chemistry Research Projects

Electrodeposition Using Acoustic Excitation

research students

(Back row, from left) Daniel Ellis, Dr. Eric Miller,
Natasha G. Yazzie, Jamie Lee

For the summer 2014 research project, funded by the FOCUSS program, students studied the electrodeposition of copper, copper chloride, and silicon using acoustic excitation. Electrodeposition (also known as electroplating), of coatings and films is used in making a wide variety of products and devices.

Work at San Juan College has focused on electrodepositing silicon for making solar cells and retina replacement devices in new and novel ways. However, electrodeposited silicon is very porous and reactive to air and water. To make the films higher quality, more dense, and stable to air, researchers studied vibrating the electrode (using acoustic excitation) during electrodeposition to help place the atoms in proper positions. The students made very good progress at integrating acoustic excitation into electrodeposition studies involving sophisticated procedures and electronics.

While the films appeared to be more uniform, crystallinaty was not significantly affected. Some of the more visually interesting results are shown here.

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Electrodeposition of copper chloride revealed a fascinating deposit of copper chloride microcrystals.

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Dr. Eric Miller, Professor of Chemistry, directed a research project that focuses on synthesizing silicon and organic (plastic) electronic conductors. This area of research, integrated with other research areas into a single project, is directed at treating blindness through retina prosthesis (artificial retina replacement structures), and is currently funded through the New Mexico INBRE program of the National Institutes of Health.

High purity silicon is the main active material used in computer chips, digital cameras, and solar cells. One of the issues for the cost of solar cells is the price of high quality silicon.

There are many steps involved in making high purity silicon, some involving high temperatures. The work in the laboratory at San Juan College studies electrodeposition to make silicon at room temperature. This work could open up new possibilities to reduce cost and find new ways to manufacture new electronic devices.

Dr. Miller's research group investigates various methods, starting materials, and solvents including organic ionic liquids. Since the materials are water and air sensitive, the group must work with special equipment such as glove boxes and other zero air equipment with only nitrogen or argon atmospheres.


For more information, please call Michele Berkey at (505) 566-3606. Or send an email to