While a graduate student at The Ohio State University, Dr. Paris Barnes developed an interest in solids while studying under the direction of one of the world’s foremost experts. Eight years later, he continues to investigate the structures of solids with the help of students at Millikin University, including a recent publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
At The Ohio State University, Dr. Barnes collaborated with leading expert Dr. Patrick Woodward and fellow student Hank Eng to explore the crystal structures of potential photocatalysts. Simply put, photocatalysts are chemicals that react when exposed to light. These fascinating chemicals can be utilized for various purposes, including a coating for skyscraper windows that self-cleans the window when it is exposed to sunlight. Because they are useful chemicals, scientists have sought to develop photocatalysts better than titanium (IV) oxide. However, they have been unable to develop a better chemical in the last forty years. Dr. Barnes’s graduate school research led him to research these ideas, which he brought with him to Millikin University in 2006.
Dr. Barnes shared these ideas with students and found that they were genuinely excited and interested in them. As such, he put together a team of students to conduct research that sought to determine the structures of compounds. This team consisted of Millikin students (now alums) Bradley Day, Nicholas Bley, Heather (Althouse) Jones, and Ryan McCullough. The students synthesized and determined the structures of various materials that were investigated as part of a 2003 work examining how chemical substitutions affect the optical properties of materials. To do this, they mixed up solid starting materials and heated the reaction mixture to greater than 1100 °C to form a compound. The various materials they created were analyzed using X-ray diffraction. X-ray diffraction is similar to an X-ray at the doctor’s office, except that instead of taking pictures of bones, it reveals the arrangement of atoms in a compound. To obtain X-ray diffraction data, the Millikin team collaborated with Dr. Barnes’s colleagues from The Ohio State University, including his former professor Dr. Patrick Woodward.
Once the testing was complete, Dr. Barnes analyzed the data mathematically and was able to determine the structures of the compounds. This research was published in January 2012 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Solid State Chemistry
. The article, entitled “Structures of Ordered Tungsten- or Molybdenum-Containing Quaternary Perovskite Oxides” lists Bradley Day as the first author and also includes the rest of Dr. Barnes’s team as co-authors. Dr. Barnes’s research colleague from an earlier project, Dr. Hank Eng, also assisted the team in determining which compounds to analyze and how they are structured. According to Dr. Barnes, the publication is significant because “synthetic perovskites can have interesting electrical and magnetic properties. These physical properties are useful for building smaller, more powerful computer memory and improving telecommunications."
Current Millikin students are actively involved in further pursuing this type of research. Senior Denise Freeman is examining two compounds that are nearly identical but are structurally different. In theory, their structures should be the same. This research has the potential to make a new discovery that will contribute to the field of solid state lighting. In addition, the Millikin Chemistry Department has had great success in publishing student research in academic journals. Dr. George Bennett has published two papers with Millikin students in the last two years in addition to depositing two new crystal structures into the global database. According to Dr. Barnes, students who conduct undergraduate research gain valuable experience that improves their resume for a career or graduate school.
Dr. Barnes and his team are proud to see the culmination of nearly five years of research result in a publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Along with the rest of the Chemistry Department, Dr. Barnes looks forward to publishing more student research in the years to come.
Kevin Stocks '12
Millikin Student Writer