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 3/6-3/19

With lots of schools on spring break, another 2 weeks have gone by. Same few teams have been posting, so thank you, but the rest of you please remember to update your google drive weekly. There have also been sadly very few comments and conversations on the blog so be sure to check the posts to see if you can answer or ask a question for a fellow team.

Poly worked up their HARPOON data after downloading the Image J software onto their laptops. Though they found no detectable oxygen evolution spots, they are determined not to give up and have reached out to the HARPOON experts at UW Oshkosh for some guidance. Good luck guys!

Mayfield’s Team SEA is zeroing in on a hit they got back with one of their colored vs non-colored tests. The combination was FeW so they have made two plates with varying ratios of the elements to test next time. Team RAM found results from BiVNiW 8:1:1:8, 8:1:1:13, 8:1:1:16 combinations to be ok, so they are making a new plate with the same metals, but less Bi and W (6:1:0.5:1, 6:1:0.5:5, 6:1:0.5:8). They also looked back at last year’s good results with BiVZn and decided to make a plate with BiVZnW to compare if adding W can help. Finally Team PEAK finished making plates 24 (CoZn 6:1 with layers) and 25 (FeZn 6:1 with layers). Results were not very good. Unfortunately all attempts at recreating a CoFeZn hit have gotten steadily worse overtime. They also made plate 26 (half CoZn 6:1, half FeZn 6:1) but the first layer was the Fe/Co and the second layer after drying on the hot plate was the Zn. This is to test whether different materials when applied in different layers make an impact on the plate’s success.

San Marino’s Red team were able to test only one plate that contains 10μL of combinations of Cu, Mn, and Ni because they spotted on the wrong side for one of the plates. They baked the plates at a higher temperature (around 650 C) which looks like it affected the FTO properties of the plate since the results showed no significant current. This week they made one plate using 3 different solutions: 1) 0.05M V; 2) 0.05M Fe + Cu; and 3) 0.05M V + Fe + Cu.  They decided to keep the concentration at 0.05M because that is the “sweet spot” at which there is reduced or no flaking (as supported by previous plate tests/experiments).  Each drop had a total of 10 microliters of solution. They added three drops of each solution at the three corners of the plate.  Next week, they plan on 1) testing this week’s plate, and 2) creating an identical copy of this week’s plate, but with some surfactant (soap) to see if the lowered surface tension of the solutions will reduce the coffee ring effect of each drop.

Lastly Beckman HS decided to take some time to reflect and do a bit of research. Group 1 is looking for a new element that is a strong photoanode and looking for elements that fall within a certain bandgap. These elements need to be cost-effective and abundant. Last week they tested a Nickel (III) Nitrate plate that did not have good results with most of the graphs concentrated in the blue region. For this reason, they are looking for a better element rather than jumping in immediately. Some of the things they are now considering from their research are zinc-related and chromium-related compounds. They are going to make 0.04 M Manganese  Nitrate(Mn(No3)2) and 0.04 M of CuZn solutions. They will spot two plates of each solution. Based on their research, they found that platinum iridium, titanium oxide, and ruthenium shared the characteristics of being white and having bandgaps between 1.2eV and 2.8eV. Group 1, then studied the band gaps of materials that were stored in the stockroom. Since Manganese Nitrate is both white and has a bandgap of 2.8 eV, they decided to try 0.04 M solution of it. They also found that CuZn has similar traits as platinum iridium.

Beckman’s Group 2 epoxied their 0.03M aluminum nitrate/copper (II) nitrate/iron (III) nitrate plate and will run it next week. They then researched other candidates for testing, looking into iron and its capabilities and other red oxides. They decided to experiment with old plates in order to clarify the unclear results that they got in the past. The areas that did not have spots still gave them results, which led them to suspect an error either from the plate or the box. Therefore, they planned to retest the plates (0.03M of Copper Nitrate (Cu(NO3)2), 0.03M Aluminum Nitrate (Al(NO3)3)and, 0.03M Iron Nitrate (Fe(No3)3) in ratio of 1:1:3 respectively). Also, they wanted to see how different the results will come out by using Zn(NO3)3 instead of Al(NO3)3 so they made another plate of 0.03 M Cu(NO3)2,0.03M of Zinc Nitrate (Zn(NO3)2), and 0.03M Fe(NO3)3, in ratio of 1:1:3 respectively. They plan to do UV treatment to both plates.

