Sunday, June 30, 2013

Staying in Saarbrücken

Starting to Spin
Welcome to the Teknikum which is our lab in Germany.  Last week, my colleagues and I received a formal tour of the facility and began some preliminary lab training.

This machine pictured behind the cabinet (see picture below) is for electrospinning.  This past week, my colleagues and I learned how to electrospin fibers which is useful for most of our projects.  In my particular research, I am spinning fibers to be used in a material for a separator in supercapacitors.  Supercapacitors store energy.  Electrical double-layer capacitors (EDLCs) are a type of supercapacitor that require a separator.  A separator provides a barrier so that the supercapacitor does not short circuit from the flow of ions; however, the separator must also demonstrate enough porosity for electrolyte to flow through.  In the past, electrospinning has contributed to very porous materials which would be perfect to incorporate into separators in supercaps.  Electrospinning is also a fairly affordable, simple process and would be beneficial to commercialize if successful.  Overall, this project aims to produce more effective, efficient separators than what is already commercially available.

At the current moment, I am going to spin three polymers into materials to see how they will act in a separator material.  On Monday, I hope to spin my first solution and see how that works as a separator material.  In addition to research and lab work, my colleagues and I attended our second lab meeting.  During this lab meeting, we all had to prepare a five slide presentation to present in front of the entire group.  Even though I have done presentations before, I was particularly nervous for this one.  In the end, I had nothing to fear because I knew the information and was able to articulate my project to the group.  For me, the New Materials for Energy group is beginning to feel like a family.

Studying in Saarbrücken
Not surprisingly, the first question people usually ask once they find out that I am American is "Why are you here?"  The simple answer is that I am conducting research at the University.  This past week I decided to stay in Saarbrücken instead of traveling to another city.  I really did enjoy Bonn, but I wanted to relax a bit in my own city since I really did not get the opportunity to do so the first week because I was either sleeping or in Starbucks for the free Wifi.

After walking around Saarbrücken, I found so many restaurants and stores.  First off, Primark is probably one of the best stores and should be brought to America soon.  Imagine four floors of the cheapest and cutest clothes available.  Unfortunately, so many people were in Primark that day that I decided to come back at another time.  Also, I found stores such as a musical instrument store that actually showed the workshop of the person who makes them (pictured below).  All of the instruments had meticulous craftsmanship.  I really wish I could purchase one of these instruments, but I highly doubt that one would fit in my carry on and that I have the budget for one. Overall, I am happy to have wandered around this city especially during the festival.

Pictured below is part of the festival that took place in Saarbrücken this weekend.  Imagine a bunch of tents selling homemade goods and delicious food places while five or six different stages are producing music all across the city.  I wish Philly had these type of festivals because literally I had so much fun this past weekend.  Today is the last day of the festival and I will be enjoying all the food.  What I do find particularly different about Germany is that there is a certain way that people feel they need to act.  People do not dance in public when music is playing which is sad because the music is catchy.

This past weekend I also found that people do not like pictures taken of their work because they are afraid that people from China will reproduce their goods at a cheaper cost.  For this reason, I have removed the pictures of all the different types of jewelry and goods for this blog.  I am not certain if this would happen, but I respect the people here enough to abide by their requests.  In general, I have found that people in Germany do not like cameras.

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