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Posts tagged with "How Not to Do It"

  • How Not to Do It

    How Not to Do It: Liquid Nitrogen Tanks

    A colleague of mine forwarded a copy of an accident report from Texas A&M. It seems that in mid-January they had a bit of a blowout there, thanks to a big liquid nitrogen tank. Now, liquid nitrogen cylinders are normally fairly benign, as long as you don’t freeze your external organs off with the stuff… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not to Do It: Ether Peroxides

    We’ve had a few incidents recently at the Wonder Drug Factory where people have been using some common solvents like ether or tetrahydrofuran (THF) and ended up with odd results. When they check their reactions, there’s something else in there that hasn’t turned up before. The same impurity turns up in completely different reactio… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not to Do It: Bromine

    I wasn’t an eyewitness to this one, although I wish I had been. I pass it on secondhard from a former colleague of mine, on which it made an understandable impression. Bromine’s an odd element. The two lighter halogens leading up to it are nasty gases. Fluorine, the first one, is actually beyond merely nasty… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not to Do It: Vacuum Pumps

    I wandered into the lab one Saturday morning while I was in graduate school – (OK, scratch that, I wandered into the lab most Saturday mornings while I was in graduate school, which was one of the things I hated about it.) And as I walked past the vacuum pump, I noticed something a little… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not to Do It: Distilling Benzene

    Summer students are showing up at academic and industrial labs around the country right about now. A certain percent of them will blow something up within the next three months, and that percent will be several standard deviations above the ka-boom rate of the other lab members. I’m not trying to say mean things about… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    Speak for Themselves, They Do

    I thought about writing a whole post welcoming back my fellow Arkansan, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, but decided that not many folks would sit still for that. It does strike me, though, that the bird was rediscovered not that far from where I went to college. I didn’t have much time to hang out in the… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    Ping! Ping! Ping!

    I was using hydrogen chloride gas straight out of the cylinder today, first time I’ve done that in many years. That’s a very different substance from regular hydrochloric acid, which is technically a solution of HCl gas in water. The straight stuff will really snap your head back if you get a whiff of it… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not to Do It: Sulfenyl Chlorides

    Someone came to my lab today to borrow some thiophenol, a request that made me think of something that happened in my first summer of undergraduate research – twenty-two, gulp, years ago. Now, thiophenol is not known as a great inducer of nostalgia. Like the other small-molecule sulfur compounds, it reeks without letup. It’s a… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not to Do It: Sodium

    We have a lot of pyrophoric substances in an organic chemistry lab – things that burst into flame when they encounter normal air. Liquids are handled by syringe and needle, using bottles fitted with gas-tight septae. That works pretty well, once you get the hang of it. The main things you have to learn are… Read More
  • How Not to Do It

    How Not to Do It – Hydrogen Balloons

    I’m not sure if I’ve told this story before – perhaps on my previous blog. The memory is with me so vividly that the retellings run together. I’ve never liked hydrogenation rooms. For my non-lab audience, that’s where we keep the equipment for running reactions in pressure vessels under hydrogen gas, always with some s… Read More
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