SoCal Infantry

Welcome to the Southern California SEAL infantry! SoCal SEAL students check here for important information regarding the SEAL program at Caltech

Important dates for 2017-2018 school year:

SEAL Kickoff- Sept 30, 2017 10am-12pm

      (Link to Kickoff Talks- email Michelle for password)

SEAL Con IX- May 12, 2018 10am-2pm

2017-18 SEAL Roster

Every member of a SoCal SEAL team needs to sign-up on the roster. This ensures you will receive communications about upcoming events and helps us keep track of our membership. You also won’t get a certificate or T-shirt at SEAL Con unless your name is on this list!

Roster Sign-Up

SEAL Permission Slip

All SoCal SEAL students need to fill out this permission slip and return it back to Michelle DeBoever either via email, mail or in person through their mentor. Students under 18 must have the form signed by a parent or guardian.

Permission Slip

SoCal SEAL Blog

Click on a blog post to view and add comments

Weeks of 12/19-1/15

Hopefully everyone had a fun and restful winter break! Most teams have had a first meeting back by now, so I’m sharing updates from the past two weeks. In addition to tackling research again, most teams are hard at work preparing posters for the CCI Solar Annual Meeting on Jan 28 in Newport Beach. Congratulations to all the teams who were invited to participate based on their contributions to the Drive docs and blog comments! Keep up the great work and remember to check the comments for questions asked of your team that you can answer!

Alverno started up the new year with a plan to switch to an acidic electrolyte instead of the sodium hydroxide electrolyte. They prepared nickel nitrate plates for testing in both acidic and basic conditions. They used titanium dioxide paste as a “protective layer” at the base of the spots to protect from corrosion in hydrochloric acid. Looking forward to hearing more about this!

Beckman’s Group 1 found upon testing their .04 molarity of Iron(III) nitrate plate that it had a high concentration. Therefore, they decided to remake the .04 molarity of Iron (III) nitrate test plate. They made the whole solution again and spotted the solution onto the new plate. Group 2 ran two plates with the same materials (one UV treated and one non UV treated). The plate consisted of three different solutions: 0.03 M Ni (NO3)3, 0.03 M Al (NO3)3, and 0.03 M Fe(NO3)3. They also made a new sulfite electrolyte solution, Na2SO3, with remaining time. Group 3 tested the BHS 3-47 plate which consisted of different ratios (of?). They analyzed their results, finding out the averages and looking over the ratios. Group 4 tested the leftover Fe(NO3)3 plate from before winter break. While waiting for the computer, they made a new solution of 15 mL of .02 NaOH, Na2SO3, and different sodium sulfites. This solution was to be put in a big bowl for testing future plates. They also researched about crystal structures and hematites online.

Crescenta Valley made two plates using differing ratios of NiCl2, ZnCl2, and CoCl2. They used iron as a standard on four spots in the corner, and then spotted in a checkerboard pattern using the other three solutions (ratios of Ni:Zn:Co in 1:1:1, 1:1:2, 1:2:1, and 2:1:1 on one plate, ratios of Zn:Co in 1:1 on another). They also were able to print the 3D printed holder from Fairmont State (hooray! finally!) They haven’t been able to test it yet because of the assembly required, but hopefully it will be ready to test by next week.

Mayfield had a glitch with their computer log-in and were unable to collect data at the last meeting, but both SEA and RAM teams have several plates ready to test for next time. Team PEAK (formerly KEN) is doing more research on applying a negative bias voltage and what that means in terms of data collected with the SEAL kit.

Can’t wait to see all your posters in a couple weeks. Keep up the great work and remember to post weekly, comment and ask questions!


