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Aaron Clark,
NSF Graduate Fellow

NSF GK-12 Project: University of Maine
Track II: GK-12 Sensors!
URL: http://www.eece.maine.edu/research/gk12/

Thesis Title: Chemical Vapor Deposition of Metal-Oxide Films for Sensing Applications
College/University: University of Maine

Research Advisor: Clayton Wheeler

Degree Sought

University Department and/or Lab
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Research Focus
My research focuses on the development of chemical vapor deposition processes for depositing metal-oxide films for sensing applications.

Description of Research
My research involves the development of chemical vapor deposition (CVD) processes for depositing semi-conducting metal-oxides and catalyst materials on microhotplate platforms for conductometric gas sensing applications. The purpose is to study the effect of film composition and morphology on sensitivity to classes of compounds such as fluorocarbons, alcohols, alkanes, ketones, and other reducing compounds such as hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

The microhotplate platforms—designed and fabricated at the University of Maine—include functionality for controlling temperature while measuring the electrical properties of over-deposited films. These devices are well-suited for examining temperature-dependent phenomena on a micro-scale. Fabricated as arrays, they enable efficient combinatorial studies to be performed on a single chip. The advantages of their small size include rapid heating/cooling characteristics, low power consumption, and lower cost. Chemical vapor deposition is a particularly convenient method of film deposition on these platforms since it is a thermally activated process. Individually addressed microhotplates provide the heated substrate for film deposition so that materials will be deposited only on the microheater surface (self-lithography).

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience
I like to introduce Microsoft Excel to my middle school students because it is an invaluable research tool and one that they will frequently use once they get to high school. Learning a new computer program may not be that appealing to 7th graders, therefore I try to make it more interesting by teaching them the program using data which the students collect during a fun activity. This year that activity involved the rock-climbing wall in the school’s gymnasium.

At the base of the climbing wall, I positioned a Pasco motion sensor to obtain position data of climbers as they scale the wall. In addition to the motion sensor data, I wanted the students to simultaneously obtain another set of data. With masking tape I marked off distances in one-meter increments up the wall from ground level. Then, for each climber, I had three students with stopwatches obtain the time intervals between distances.

With a good collection of data for the students to work with—data which they very much enjoyed collecting themselves—the introduction to Excel is made fun. I teach the students how to transfer, arrange, and manipulate data. I teach them how to create and format graphs. And since they have two sets of data for each climber—stopwatch data and motion sensor data—I can also get the students to engage their brains by comparing and analyzing their results. For the final part of the project I get the students to think critically as I have them answer a number questions such as which data set they think is more reliable, what potential problems they think their data might have, how they would improve the experimental procedure or data collection, etc.

Profile date: August 2007
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