Good Vibrations: Melissa Hines has found that wax increases a resonator's length of vibration time.
Present Position: Associate Professor of Chemistry, Cornell University.
Degrees: B.S. in chemistry, MIT; Ph.D. in chemistry, Stanford University
Why are you applying wax to nanoscale resonators? We have found that, surprisingly, by putting one molecular layer of wax on the silicon resonator, the resonator vibrates for a longer amount of time. We are trying to increase the length of vibration time, which increases energy output. Vibration stops because of energy loss so we're trying to control energy loss. We use infrared absorption to measure molecular vibrations.
What type of wax do you use? We are trying different kinds of waxes on the surface of the resonators to see which kind gives a better performance. We have discovered that if we make the hairs of wax with one molecule of carbon instead of 12 molecules, there is a higher surface density of tightly packed molecules. For every silicon atom on the surface of a resonator we'd like to attach one molecule of wax.
How could your research be applied to design engineering projects? There are two applications. First is using this technology in frequency standards as in cell phones and watches. Ideally, we'd like to have the ability to make an entire cell phone on one silicon chip, which would decrease the cost of the cell phone. Right now, cell phones have many ceramic, quartz, and silicon chips. Second, there is a larger possibility for use in sensors and detectors. Resonators make very good sensors. Wax could be placed on the surface of a sensor to detect the presence of something in the atmosphere, for instance. The sensor could record how many molecules of a specific material had landed on it by the number of times the resonator vibrated back and forth and by the type of vibrations.
Contact Melissa Hines at email@example.com. To read more about wax coating nanoscale technologies, go to http://rbi.ims.ca/3855-501.