Week of 12/12-12/18

Most teams are on vacation this week, but here are a couple quick updates from Poly, Beckman, and San Marino:

Beckman’s Group 1 tested the UV-treated plate spotted with solutions of 0.04M Cu(NO3)2, which had relatively poor results compared with the UV-treated 0.04M Fe(NO3)3 plate from last week. They will have two members come to school during winter break in order to continue firing and testing the remaining UV-treated plate spotted with 0.04M of Ni(NO3)2. They will compare the results of different metal oxides to determine which chemical produces the best results, and then they will take the best chemical and alter its molarity for future experiments. Group 2 worked on spotting a plate with a combination of Al(NO3)3, Ni(NO3)2, and Fe(NO3)3, (all of 0.03M) in a ratio of 1:1:3, respectively. They decided to use aluminum and nickel based on their research on these metals from last week: aluminum would allow for more adherence, while nickel allowed for more uniformity due to smaller particle sizes. Group 3 compiled and analyzed their results from last week’s testing of their plate, which was spotted with 0.1M of Fe(NO3)3, Cu(NO3)2, and Ni(NO3)2 in different ratios. They are planning to utilize the newly 3D printed template to accurately spot more plates of the same ratio. Group 4 had planned to test their non-UV treated plate spotted with 0.03M Fe(NO3)3 in a sulfite bath. However, their epoxy did not dry in time for them to be able to test their plate during today’s meeting. They plan on continuing next week.

San Marino’s Red Team attempted to test the plates that were prepared, drop casted, and baked in the kiln last week.  (See pictures and description from December 5)  Unfortunately, however, they were unable to find the Cu + Ni plate and were only able to test the Mn plate.  However, once the Mn plate was submerged into the NaOH and a dark current was applied, some of the deposited metal oxides flaked off from the plate, including one entire spot of metal oxide. Flaking has been occurring with most MnCl2 materials.  It is interesting to note, however, that the spots drop casted from only MnCl2 and the spots drop casted from MnCl2 + Ni(NO3)2 seemed not to flake off as much than as the spots drop casted from Copper (II) Sulfate + MnCl2 and the spots drop casted from Cobalt (II) Chloride + MnCl2, both of which almost completely flaked off. 

Poly finally tested their bismuth oxide and iron oxide plate with HARPOON again. They used the mesh that has an obvious coating of fluorescent paint and were able to see the orange color after purging with N2 for 40 min. They took pictures every 30 seconds for the first 10 min and every min for the next 10 min. The UV flashlight was flickering throughout the experiment (it probably needs new batteries!), so they’ll see how that affected the results when they process the data.

Week of 12/5-12/11

Almost everyone submitted an update this week! Sorry for the long post, but there is lots of news to share.

Alverno has continued with their efforts to calibrate their SEAL kit. Unfortunately they have been getting different readings for their plates with subsequent testings. They have been using plates from last year and the summer for these tests, which may be too old so they are making new iron oxide plates to test for reproducibility. Crescenta Valley made NiCl2 and ZnCl2 solutions to test next week. This week they tested different molarities of iron (III). The results weren’t great but a checkerboard pattern appeared showing the kit is working. Poly tried HARPOON again this week with the old, scratched mesh. They used an old SEAL plate with the wire cut off, but didn’t get any results after 20 min. Franklin’s Las Chemists got good results with the kit, so your two groups should talk!


Oakwood has some important updates on the UV-ozone cleaner. It was tested extensively by the summer students who discovered it was best to have a tiny layer of water on the template so it could stick to the glass and that only 5-10 minutes in the ozone cleaner was required to clean the glass and make it hydrophilic. Oakwood has since tried making the template better. The vinyl template was thin, seemed to degrade with exposure to the UV light, and irreversibly stretched. They tested some new materials and discovered the best material is a thin silicone which is thin enough to not cast a shadow, flexible enough to stay on the surface with a thin coating of water to help it stick, and seems to be robust. Oakwood has a laser cutter that was used to create holes in the perfect locations for the template. They just need to cut the template to the correct size for the smaller glass size. They might be able to create a bunch of these templates for other schools!

