Monday, May 29, 2017

Weekly Reflection for Week of 5/21

Week two of attempting to synthesize ferrofluid was again unsuccessful. Like week one, however, I learned a lot.

Lesson #1: ferrofluid is a lot harder to make than the internet says. My attempt of mixing ferric chloride with iron powder failed, which isn’t too surprising since I was improvising based on a mixture of ferrofluid recipes from a bunch of different places. This is where I learned....

Lesson #2: when it comes to complex chemistry, don’t improvise. It turns out that this didn’t work because the iron chunks (even though very small) were too large to be suspended in the oil the way I wanted. The iron particles in ferrofluid are microscopically tiny, which is why it works the way it does, and iron powder is too large. Making smaller iron particles is very difficult, and it’s what I’ve been working on since I figured out what was wrong with my previous attempt. I found a new recipe that seems much more trustworthy, since it was made by a chemistry teacher, and I’ve been trying to follow it for the majority of the week. The first step in the recipe is to basically mix ferric chloride with steel wool until it turns green. This didn’t work at first because I tried to use 1M ferric chloride, which was too weak to dissolve the steel wool and carry out the reaction. Using my shaky chemistry skills I managed to make 1.5M ferric chloride, which worked a little better. Once I had the right solution, I spent all week stirring in steel wool in the attempt to get a neon green solution. This brings us to...

Lesson #3: read the directions! This was the stupidest mistake I made, and also the most important lesson. I had seen somewhere in the recipe that the solution was supposed to turn bright green, and mine was only turning a murky brownish green, which I didn’t think was a good sign. I kept making a stronger solution of ferric chloride, eventually getting up to around 2M, but it kept turning the same murky green. Eventually I reread the directions more thoroughly and realized this was because I needed to filter the solution (oops). After filtering, it turned bright green, like I’d been hoping all week. If I'd read the directions better, I could've saved myself three days of stirring steel wool.

This week I’ll attempt the most complicated (and dangerous) part of the process. Hopefully by Friday I'll be the proud creator of some ferrofluid To the fume hood I go!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Weekly Reflection for Week of 5/15

This week was a lot of Genius Hour trial and error. I decided to make ferrofluid for my project, which is basically a liquid that responds to a magnetic field and has a lot of cool uses, since it is a liquid carrier. I found a few recipes for ferrofluid online, and the easiest one was to soak cassette tape ribbons in acetone to strip the iron from the tapes, and then to add vegetable oil to goop it up a bit. Unfortunately, this absolutely didn’t work. I’m not really sure why this is, since several sources said it would, but tried a different approach, which is to basically add ferric chloride to iron particles, and then add vegetable oil. I left the iron/ferric chloride to dry out, so tomorrow I’ll add vegetable oil to see if I actually made ferrofluid or if I have to try a different (more chemistry heavy) approach to making it. Hopefully this will work so I can start messing around with it this week, but if it doesn’t it’ll still work out since I have enough time to try a few other things.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Reflection for Week of May 8

This week was exam week! I spent most of this week either taking or studying for exams, so I didn’t get a ton of bio done. I was only in class two days, and only Friday was really spent seriously exploring Genius Hour ideas. Initially, I wanted to do an experiment with jellyfish and how they adjust to certain pHs, since jellyfish are supposed to survive climate change well since they can adjust to changing water acidity. Unfortunately, jellyfish are absurdly expensive so I’ve had to scrap that idea. Something that we touched on this year that I would like to learn more about it electromagnetism, but I’m still in the stages of coming up with an actual idea out of this. Hopefully tomorrow and the next day I can fine tune an idea so I can get started on my project.