This summer, I’ll be working with a professor from Eastern Kentucky University on designing and building a matrix isolation system to be used for laser ablation experiments. The professor is a former UK post-doc who is apparently a very good experimentalist…which is great, because I could certainly use a few pointers.
“Matrices” in the chemical sense of the term are arrays of atoms or molecules with special defects that provide “holes” into which molecules of a specific geometry can freeze. If a matrix is frozen to liquid helium temperatures and some analyte is passed over the matrix, the analyte will freeze into the matrix’s defects in a specific, predictable orientation, providing for some interesting IR spectroscopy.
The analyte in my case will be organometallic complexes formed when a laser strikes a piece of metal in an atmosphere of the target organic ligand. The little pieces of metal liberated by the laser get really hot, form a plasma, and coordinate with nearby organic ligands. These complexes will then be frozen into a matrix and analyzed by IR spectroscopy.
Simple in theory, but probably a pain in the ass to design and build. Because let’s face it, cutting-edge science has to be a pain in the ass, otherwise someone would’ve dealt with it already.