High-tech tools help students excel

As many students may or may not know, the Colorado School of Mines offers many different instruments to help the students obtain data that would otherwise be impossible to find. Such data includes the elemental breakdown of a random metal alloys or the composition of an organic solid. Such processes used to identify these substances are X-ray photo electron systems, also known as spectrometers. The spectrometer at Mines has a one percent sensitivity rate, giving data that is accurate to that degree. The sputter rate, the rate at which electrons are fired at an object, is 1 nanometer per minute. An auger spectrometer is available in Meyer Hall 175. It uses a process call AES, which means it uses an electron beam that is 0.3 –1 nanometer in diameter to obtain high counts on the near surface area. This machine provides an analysis of the surface area that is about 30 angstroms deep.

When it comes to choosing a sample for such an instrument as the auger spectrometer, certain questions need to be asked: What is the sample? What information about the sample has already been obtained? What information is needed from the sample? These are all great questions to ask as it costs $200 to obtain a 4-hour block with the machine. This comes with assistance from trained users as well. Another option is to become trained in how to use this machine, and for $100, a similar 4-hour block can be obtained to perform the experiments yourself.

Another machine available to the students of Mines is an Nuclear Magnetic Resonance machine (NMR). The NMR has evolved greatly over the past 60 years. Mines offers four different types of NMR probes. NMR goes through a set process of sequences. The first step to the sequence is a chemical shift. The second step is the calculation of a nuclear spin relocation, and following this step is the counting of dipolar couplings. The last step after the coupling is hydrogen bonding. This is when the self-division coefficient comes in the calculations. Using free induction decay, the user of these NMR machines can determine if a molecule is a solid or liquid. Fast spinning molecules are in a liquid state, while slow spinning molecules are in a solid state. Famous NMR user Richard Ernst states, “Why just NMR? – because there is hardly another technique that is so informative for so many different types of applications, and because there is no other technique that provides so much fun.” These are but a few of the machines offered to Mines students to help them further their education and quest to obtain knowledge here at school. Once again, Mines proves that they are on top of making sure that students have the resources required to excel.

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