CEINT's Alexis Carpenter visits the CEREGE

By Alexis Carpenter

In mid-January, I went to France for two weeks to visit the CEREGE and use their instrumentation to study iron-based composite particles that we are developing here at Duke University. Specifically, I used two different magnetometers to monitor the oxidation of zero valent iron particles. Using these measurements we can model the kinetics of oxidation and get an understanding of how a novel surface stabilizer may aid in slowing the oxidation process.

The CEREGE (The European Center for Research and Education in Environmental Geosciences), located in Aix en Provence, is one of CEINT’s international partners. I was fortunate to be able to stay with Danielle Slomberg, a current postdoc at the CEREGE, who I went to graduate school with. Danielle and her two roommates (also researchers at the CEREGE) were gracious hosts. It was a great experience to spend a week with them, enjoy some authentic French dinners and learn some crucial French phrases to help me get by!

Each morning we would take the bus from the downtown area where I stayed to the CEREGE, located just outside of Aix (after grabbing a pain au chocolat for breakfast of course!). Because the particles I worked with oxidize quickly when exposed to air, I did all of my syntheses in a nitrogen glovebox. I am especially thankful to Melanie Auffan and Danielle for helping me to find all of the supplies I needed during my short time there! I would then seal up my samples and take a short walk through the woods to the La Chalet, which housed all of the magnetometers. I worked closely with Jerome Gattacceca, a Director of Research at the CEREGE that studies the magnetic properties and magnetization of extraterrestrial materials, in designing experiments and using the instruments. While I was measuring the magnetic susceptibility of my synthesized iron particles, others in La Chalet were measuring the magnetic properties of meteorite samples found at impact zones in Chile! It was great to be able to hear about the wide range of exciting research going on each day at the CEREGE. I also had the pleasure of meeting and discussing research with many others: Jean-Yves Bottero, Daniel Borschneck, and Jerome Labille. Visiting and working at the CEREGE was a really great experience. Everyone was very welcoming and helpful. My only wish is that I could have stayed longer!

After a busy day at the CEREGE, my evenings were filled with enjoying the delicious French cuisine and getting lost in the streets of Aix. I could wander the streets for hours and never get tired of learning about its rich history and admiring the beautiful streets, buildings and fountains! And of course enjoying delicious fresh-made crepes!