Home » Leo Hamerlynck - Research Experience, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Leo Hamerlynck - Research Experience, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This summer, I spent 10 weeks at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as part of their Chemistry Department’s 3M REU. During that time, I spent 40 hours a week working in the lab of Dr. Renske van der Veen, a second-year associate professor, with the grad student Tyler Haddock, who had just finished his first year. The experience of working in a relatively new research lab was an interesting and eye-opening change of pace from the research I do here at the University of Arizona, where I work on solar cell research in the lab of Dr. Neal Armstrong, who has been with the University for over 30 years. The focus of the van der Veen group is on femtosecond-resolved transient absorption spectroscopy, in which pulsed lasers are used to probe the time-evolution of ultrafast dynamics. This means that processes that normally occur too fast to observe, such as the complex relaxation pathways of excited electrons, can be exquisitely determined with time resolutions as low as a few femtoseconds. My project focused on the study of spin-crossover materials, which are metal complexes that have two stable electronic configurations, or spin-states, that the material can switch between in response to pressure, temperature, and light. This bistability makes them potentially very useful in switching, memory, and sensing, so it’s important to understand the materials as much as we can. The goal of my project was to probe iron triazole, a temperature-dependent spin-crossover material, with transient absorption spectroscopy. I ended up spending a lot of the summer working with the experimental setup, trying to get fine control over the temperature of the system and aligning and focusing lasers with Tyler on the femtosecond spectroscopy setup. In the end, I wasn’t able to get a spectrum of iron triazole, though we did manage to scan rhodamine B, a dye with a long excited state lifetime useful for calibrating the instrument. While I wasn’t able to collect a lot of data, I still learned a lot – probably more than I would have otherwise – about the instrumentation and methodologies involved. I greatly value my experience at UIUC this past summer, and thank the many faculty who worked to make this program happen.