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In the classroom: Expect the unexpected

Nature-nanotechnologyTaking regular breaks from experiments can help illuminate explanations for unexpected data.

doi:10.1038/nnano.2015.30

How many experiments that seem a complete waste of time and energy and create nothing but frustration does a PhD student do? You don’t see what you expect to see, and despite your efforts you really have no clue to why you see what you see. In most cases these results end up in a bottom drawer and get forgotten. But sometimes, all you need is to get away from them, concentrate on something else, and suddenly an idea comes to help you proceeding further and maybe explain the results. In our March issue of In the classroom, Renren Deng tells us how this happened to him when he first observed a variation in the colour of the light emitted from the nanocrystals he was studying if he simply shook the sample. It was only after many months experience and better knowledge of the nanoparticles known as upconversion nanocrystals that he figured out how he could properly characterize his sample. His perseverance was instrumental in the publication of the paper that appears on the March cover of Nature Nanotechnology, and that reports results that could lead to more efficient optoelectronic devices.

Read more here on the Nature Nano website

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