Arts & Culture / Mosaic / February 17, 2016

Andreev experiments with crystal-making in SMC

In a workshop deep in the basements of SMC, sophomore Danny Andreev spends time with his friends and works with SMC’s mechanics. When he is not practicing tricks on his self-installed pull up bar or tutoring his peers in Calculus III, he is working on an array of technologically complex science projects as part of his newfound hobby.

“I’ve always liked to build stuff. Electronics are kind of a new thing of mine,” Andreev said. “I started eight months ago. I didn’t even know what a capacitor was. I just read some books. Now, I can design my own circuitry.”

Andreev was inspired to learn about electronics from a high school friend who, after realizing he lacked the grades to attend his college of choice, decided to teach himself electronics and started his own company. Thus far, Andreev has steered away from any commercial enterprises and prefers to build things for the sake of building. As an inventor, he prioritizes process over final products.

“I’ll take [my projects] as far as I can, either to completion or to the point where I have no [more] knowledge,” Andreev said.

Currently, he is in the process of building an electronic longboard, an undertaking he was inspired to pursue after playing with his friend’s Boosted Board. Unwilling to pay the $2,000 price tag to buy one, he decided to build his own. The learning process has been hard on him.

“I figured, ‘How hard can it be?’ Well, here I am eight months later still struggling. It’s difficult, but I way overestimated how difficult this stuff is. I started from zero knowledge of anything,” Andreev said. “Once I had enough knowledge to where I could see how I could formulate these electronic longboard projects, I just spearheaded the project and went straight into production.”

In many of his undertakings, like his electronic longboards project, he prefers to go in with little to no knowledge of the science behind his work. He enjoys the process of learning and gaining knowledge through trial and error.

“I knew it would be really hard. I purposely tried to underestimate this process. I told myself that it would be easy knowing in the back of my head that it would be difficult. But that’s the mindset I had to go into it with,” Andreev said. “Every time I’ve tried something new, I didn’t understand any of it and had to go back to YouTube tutorials, books.”

Another project of his that has caught the attention of some mechanics and chemistry students has involved crystal synthesis. Utilizing the equipment available to him in the basements of SMC, Andreev, in collaboration with some students in the chemistry department, has been attempting to synthesize gemstones.

“Sapphires, emeralds, rubies all have the same chemical composition. Pure sapphire is just a crystalline form of aluminum oxide, which is dirt cheap, as long as you can get it crystallized,” Andreev explained. In the commercial industry, engineers create gemstones through a process called “seeding” wherein under extreme environmental conditions, a “seed” of a gemstone crystallizes into a larger gemstone. It is this very process that he and his friends have been trying to mimic.

“We thought we could repeat the process here with a janky vacuum chamber,” Andreev explained. “Initially, we were going to make a version that didn’t have a seed. It would crystalize into a ton of smaller crystals instead of a single, large crystal.”

Their project is on a temporary hiatus as Andreev and his friends are conceiving a less dangerous method of synthesizing the crystals.

Stefan Torralba

Tags:  crystals danny andreev inventing science smc

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