Group 3 is mixing different ratios of Cu (II) Nitrate and Iron (III) Nitrate that are both at 0.04M. They UV treated the plates before spotting and exposed them for five minutes. They tested the plate with coating method, which is spotting the plate with one compound and after they air dried it, then putting the second compound on. This did not work so they are making another plate by mixing two metal solutions in a fixed ratio. The resulting spots were very dark and they believed that this happened due to the high concentrations. Therefore they made a new plate with 0.02 M Co(NO3)-diluted from 0.04M CoNO3-  and 0.02 M Fe(NO3)2-diluted from 0.04M Fe(NO3)2 with different ratios. They made their plate with a different Molarity because they found out that  mixing method produced better results than that of coating method. However, they weren’t sure whether higher or lower concentration would give better results, which inspired them to test different molarities.

Group 4 ran their 0.03M Copper (II) Nitrate plate last week and the results were not that good. Most of the graph was in the blue zone indicating not strong results. This week, they researched other potential photoanodes and came across carbon nitride, which had not been heard of before. The American Chemistry Society website said it is a good photoanode that allotted high results, but it is not in the school inventory :(

Last week this group spotted 0.03MCo Nitrate 2 without the  iron standard. The results were not satisfying because of intense coffee ring effect seen despite their usage of UV treatment. They believe that this may have been a procedural error during the drying stage, so they produced another plate with 0.03 M Co(NO3)2 so that they can make sure that the plate can be spotted with no procedural error, especially during the drying stage. The spots will be tested during the next meeting.

Week of 2/27-3/5

A couple more schools included updates this week, but many others haven’t posted since the Annual Meeting. We want to hear what you’ve been up to! Write up a quick recap and then begin weekly posting again. SEAL Con is just over 2 months away so now is the time to ask questions and get help so you can finish off your research project as best you can before May 13.

First up, Beckman HS Group 1 tested a Ni(NO3)3 0.04M plate, but it didn’t have very good results. They also prepared a plate with 0.04 M Fe(NO3)3 which had shown promising results last time on an identical plate. They are currently testing the third iteration of this plate. The first iteration had high results but the second seemed to have a leak in the epoxy, which may have affected the results, so they are following up with their results with a duplicate of the original plate. Group 2 is testing a plate with multiple elements (Cu(NO3)2, Fe(NO3)3, and Al(NO3)3 all with 0.03 M). They decided to do this after doing research last week and concluded that this combination might have promising results. In the long run, they plan to consider remaking and improving this plate, and perhaps altering the molarities and the ratios to see how that might affect their results. Group 3 is trying two techniques in plating. They used cobalt nitrate and iron nitrate and tried layering them on the plate (iron on top of cobalt), as well as mixing them and spotting them. They saw both ideas at the CCI conference and saw good results. For the future, they will check their results to see which method works better and use this as a basis for future trials and use this technique for other combinations if it does show positive results. Group 4 is testing a Cu(NO3)2 with 0.03M duplicate plate after getting some red results on the original. The new results were not outstanding, so they decided to try different metal nitrates but want to stay with the same ratio for future tests.

Next, Poly was finally able to run a HARPOON experiment! Their mentor, Josef, was able to fix the power supply box. They took pictures every 30 seconds for 15 min of a plate spotted with the HARPOON standard, Ni:Fe:CO 1:2:2. Next week they will do a data analysis of these photos in ImageJ as well as start on Raman Spectroscopy experiments.

San Marino’s Team Photosynthesis created two duplicate plates identical to the plates made previously following this configuration to ensure consistency:


They were unable to test previous plates since they lost one and the other was left in the kiln for too long, resulting in the warping of the FTO coat on the plate making it nonconductive. They used the metals (Cu, Mn, Ni) because they are found in a photosynthesizing protein. Manganese is suspected to be the material flaking, and expect to see brown flakes floating in the NaOH solution if so, as well as inconsistent measurements of current in specific areas. If there is flaking, they plan to ozone treat the plate and make an identical plate to test. If even after there is still flaking, they will ozone treat individual plates, with each metal having its own plate, isolating each metal from each other. Also, they are looking into the coffee-ring effect that can result from drop-casting, and will test the two identical plates next week and talk about what they found about the coffee-ring effect.