Beckman Group 1 tested the UV treated plate with Fe(NO3)3 in the sulfite solution bath. Part of the plate (one corner with three spots) were in the light blue region, which marked significantly higher results than the rest of the plate. They also had two other UV treated plates with Ni(NO3)2 and Cu(NO3)3, which they are planning to test next week. They also tested the first iron plate that they made in the first week for practice; results were deep blue all across. Group 2 made two different solutions: 0.3M Al(NO3)3 and Ni(NO3)2. They also diluted 0.1M Fe(NO3)3 to create 0.03M Fe(NO3)3. They plan on spotting a FTO plate with these three solutions in different ratios next week. They decided to experiment with aluminum and nickel, as research indicated that aluminum would allow for better adherence and nickel would allow for smaller particle size for more uniformity. Group 3 had made a 0.2M NaOH and 0.2M sodium sulfite solution last week. When testing their plates with spots with different ratios of 0.1 M Iron (III) nitrate, 0.1 M Copper (II) nitrate, and 0.1 M Nickel (II) nitrate, they used a 1:1 ratio of NaOH and NaSO3 for the bath used in the SEAL kit. They plan on analyzing their numerical results next week. Group 4 planned to run their UV treated 0.03M Fe(NO3)3 plate. However, their epoxy did not dry in time and they were unable to run the plates in this meeting. They also spotted their non-UV treated 0.03M Fe(NO3)3 plate and plan on running this plate next week.  

Concordia started reading Astrid’s Chemical Reviews article and left off at the topic of fossil fuels. Then they started working with their CON8 plate (which is??). They added sodium sulfite to 100 mL of water in a Petri dish, and set up the SEAL kit, but they were a bit unfamiliar with using the kit and ran through the program twice but still ended up with an error. Feel free to ask for some help here!

PCC made a few more plates. Page spotted pure 0.05M bismuth(III) nitrate and pure saturated tungsten sulfide (exact concentration not yet known); 0.01M bismuth(III) nitrate. 1:1, 1:10, 10:1 ratios of 0.05M bismuth(III) nitrate and tungsten sulfide; 1:1 ratios of tungsten sulfide and iron(III) nitrate; 0.01M iron(III) nitrate. Ben spotted pure 0.05M bismuth(III) nitrate and pure 0.05M ammonium molybdenate; bismuth(III) nitrate and ammonium molybdenate, (NH4)6Mo7O24, in 1:1, 10:1, 50:1, 100:1, 1:10, 1:50, 1:100 ratios. When the bismuth(III) nitrate and ammonium molybdenate were mixed, a white precipitate fell out of solution. Although it is likely that this will crust off the plate once it is baked in the kiln, the solution w/ precipitate was still suspended and spotted onto the plate. The exact chemical precipitated has not yet been determined.

San Marino’s Red Team worked exclusively on making two more new plates to test later: one primarily focused on Manganese (II) Chloride with Nickel (II) Nitrate, Copper (II) Sulfate, and Cobalt (II) Chloride in 0.1 M concentration and 10 microliters spot size; the other is Nickel (II) Nitrate with Copper (II) Sulfate in varying ratios of Ni:Cu in 10 microliter spot size. The first plate is to re-test whether or not manganese was to blame for flaking or if it was another material, while the 2nd plate is to test the varying ratios of nickel to copper without the danger of manganese flaking and messing with data.

Here is plate 1 after drop-casting: (the copper and manganese turned white after cooling from bright orange. It is the third row.)

1 2

Here is plate 2 after drop-casting:  As the amount of copper increased, the drops grew increasingly more white colored.


Lastly, Mayfield’s RAM team remade plates 6 (CuW, CoW, ZnW) and 7 . They also made plate #8 (CuWFe, CoWFe, NiWFe) all 10:6:4, which is similar to plate 6 just with the addition of iron. While heating, plate 6 cracked due to overheating. However, team KEN has successfully tested a cracked plate, so RAM will test the cracked plate next time. Team SEA is almost done with making plates with varying ratios of colored to non-colored metal salts and will be testing many of the plates in the new year. Team KEN had been testing some plates with a negative bias voltage (-0.1) and got results in the yellow range as the background dark current, with inverted results going down. They want to figure out chemistry for negative applied voltage to be able to test and interpret results. They spent rest of meeting discussing the SEAL experiment and chemistry. If you have any experience with applying a negative bias voltage, please share in the comments!

Thanks for reading all the updates and thanks to all our teams for posting and doing such great work. I’ll be sending invites to the CCI Solar Annual Meeting on Jan 28 at the beginning of the new year.



Week of 11/28-12/4

We’re still not consistently getting updates from everyone, so please try to remember to post in your google drive weekly (even if just to inform me you didn’t meet this week). Thanks to everyone who has been commenting on the blog- there are some great conversations happening!

