Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Science isn't just results

My project du jour involves simulating a planar interface between two semiconducting materials. While it happens to be a slightly panicky "My advisor submitted abstracts without any data" project, it's proving to be much more interesting than it did at first blush. Partly because it isn't working as expected.

My initial results are telling me these two materials just don't want to bond, while my advisor is adamant that they should. In poking around the literature, I've discovered they are both right, depending on the processing conditions. These two materials only bond with a)an intermediate layer, b) applied voltage, heat and pressure or c) surface melting of at least one component. In our attempts to get a clear interface in very little time, we've been simulating neither of these things. Consequently, I'm now scrambling to set up as many simulations as possible in the hopes that one will work in time for me to do any analysis on the data before the talk next week.

It's a good reminder to check the experimental literature sooner, rather than later, instead of immediately blaming the code. The code may be giving totally realistic results for the imposed conditions, and we need to impose different conditions to get the results we're interested in.

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