Research for Brighter Security

Whether something is plain or patterned in life often is just personal preference, but not when it comes to enhancing the luminescence of nanoparticles. Andre Schaum ’20 learned that patterns are preferred.

Schaum, an ACS chemistry and biology double major, studied the luminescence of nanoparticles on patterned metal surfaces as part of a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates. The research was done through the Center for Security Printing and Anti-Counterfeiting Technology at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. Schaum looked at how luminescent inks, when placed on patterned metal produce more light when excited with another light than those same inks on a non-patterned surface.

“What we were finding is the surface enhances the luminescent properties so they can be more viable in commercial use,” Schaum says.

Schaum recently presented the research at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in Florida. Schaum worked on this research with a team in Dr. P. Stanley May’s lab. The goal of the project was to find a way to amplify the luminescent ink so when used for security purposes such as for computer components or military objects they could be detected without shining as much light on them. Currently, the level of light needed with these particular particles is too intense to replicate inexpensively for business purposes. Schaum says the process was good to gain an understanding of how sporadic research can be.

“It was a really good mock graduate school experience,” Schaum says. “The first five weeks were hard. Nothing was working. And then it clicked.”

While the research was fruitful, Schaum says it also served another goal he had in mind.

“I wanted the opportunity to present on a national scale,” Schaum says.

Schaum did just that when he joined hundreds of chemistry professionals at the ACS National Meeting. In addition to his own presentation, he had the chance to learn from other experts in the chemistry field. Schaum is excited about his next summer research opportunity that will take him to Prague for an International Research Experience for Students program. There he’ll be studying the recycling of industrial coolants in the European Union.

“We plan to develop a procedure for the determination of silicate in coolants and the quality control for the recycling process,” he says.