First up, Beckman HS took a tip from their mentor, Astrid, and prepared a 0.2 M NaOH and 0.2 M sodium sulfite solution as she said sulfite led to favorable reactions and also helped with evidence comparison. Next week, they plan to use their new solution on a run with the SEAL kit. They are working on comparing plates that have been treated with UV and those that haven’t to see how the UV-ozone cleaning treatment affects the results. They plan to test both treated and untreated 0.03M iron nitrate plates  next time. Another group also made 0.1M iron nitrate plates, both treated and untreated, though they had already established that lower molarities would lead to more homogenous spots, and 0.1 M solution is much too concentrated. Some materials that their teacher, Mr. Beilin, suggested further research in were aluminum and nickel, which are said to have smaller particle size and greater adhesion, respectively.This week they tested a 0.05M iron nitrate plate (what were the results??) and planned to test a couple others (0.04M copper nitrate and 0.04M nickel nitrate) but the epoxy wasn’t dry in time.

Crescenta Valley made a plate with .01 M WO3, but the solution tended to dissociate after sitting still for a few minutes, so they don’t know how well the spots are going to dry. They  left it to air dry and will check back next time. PCC worked on spotting a few plates this week. Summer spotted nickel(II) nitrate and niobium chloride in a 10:1 ratio; bismuth(III) nitrate and niobium chloride in ratios of 3:1 and 10:1; bismuth(III) nitrate and niobium chloride in a 5:1 ratio; pure nickel nitrate and niobium chloride. Left to air dry. Haya spotted pure MoSe2; Bi(NO3)3 and MoSe2 in ratios of 1:1, 50:1, and 75:1; Bi(NO3)3 and NbCl5 in ratios of 1:1, 50:1, and 75:1. Left to air dry. Nick spotted half of the plate with pure Cu(No)2 and the other half of the plate with FeCl3 to practice spotting plates for the first time.

While waiting on news about the HARPOON mesh, Poly decided to replicate work from last year on bismuth samples. They tried pre-charging a bismuth nitrate plate, by applying 0.5 V to the plate for a minute, before each scan with the SEAL kit. However, this failed to get very reactive results. They hypothesized that perhaps the tilt of the plate in the container with sodium hydroxide solution prevented some spots from being exposed to the LEDs, so they switched to a larger, flatter container, which helped slightly. With pre-charging, they got roughly the same results from each scan of the plate, showing that this method is viable for improving reactivity, and reversing the effects of degradation in the basic solution. Here are some of the results:


They think there might be a ceiling to this method though, because, after they had fixed the tilt in the plate, they got similar results to those from the previous scans. While the pre-charging method is supported by the results, there’s a limit to it, and the lack of reactivity in the final scan may have simply been the result of too much degradation, as the plate, over the course of several scans, had been in the base solution for nearly 40 minutes. They spotted more bismuth and bismuth-iron plates for testing next week.

San Marino’s Wand Team noticed some changes to the spots after firing their plate.  Originally, the spots were black, but the black spots transformed into a colorful array.  The cobalt spot turned a pastel pink,  the newly green spot was copper, the light yellow spot was iron, and the manganese spot became light brown.  When they placed the plate into the potassium hydroxide solution, the manganese and iron began to corrode. They realized this as it was hard to stabilize the dark current, and they visually saw the two manganese and iron spots corrode.  They also had a couple of technical difficulties the voltmeter, switching between two voltmeters a few times until they were able to get a relatively stable dark current.

The Red team tested their plate with a combination with 0.1 Molar of manganese, nickel, and copper. The first scan (shown on the far left) showed that only two spots showed a significant result. These spots, they believe contain copper. The second scan (the middle) was interesting because they got a color other than blue! On these spots, they believe had some amount of manganese involved but are not entirely sure. They also think that this plate might not be conclusive of anything because there was a lot of flaking. The third scan (shown on the far right) shows that one spot was higher than the others. That spot was the pure copper spot of 10 microliters of 0.1 M copper.