San Marino’s Team Wand, also could not test the plate they made last week because it had the same problem of the FTO melting.  The temperature of the kiln was too high and the plate was left inside for too long, causing the FTO coating to melt and become warped, similar to cellophane.  During this week’s meeting, they remade the plate that was ruined, which contained vanadate and varying ratios of nickel.

Concordia analyzed results from the CON8 plate that was zapped with the Tesla coil and concluded that it discolored the spots of bismuth nitrate and ammonium vanadate. The discolored spots that they used the Tesla coil on had very low results. Then, they brainstormed to figure out what to work on next. They recorded previously used metal oxide solutions and wrote down others which they would like to test. They didn’t officially decide what materials to test yet, but we prepared a blank plate for next time.

Finally Mayfield’s Team SEA tested the aluminum copper plate, but it did not produce quantifiable results. They researched a few other good conductive metals but for now will stick with the elements they already decided on, testing the iron chromium plate next week. Team RAM tested plate 14 that contains bismuth, vanadium, and nickel with the ratio of 8:1:8, 8:1:13, 8:1:16. The results we’re not bad and performed better than plates 11 and 12. They also spotted plate 15 containing bismuth, vanadium, nickel, and tungsten with the ratio of 8:1:1:8, 8:1:1:13, 8:1:1:16. Team PEAK tested plate 23 (split CoZn 6:1 and FeZn 6:1 with multiple layers), but only got dark blue results. They plan to test the same materials with layering again, but without annealing them in between adding the layers. The previous plate was annealed after adding the first layer, which caused large spreading of metal solution when the second layer was applied and may have impacted results in unexpected ways. They started making plates 24 (FeZn 6:1 with layers) and 25 (CoZn 6:1 with layers, which they will finish next meeting with the additional layers.




Weeks of 2/13-2/26

Double post this time- last week only had a couple updates, and it looks like only the same few teams posted again this week. The blog will only be useful if everyone is consistent with their weekly posting, so please set reminders to update your google drive doc every week (and thank you to those teams who do post consistently)!

Poly attempted HARPOON one more time, but ran into a new hurdle: the power supply wasn’t working properly. There is also a battery pack power supply that should work with a fresh set of AAs, so you can try that next time. The Poly team is also gearing up to do Raman Spectroscopy on their bismuth nitrate material. They learned all about Stokes, Anti-Stokes and Raleigh spectroscopy and have decided to use Stokes for this experiment. If you want to learn about this method, reach out to the Poly team!

Mayfield’s Team PEAK added a second layer to their split Co/Fe-Zn plate (6:1 ratio). They are testing the hypothesis that applying multiple layers of solution onto the same spot will increase the success of a plate and aid in lessening the negative effects of contamination. The first half of the plate possesses two layers, while the second contains three. Team RAM finally got their sodium metavanadate to make a new vanadium solution. They made a plate with BiVNi in a ratio of 8:1:1, 8:1:5, 8:1:5. The results were in the light blue region, so they are continuing in that vein making a BiVNi plate with ratios of 8:1:1, 8:1:13, 8:1:16. Team SEA has decided to test various ratios of 2 metal combinations in more depth and so are using the following scheme below. The plan to eventually test Ti, Fe, Cr, Mg, Al, Cu all this way. 

sea 1 sea 2

Week of 2/6-2/12

Sorry for the late post this week! Starting off Crescenta Valley made another plate using just 0.1 M BiVO4 and another using 0.1 M BiVO4 layered with 0.05 M Co, and BiVO4 layered with .05 M Ni and .05 M Fe in a 1:1 ratio. They want to test the effects of Co on BiVO4 compared to Ni:Fe. They also made a solution of 0.05 M Fe(NO3)3 using ethyl alcohol instead of water. Their mentor suggested that this might help with the coffee ring effect; they will spot two solutions, one with water and one with ethyl alcohol, and see if the coffee ring effect is diminished.

