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Overview of Research in the RGMLab

Professor Robert G. Michel
Analytical Chemistry

Professor (b.1949). B.Sc., (honors) Sheffield Polytechnic, England, UK, 1971; Ph.D. Sheffield Hallam University, 1974; Senior Fulbright-Hays Fellow, University of Florida, 1974-1976; Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Strathclyde, 1976-1978; Research Career Development Awardee, 1984-1989, National Institutes of Health; Benedetti-Pichler Awardee, 1992, American Microchemical Society.

Research is conducted in analytical atomic spectroscopy, and multimedia teaching methods.

Research overview for Undergraduate Research Students (Chem 296/7) and for Prospective Graduate Students (Printable PDF Version)(HTML Version)(Jpeg Version)

Analytical Atomic Spectroscopy

Analytical atomic spectroscopy is a branch of applied spectroscopy and is composed of a family of techniques that are designed to determine the concentrations of metals in a wide variety of environmental, biological, and agricultural samples. Examples include the determination of lead in blood, paint, and water; manganese in tissues; lead, copper, cadmium, tin in air; lead, thallium, phosphorus in nickel alloys; phosphorus in polymers, etc.

Research is based on the use of lasers, and chromatography, in novel analytical instrumentation to achieve extraordinarily high sensitivity, high accuracy, selectivity, and microsampling capabilities. Cutting edge laser technology is used to achieve tunable radiation that can be used as a probe to select particular metals to be determined in samples, and chromatographic techniques are used to separate metal-organic species in biological and other samples. Techniques that are used include laser excited atomic fluorescence spectrometry, laser enhanced ionization spectrometry, and laser ablation, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, capillary electrophoresis, and high performance liquid chromatography. Atom cells that are used to vaporize samples include the graphite furnace, air/acetylene flame, inductively coupled plasma, microwave plasma, and d.c. plasma. Our publications that illustrate the techniques studied and samples analyzed can be accessed at http://rgmlab.chem.uconn.edu/pubs2.html.

Present research projects include work on the speciation of organometallic compounds, such as metalloproteins in biological samples, by use of chromatography to separate the compunds followed by detection of the metals with such techniques as laser excited atomic fluorescence in a flame or graphite furnace, or inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Also, we are studying various topics in laser ablation of samples for ultra-trace metals determinations; multimelement analyses by use of a tunable optical parametric oscillator laser system; improvements in the linear dynamic range of graphite atomic absorption measurements; extension of the ranges of elements that can be determined by laser excited atomic fluorescence, through instrumental improvements in optics, lasers and detection systems, and several projects that apply the techniques of atomic spectroscopy to the determination of the elements in environmental, biological, metallurgical, forensic samples, and samples of other materials such as polymers.

Our laboratory is well-equipped with three tunable laser systems as follows: A 500 Hz repetition rate excimer pumped dye laser with harmonic generation capabilities to obtain UV radiation between 210 nm and 650 nm. A 100 Hz repetition rate excimer pumped dye laser system with tunable radiation between 220 nm and 650 nm. This last excimer laser is presently being used for excimer laser ablation. Finally, we have a 30 Hz repetition rate YAG pumped optical parametric oscillator laser system that gives tunable radiation between 440 nm and 2000 nm with harmonic generation capabilities down to 195 nm. In addition to these laser systems we are equipped with standard lab. equipment in three laser labs with optical tables of various types. Such equipment includes, boxcar integrators, digital storage scopes, computers for all researchers and instruments, a wide variety of optical components and mounts, lock-in amplifiers, photon counters, photomultiplier tubes, photodiode arrays, charge coupled arrays, flames, graphite furnaces, inductively coupled plasma, microwave plasmas, d.c. plasma, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer, and several atomic absorption instruments with Zeeman background correction, several low and high resolution spectrometers, etc. In addition to our purpose built laser laboratory in the new chemistry building, there is a group conference room, library, and a state-of-the-art class100 trace metal clean room.

Multimedia teaching

The use of multimedia computers in teaching allows a teacher to bring together many forms of expression for use in the classroom. Our research in this area has been centered on the use of digital video clips to illustrate topics in analytical and general chemistry teaching. Video clips can be taken from a video tape, video camera, or laser disk and digitized into a file that can be saved on a hard disk. These movies can be edited easily, and when played back they can be controlled at the computer keyboard. This control is so facile that movies of working analytical instruments give the feeling of control over the real instrument, which we feel is a form of "virtual reality" in the classroom. We have made movies of real instruments, with each movie clip is typically about 15-30 seconds long. Most of the work done so far has concentrated on analytical instrumentation concepts such as the use of a burette, or the operation of a flame atomic absorption instrument, but the possibilities of the use of digital movies in the classroom are limitless. Research is continuing on the preparation of digital materials for use in the classroom to explore the possibilities of this means of expression. Some example video clips can be accessed at an Elsevier web site that stores these movie clips. A pdf file of the publication that contained these video clips can be found in our publications list.