Mayfield’s SEA team continued their work making plates with varying ratios of colored vs non-colored metal salts, specifically Co, Fe & Ni with Zn, W and Bi. The RAM team was having issues with the dark current on the latest several plates they made when attempting to test them. After some trouble shooting it looks like they were spotted on the wrong side, so they will be remaking them. Finally, team KEN tested their FeZn and FeNi plates to only mediocre results. However their CoZn plate had relatively high current throughout. The two spots with highest current occurred where there was no material deposited, which is a bit odd, but the overall high current warrants further testing of the CoZn materials.



Week of 11/21-11/27

With the holiday week, only a few teams had meetings this week. Poly is waiting for the HARPOON mesh to be tested by Franklin to confirm that it works, so in the meantime they spotted a couple of bismuth-iron plates. They plan on testing their plates with both SEAL and HARPOON.

Only Franklin’s Las Chemists team has been updating so far. Their group got to practice setting up the HARPOON kit, but unfortunately they spotted their materials on the wrong side of the FTO plate. They remade their plate and placed in the kiln to try next time.

San Marino’s Red Team worked on two things: reviewed an article regarding Photosystem II, and prepared another drop-cast plate since the first plate flaked. Samuel, a member of Red Team, found an article that removed the manganese atoms in the chlorophyll molecules of photosystem II, increasing the rate of hydrogen evolution. In water splitting, both the oxygen and the hydrogens are evolved, with both competing for space in the chlorophyll molecule. By removing the manganese, there was more space available for the hydrogen evolving process. With this new information, they plan to find out how to make the hydrogen evolving more efficient or increase the amount of hydrogen evolving occurring in a molecule of chlorophyll. With the plates, they decided to change the number of microliters deposited on the plate, the molarity of the samples, and the arrangement of the samples. In this new design, we placed columns of copper, copper with nickel, nickel, nickel with manganese, manganese, and manganese with copper. Each sample is from column to column, skipping one space after a sample to prevent them from blending together. 23 and 25 are 1.00 M because they want to see whether or not the molarity or the amount of the sample causes flaking. The corner box indicates which dots are left empty for the epoxy.

Crescenta Valley has been growing their membership base and are now up to twenty-some members, split into three teams each pursuing separate research goals. So far, they have been teaching new members, so they have made few new plates, but initial test results on 0.05 M iron(III) nitrate are deep blue (teams with successful iron results- like PCC- offer some advice to CVHS). They are planning on doing further testing with cobalt chloride and bismuth vanadate once the new members are settled. They are also planning on implementing the 3-D printed holder for the SEAL kit developed by Fairmont State once they get it printed.

Lastly, the Alverno team is just getting ready to start new experiments. They have spent the last few weeks re-testing plates used by the summer team and comparing the results. The results seem to match, so they are ready to move forward using their kit to test new materials. From running the plates, they also conclude that using bismuth and possibly some other metal give good photoactivity. They plan to focus on the use of metal combinations of bismuth with another semiconductor metal salt. Alverno also has a proposition to the rest of the teams- respond in the comments if you are interested:

From our past years with our kit, we usually got low results with our kit for plates, even with the Iron standards. We have also talked with other teams before, and some mentioned they had had similar problems. This year, to follow up on the calibration of our kit, we are hoping to introduce another aspect to SEAL. We noticed that depending on the labs, kilning, materials, or maybe the kit, results could vary for different metals; Is any team interested in participating in a kind of collaborative study between the teams? We would be willing to run any plates that any teams have made with their various combinations of metals, and send our results (and return the plates) to see if they match up–just like what we did with the Summer SEAL plates. This could help to test any possible lab factors and also whether or not our kits are accurate. After we have begun creating our plates for our SEAL project, we would also like to send ours to other team’s labs to see if their kit also got similar results. If any teams would like to participate in such a study, please let us know.”


Week of 11/14-11/20

Posting to Google Drive and adding blog comments is now required for an invitation to the CCI Solar Annual Meeting in January. We’ve got a few more teams regularly updating, but hopefully we’ll have everyone regularly updating soon.