Beckman HS’s Group 1 researched to find future work: band gaps of different metals. They also UV treated a new plate of 0.04 Iron (III) Nitrate because they had positive results last time they tested it. They wish to continue to test the effect of UV treatment and find optimal metal oxides/specific molarities that work well with UV treatment. Group 2 tested a UV treated plate with ratio of Nickel, Iron, Aluminum (1:3:1; 0.03:0.09:0.03). They are planning to compare with a non-UV treated plate (same ratio). Since Nickel is a less than optimal photoanode, they researched other metals and decided to replace Nickel with Copper next time. Group 3 finished spotting the layered plate they started last week (0.04M Cobalt(II) Nitrate over 0.04M Iron(III) Nitrate) by adding the Cobalt Nitrate layer on top. They fired the mixture plate (mixture of 0.04M Cobalt Nitrate and 0.04M Iron Nitrate). Their goal is to compare the methods of mixing two metals and layering them because there were various groups at CCI with positive results that used the layering method. They re-tested the Cu-Ni-Fe plate because of dark current issues they had last time they ran it. Group 4 epoxied 0.03M Copper (II) Nitrate plate and ran it. Group 1 tested 0.04 Copper (II) Nitrate in the past, so they will be comparing the results with each other and determine which molarity works best with Copper.

San Marino Red team decided to use Ni(NO3)2, MnCl2, and CuSO4 to test these materials for flaking and/or corrosion. They found very little flaking—a good sign! Their hypothesis for this finding is that the absence of significant flaking was due to the low concentration of the spot solutions (only 0.05 M) and leaving it on the hot plate for an 30 extra minutes. The photoactivity of the spots was not as high probably because the plate was not baked and that the spot solutions had a lower concentration than usual. The spots changed color as the plate was being tested (as the current was flowing)—–Not a good sign! This could mean corrosion or (a) chemical reaction(s) may be occurring. For next week’s meeting, they plan on testing this same plate after it is baked in the kiln.

The San Marino Wand team decided to continue with the hypothesis that a good catalyst would be a good light absorber. However, this time, knowing to focus on oxygen evolution, they looked towards compounds such as BaNiO3 and Ni2Se3 and NiFeO, and NiMO on the OER side. On the light absorber side, Silicon. They ended up plating: Cu, Co, Iron, and Nickel, on a base of ammonium vanadate. Testing the plate they found nickel worked best so they made a new plate with just ammonium vanadate and different ratios of nickel.

Mayfield’s PEAK team retested the plate of FeCoZn from last week with  new wire epoxied in a different corner. While this did decrease activity of the very active spot next to the old wire, the spot was still quite active compared to the rest of the plate. Their next experiment is to test efficiency of multiple layers compared to a single layer so they made plates 21 (FeZn with multiple layers) and 22 (CoZn with multiple layers). Team SEA got marginal results from a 4:7 ratio of their colored to non-colored metals. Retesting the old plate didn’t yield good results, but remaking the materials the result was reproducible. They will be looking at 1:8 and 5:8 ratios next. Team RAM has disappointing results from their Bismuth, Vanadium, and Tungsten and Bismuth, Vanadium, and Nickel plates. Perhaps a new solution of vanadium will help. If any other teams have tips for using ammonium metavanadate since it is not very soluble, please comment!

Concordia attempted three different tests. First, tried to test CONa3 which was bismuth nitrate and ammonium vanadate with the concentration ratio ranging from 1:1 to 1:1.7, the higher being bismuth nitrate. Unfortunately the epoxy fell out when they put it in the sodium sulfite electrolyte solution because it wasn’t dry yet. Second, they used the tesla coil gun and shocked the CON8 plate for testing for next week. The spots changed from a yellow to a reddish brown color. Third, they tried to do our own UV/Ozone treatment. However, due to the lack of appropriate materials in the lab, they were unable to do the testing. They will be using the set-up at Beckman HS next week.

Finally Franklin team 4 is testing some new materials- Ni Cr Y W. The spots were spreading quite a bit, and even adding glycerol didn’t solve the issue. They made two plates with these materials and fired them both to test with the HARPOON kit next time. Team 5 was having trouble seeing any oxygen produced when testing their plate with HARPOON, even at a higher voltage. They plan to add 10% glycerol to their spots next time to see if that will help.

Thanks for all the great updates everyone!



Week of 1/30-2/5

This week we’re back in the swing of things. Not everyone posted updates so please try to remember to record your progress every week on google drive. It’ll help us all stay connected and get better results by the end of the year.

