The Educational Kits listed here were developed by faculty and trainees of the Research Immersion in Materials Science and Engineering (RIMSE) programs of the UC San Diego MRSEC.  They are available through the MRSEC Education and Outreach program.  For more information, contact Yves Theriault at ytheriault@ucsd.edu

Micro-lens kitSilicone Microlens: Convert your cell phone into a microscope

A small silicone rubber lens that can be adhered to your cell phone camera, converting it into a microscope.  Developed by Seth Mclaughlin, Sachel Jetly, Claire Chen, Hannah Chen, Nathan Han, Keying Deng, and Eileen Huffer-Ege, who were trainees in the 2021 and 2022 Summer School for Silicon Nanotechnology (SSSiN), one of the Research Immersion in Materials Science and Engineering (RIMSE) programs of the UC San Diego MRSEC.

Quantum Dots: Nanoparticles that glow.

Subject of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, quantum dots are nanoparticles made from solid materials known as semiconductors that are finding uses in a wide range of applications, from medical diagnostic systems, to solar cells, to television sets. The most well-known semiconductor is silicon, the material at the heart of all modern microelectronics. This kit contains a non-toxic sample of silicon quantum dots, which glow with a bright orange color when placed under a small black light. The kit explains the concept of photoluminescence, some materials (such as a day-glow highlighter pen) that utilize the concept of photoluminescence, and how quantum dots can be configured to display all the colors of the rainbow.  Developed by Ellie Bauer, Keying Deng, Clémentine Gevers, Sophia Hsu, Eileen Huffer-Ege, Louise Lejeune, Siran Rao, Jocelyn Zhang,  and Ashley Tamura who were trainees or mentors in the 2022 and 2023 Summer School for Silicon Nanotechnology (SSSiN), one of the Research Immersion in Materials Science and Engineering (RIMSE) programs of the UC San Diego MRSEC.

Photonic Crystals:Abalone (Paua) shell and crystal of calcium carbonate Color from a nanostructure.

The "crystal" part of a photonic crystal refers to its repeating structure, analogous to the repeating pattern of atoms in a crystal.  Like the lines on a piece of paper or the squares on a checkerboard, a crystal possesses a structural pattern that varies in a periodic fashion.  However, unlike the atoms in a crystal, which are patterned with the sub-nanometer periodicity of atomic dimensions, the structure of a photonic crystal repeats on a much larger size scale--on the order of hundreds of nanometers.  This size corresponds to the wavelengths of visible light, and the structure of a photonic crystal interacts with light cooperatively, reflecting specific photon wavelengths that are determined by the periodicity of the structure (hence the "photonic" part of the name).  The abalone shell is a natural example of a photonic crystal. The image shown at right is a paua shell (a type of abalone from New Zealand) next to a crystal of calcite (calcium carbonate).  While it is composed of transparent calcium carbonate, the paua shell displays vibrant colors because it grows as a repeating stack of several dozen of these calcium carbonate sheets--each individually is only about 300 nm thick.  Although they are transparent, the multi-layers act cooperatively to reflect a very specific color of light that is determined by the spacing of the layers in the stack.   In nature, a number of organisms synthesize photonic crystals to make these so-called structural colors--in addition to sea shells, the wings of butterflies, bird feathers, and the cuticles of some beetles are examples of natural photonic crystals.  This kit contains an artificial abalone shell made from stacked layers of porous silicon. The silicon photonic crystal reflects a bright color under normal room lights. The kit explains the concept of reflectance, and it utilizes the concept to prepare a simple chemical sensor based on observing a color change in the silicon photonic crystal.  Developed by trainees or mentors in the 2023 Summer School for Silicon Nanotechnology (SSSiN), one of the Research Immersion in Materials Science and Engineering (RIMSE) programs of the UC San Diego MRSEC.

The Roving Spectrometer: Remote training on use and applications of a portable optical spectrometer

Developed by Claire Zhang (left) in response to the coronavirus pandemic in Summer 2020 and perfected by Nathan Han in Summer 2021, each Roving Spectrometer consists of a miniature Ocean Optics spectrometer, laptop computer, optical fibers, lenses, sample stage, light sources, and the ancillary components needed to perform optical reflectance, diffuse reflectance, and photoluminescence measurements on various solid samples. The kit also contains representative samples to support the training experiments. This became so popular we integrated it into the MRSEC Lending Library and the Summer School for Silicon Nanotechnology (SSSiN), one of the Research Immersion in Materials Science and Engineering (RIMSE) programs of the UC San Diego MRSEC.