Beckman HS’s 4 groups are working with a UV ozone cleaner and testing various concentrations and combinations of iron, copper and nickel nitrates. Group 1 did the UV treatment once more on 0.04 M iron (III) nitrate because the last test had inaccurate spotting. Also, for the UV treatment, Group 1 used a new mask that only applied UV treatment on the spots, and checked to see the difference. Additionally, Group 1 made two new plates with 0.04 M copper nitrate and 0.04 M nickel nitrate to check for better results when applied with UV treatment during the next meeting. Group 2 tested and compared two plates of 0.1 M iron (III) nitrate with UV treatment and without UV treatment to see how well the UV treatment worked. Analysis is yet to be determined. Group 3 made a plate with spots with different ratios of 0.1 M iron (III) nitrate, 0.1 M copper (II) nitrate, and 0.1 M nickel (II) nitrate because of the possibility of better results when mixing multiple metal oxides, and the ratios were 1:1:1, 1:1:2, 1:2:1, and 2:1:1. During the next meeting, this plate will be tested and run with UV treatment, and further analysis will be shared. Group 4 did UV treatment on the 0.05 M iron (III) nitrate plate that was spotted and heated at the last meeting to test for results. Also, they spotted a 0.03 M Iron (III) nitrate plate but could not do UV treatment on the plate to see which molarity had better results due to a shortage of time.

PCC did some testing this week of 2 plates they made last month and had some incredible results! Benjamin tested  iron nitrate, lead nitrate and bismuth nitrate in varying combinations. Page tested combinations of iron nitrate and bismuth nitrate, though she wasn’t at the meeting to confirm exact ratios. While the dark current of both plates wouldn’t settle to the 0.5 threshold (1.2, 0.9 for Benjamin’s plate and 1.8 for Page’s), the results show current far surpassing that background. Check out their results below:



The spots containing bismuth nitrate gave the highest measurements of photoactivity. The pure bismuth(II) nitrate spots measured close to 9, while iron(III) nitrate spots were around 3 and 4. The lead(II) nitrate spots gave very low values of approximately 1-2. Combining bismuth(III) nitrate with other solutions lowered the photoactivity of the bismuth nitrate.

Poly is still struggling with getting the HARPOON kit to be purged correctly and stay oxygen free for testing. Franklin HS- please send them some advice in the comments since you have the most experience with the kit! All they see if green despite having a purged solution from their mentor and a blanket of argon gas on top of the solution. Have you had any success with the mesh in the lab recently? Do we need new ones?

San Marino’s Red Team prepared the 2 plates (one electroplated and one drop casted) for testing with the SEAL kit. They applied 0.13 Volts and got about 0.015 microamps of dark current. Both plates only registered results in the blue region. However, much of the deposited metal oxides on the plates flaked off during testing.  They speculate the reason for this is that they used a 1 molar concentration of some of the hydrated metal compounds instead of the normally used 0.1 molar concentration.  Therefore, they plan on using 0.1 molar from now on when they do electroplating.  For future meetings, they might also start focusing on the juice from juice research, where we will examine varying types of juices and their efficiency in creating a current flow.

Team KEN from Mayfield had poor luck last time repeating successful results from last year with FeZn. They theorize that the Fe solution last year was contaminated with nickel, and so might have skewed the results as FeNi have been known to work well. They created a new FeZn plate and FeNiZn and FeNi plates to determine them if the addition of zinc helped the results, and also if the solution was contaminated. Team RAM tested a CuW plate with moderate results (current in the light blue region). Unfortunately the second plate they tested with CuW, CoW, and ZnW had technical issues and there were no results. Try re-epoxying and test again girls! Lastly, team SEA tested a couple plates of their colored and non-colored metal salt combinations. While they didn’t have high current output, the 1:2 ratio of colored to uncolored metals produced slightly higher results than the plate with the 2:1 ratio of colored to uncolored. Team SEA has decided to work more with the more successful ratio, and also have decided to make new plates with a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio of colored to uncolored metals in the future.

Congratulations on all the hard work everyone! It’s exciting to start seeing results and the progress everyone is making!



Week of 11/7-11/13

Lots more updates this week! And we’ve had our first comments- Franklin and San Marino, check back at previous posts to answer some questions from fellow SEAL members.

Beckman HS is continuing work with their UV ozone cleaner. They are testing UV cleaning with iron (III) nitrate samples of various concentrations (0.1M, 0.04M, and 0.05M) as well as 0.04M copper (II) nitrate. They tested the 0.1M Fe(NO3)3 plate with the SEAL kit, but could not get the dark current to settle below 0.75 microamps.