First update is from Oakwood School. They debriefed on the CCI Solar Annual Meeting and decided that they will continue to test plates (though still working on the parameters for that research), so they started by making an iron nitrate plate at the last meeting. They will also focus on writing up a report on how to build and use their UV Ozone cleaner.  That way all the other teams will be able to follow the plans to build their own device and achieve more uniform spotting. If you’re interested in learning more about the UV ozone cleaner, reach out to Oakwood in the comments section and let them know any questions you have that they should address in their report.

Poly reviewed what they learned at the Annual Meeting as well. They had a discussion about the Juice from Juice project, and then retrieved new batteries to improve the UV light conditions for their HARPOON testing. They then did calculations to prepare a solution of a HARPOON standard (Ni/Fe/Co) used by all the other HARPOON sites, and cleaned plates for next time.

San Marino had a conversation on the Annual Meeting too and decided that they want to try using a UV ozone cleaner too if possible. They also saw materials that other groups are working with and are willing to potentially revisit bismuth (despite previous experiences with the material flaking) and cobalt. They particularly were impressed with a result shown of CoZn that was in the red with very high current.

At Mayfield, team PEAK contacted Mike McDonald (MIT) who spoke at the conference about his experience studying variation in SEAL results and received an excel file where they can input various current values for the same material and determine the standard deviation of the current. They also tested a CoZnFe plate and found another promising material (similar to their one CoZn material). They plan to epoxy a new wire to the opposite side of the plate to verify that the material being close to the bias potential didn’t affect the result.

Team RAM made two new plates: plate 11 contains Bismuth, Vanadium, and Tungsten (with the ratio of 8:1:1, 8:1:5, and 8:1:8), and plate 12 contains Bismuth, Vanadium, and Nickel, with the same ratio of plate 11. They used ammonium metavanadate for these plates that wasn’t very soluble so the ratios will likely be off. Hopefully next week the sodium metavanadate will be available to remake the materials and compare efficacy. Team SEA continued making plates with their colored and non-colored salts in more ratios (1:8, 4:7, 5:8). 

Week of 1/23-1/29

Everyone was prepping for the Annual Meeting so no updates from this week.

I hope everyone who was able to attend had a good time. All the posters were FABULOUS and I loved seeing the great work each of you has been doing. Very impressive. You guys did a wonderful job presenting and I heard many compliments on your work. Remember to take to heart the advice you got from your fellow scientists at the meeting and think of ways to start on some of their suggested experiments. Incorporating new experiments and directions to your research plan will only improve the final results for SEAL Con on May 13!

Now back to regular updates for next week please! And keep those conversations you had last weekend going in the comments…

Week of 1/16-1/22

Most teams have been busy working on their posters for the Annual Meeting. Remember to leave enough tie for printing and to bring your poster with you! Alverno is hoping to conduct a study where they test other teams’ plates with their SEAL kit at the Annual Meeting. If you want to be part of this Interlab study, bring your plates with you to the meeting!

Crescenta Valley tested the two plates from last week (NiCl2, ZnCl2, CoCl2), but had negative results- dark blue for both. They made several more plates, but we haven’t been able to get them annealed yet, so will finish testing them next week. One plate had .1 M BiVO4 with .1 M CoCl2 layered on top; another combined CoCl2, ZnCl2, NiCl2 in differing ratios (Co:Ni 1:1, Ni:Zn 1:1, Co:Zn 1:1), with four spots of Fe(NO3)3 as a standard; last plate had spots combining Ni:Fe:Co in a 1:2:2 ratio.

Mayfield ‘s team RAM made plate 9 (CuW) with the ratio of 10:6 and plate 10 (AlW) 10:6. Team SEA has noticed a trend with their colored & non-colored metal combinations: a higher ratio of non-colored to colored metal seems to produce more active materials. Their most active spot so far was iron tungsten in a 4:7 ratio. 

Franklin’s team “Versace” has posted the combinations of metals used on their first 3 plates. The metals they are testing are BiVO4, Co (II) acetate, Fe (III) nitrate, Ni (III) nitrate, and WO2Cl2. They will be using the HARPOON kit I believe, and after results are posted, I will point out specific ratios that had above average results.

Keep up the great work and see you soon!

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.