes have been opened - like this adorable baby’s:

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Afterwards, we gathered our things and returned to class.  I’m left pondering the incredibility of the TEM machine.  How we as humans have progressed such that we can observe the smallest units of the universe - and in a simple introductory lab class - excites me.  I felt like an explorer in a new world, the nanoworld.  Once again, I'm excited to be exposed to such awesome technologies and experiments in 20.109.  Never again will I have such an opportunity to explore such diverse field of biotechnology, and I am truly grateful for the experience.  

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