Click here for some boring work I had to do when writing some MATLAB code on the game of War that is, in fact, completely unrelated to my research. It's basic, undergrad-level stuff. What happened is that in grad school I had to learn how to do object-oriented programming in MATLAB for processing microscopy images, and a classic OOP test case is just making a deck of cards. I then got into a argument with my brother about whether or not you'll always win if you start with four aces in your hand. So, I used my MATLAB skillz (that do NOT pay the billz) and whipped up a couple of quick graphs. Yawn.
Originally I had a really long paragraph here describing organic electronics, conducting polymers, and scanning tunneling microscopy. Then I realized people like brevity.
I use an instrument known as the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to analyze a branch of materials known as "conducting polymers." Chock full of electron-flowing goodness, such polymers can be used in a number of different applications. Right now, organic light-emitting diodes are hitting the marketplace in all sorts of devices. The next potential market might be in organic photovoltaics. In other words, organic solar cells.
The STM allows us to probe some of the interesting physics and surface chemistry of such materials. For example, how do the molecules behave on different surfaces? How is charge distributed within a single polymer layer? What is the dominant charge mechanism in heterojunctions? I first investigated a simple polymer known as "polydiacetylene" for my MS work. I still flirt with it somewhat for a few different experiments (including a few I really want to try), but I have since transitioned to working with thin layers of poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) and P3HT-C60 heterojunctions. The latter is useful not only for organic photovoltaics but also as a cool system to probe nanoscale transport properties of P3HT.