The Oakwood team is also using their UV zone cleaner  for a plate with iron salts, but with a lower concentration of 25mM. They used multiple different iron salts to test if the counterion or other additives affects the final iron oxide sample. After annealing, their iron plate had almost no coffee-ring effect and no flaking. Unfortunately they were unable to test the plate this time due to software issues.

The Poly team attempted to test one of their plates with the HARPOON kit for the first time. They had some trouble getting the solution purged and oxygen-free for testing. If you’ve done the HARPOON experiment before, please share some advice for the Poly team in the comments.

The San Marino Magic Wand team also had some software troubles this week, so they focused on making another plate to compare their dropcasted one from last time. The “magic wand” for electrodeposition was working so they were able to make a plate with 6 different samples with varying ratios of NaH2PO2, KH2PO4, and NiCl2. The samples with 1:4 ratios Ni:P gave a deep black color which seems promising, so three of the spots have that ratio. The plate will be annealed and ready for testing next time. 

Finally, the three Mayfield subgroups have been working hard making lots of sample plates. SEA group is still working on testing their set of colored metal salts with non-colored salts. This week they made a plate comparing Bi, W, and Zn with Co, Fe and Ni. After some disappointing results from their BiVZn, BiZnCo, and BiZnCu samples, the RAM subgroup is modifying the samples to see if switching the metals will improve the activity. This week they made samples of CuW, CoW, and ZnW. Check out the beautiful colors of the samples below. The KEN team is building upon work they did last year with a successful FeZn material. Repeated testing of a new FeZn material yielded much lower results than last year, though spots closest to the epoxied wire did have significant current in the light blue region. Additions of cobalt to Fe and Zn and CoZn, tested with a varied ratio pattern, were unsuccessful.


Keep up the great work everyone. We’d love to hear from the rest of our teams too, so remember to update your Google Drive doc every week. Ask questions, comment, and get conversing with your fellow SEAL members. I know there’s lots you can learn from each other!

Week of 10/31-11/6

Very few updates this past week, but here are highlights from San Marino HS and catch-up updates from Team 3 (“Las Chemists”) from Franklin HS.

Red team from San Marino tested their plate from last time containing various combinations of 0.1 Molar of MnCl2, CuSO4, and Ni(NO3)2. None of the metal oxide spots resulted in higher current than the blank spots. They also planned to test blackberry juice as a dye in DSSCs with large and small surface areas of TiO2. Unfortunately they weren’t able to complete both tests before the sun set. Magic Wand Team tested their plate from last week with the dropcast Ni2P3 and NiP4 solutions.  After putting the FTO plate in the kiln, the spots changed color from black to a green-brown (as shown below).  They did three scans, the first two with an applied potential of 0.05, and the third with an applied potential of 0.07 (as shown below). None of the scans showed high current in any of the materials.  Then, they made another FTO plate with the same solutions to test how different amounts of time on the hot plate could affect the solutions.  Unfortunately the FTO plate shattered due to repeated changing temperatures of the hot plate and the lab table.




One of Franklin’s subgroups, Las Chemists, has documented their work so far this year on Google Drive. They decided on 4 metal salts to make solutions of: sodium molybdate dihydrate, cobalt chloride hexahydrate, nickel nitrate hexahydrate, and cobalt acetate tetrahydrate. After making their solutions, they also added 10% ethylene glycol to each solution (assuming for easier spotting? Let us know in the comments ladies!). The they mixed the 4 solutions in varying ratios and spotted their first plate, leaving a spot for the reference solution 1:2:2 Ni:Fe:Co +10% ethylene glycol. The plate will be annealed and then tested in the HARPOON kit next time. 

If your team didn’t get an update this week it’s because you didn’t post anything to Google Drive! Please try to remember to post an update to your drive document every single meeting- it’ll help us all stay connected and hopefully improve each other’s work.

Weeks of 10/17-10/30

Many of our teams missed a meeting in the past 2 weeks, so I’ve combined the posts for the weeks.

