Summer 2005: New Electroplating Techniques
Princeton University, Princeton NJ
My friend and mentor Claire Gmachl invited me back for a second summer in her lab, this time for a shorter project investigating improvements in the process of electroplating. During the summer I did literature research on techniques, investigated the current electroplating setup firsthand in a cleanroom setting, and looked into the costs and benefits of changing and updating our setup in various ways. I then discussed possible options with Professor Gmachl, and began to implement the improved setup.
Professor Gmachl’s lab deals with Quantum Cascade Lasers, lasers so tiny that they require special, ultra-thin gold wires to power them. For these wires to make a good electrical connection with the laser sample, the sample must have a gold coating on it. Samples are coated using the process of electroplating, which dissolves gold in a chemical bath and then submerges the pad in the bath, running a charge through it to make it attract the gold ions.
The lab’s current setup was outdated, and its bath was highly toxic, requiring special precautions to deal with the cyanide involved. My search concluded that several components could be updated and the cyanide could be replaced with a less deadly substitute. I began to procure the necessary materials during the summer, and the rest of the setup has since been put into action. The result was a more efficient, less toxic process that did not sacrifice the quality or speed of electroplating.
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