Oakwood is starting off the school year with new and excited members of the Solar Army! Previously, Oakwood manufactured a UV-ozone cleaner to ultra-clean the FTO glass, making it very hydrophilic. Hydrophilic surfaces allow water to spread evenly instead of forming a droplet. Using a piece of plastic with holes where the spots would eventually be, the UV-ozone treatment allows for perfect placement of our drops while pipetting. This procedure allowed aqueous solutions to dry uniformly on the surface, so the spots don’t have a coffee ring effect. Several other teams are planning on building their own ozone cleaners this year based on Oakwood’s design.

This fall Oakwood is going to make a new template meant for the smaller size glass that SEAL uses. The previous template was for slightly larger glass, and the plastic didn’t hold up well to continued UV-ozone treatment. They are going to try some more stable plastic pieces and see if those are better. They are also going to test how salts of the same metal, but with different counter-ions and non-metal additives, might produce different film properties. They will start by looking at simple iron salts which are readily available.

Concordia group reviewed the conceptual basics of water-splitting catalysts. Their mentor, Dr. Kenny,  also described how H2O splitting is similar to photosynthesis/glycolysis in nature. They discussed how metal oxides act as catalysts when splitting H2O, and how acids and bases affect water half-splitting reactions, which result in hydroxides that will be split into water, oxygen, and electrons. If you have any questions about these concepts, ask the Concordia team in the comments section!

Poly is still continuing ahead with work on bismuth nitrate, and PCC is making solutions of bismuth(III) nitrate, lead(II) nitrate, aluminum(III) nitrate, and nickel(II) nitrate based on results of some plates they tested last week. Mayfield’s SEA team is testing combinations of Co and Cu with Al and Zn. RAM team is testing BiCoW combinations since their BiVW plate did not perform well (though their vanadium solution had precipitated out and turned yellow, so it may be a problem with their vanadium). 

The San Marino Red Team continued experimentation with Juice from Juice, testing figs, blackberries, blueberries, and green beans as dyes. After assembling the cells, the blue berry dye worked the best (that’s a surprise to me- blackberries usually are better)! They also plan to test spinach leaf extract an raspberries in the future as well as testing if increased surface area of the DSSC affects their results. Red Team also made a plate with various combinations of copper sulfate, nickel nitrate and manganese chloride. San Marino’s Magic Wand Team examined their plate from last time and noticed that a few spots had turned a dark color which they decided was indicative of a solid result. Those spots consisted of the ratios 3:3:4 and 7:1:2 NaH2PO2: KH2PO4: NiCl2. They made another plate that consisted of just these two ratios. Plans to compare dropcasting to electrodeposition for the two materials is put on hold as the “magic wand” for electrodeposition is broken. All the samples were dropcasted this time. The team also talked about semiconductors and band gaps and our hoping these materials they spotted will be metal oxides with a band gap in the “sweet spot” for water oxidation. 

Week of 10/10-10/16/16

A few groups are still working on getting started, but if you’ve begun research, be sure to update your team’s Google Drive Doc! This “Week in Review” we have 3 updates from San Marino, Beckman and Franklin.

San Marino has divided into two teams. One team is starting out by working on the Juice from Juice project and seeing what insights they can learn from studying TiO2 semiconductor with various dyes as light absorbers. Team “Magic Wand” is continuing last year’s work on electroplating. They made 1M solutions of NaH2PO2 [Sodium Hypophosphite], KH2PO4 [Potassium Phosphate Monobasic], and NiCl2 [Nickel (II) Chloride] that could be mixed in various combinations to make 8 new samples. These samples were electroplated onto FTO and will be tested at the next meeting.

The Franklin group is also divided into subteams, with each subteam picking 4 metal solutions they would like to work with. This week they reviewed calculations for generating the solutions and got to work mixing up solutions and storing them for future use in dropcasting.

Lastly, the Beckman HS team is tackling the common issue of flaky (and glittery) iron oxide spots. Instead of the 1M solutions they used last team, team members made 0.04M and 0.05M solutions in hopes that these will yield a better product. Other team members started work on using UV light exposure to help with making uniform spots, a technique developed by Oakwood last year and used by several others during the summer program. We’re hoping to write up the plans for the device so that any teams who wish can build their own ozone cleaning device. Comment below if you would be interested in such a device for your team!