403: Igor (Igor)
( Jul. 16th, 2009 03:28 am)
My problem reaction. It did something different!

Ordinarily it makes some combination of brown solid and red-brown sludge. Whatever the red chemical is, it's an unwanted side product.

This reaction has had a persistant issue with one of the starting materials being insufficiently soluble, so I decided to increase the amount of solvent until it would all remain in solution when the thing was in an ice bath (which is the recommended state for part of the reaction). When I ran the reaction this time, there was no solid, and no red by-product. It made an amber-to-brown oil that I have yet to identify. The intended product is amber-to-orange in solution, and makes brown or orange crystals.

I hope I've stumbled on something that works better!
Yesterday, I found a stoppered test tube of mercury in the back of a drawer. Since it was visibly dirty, the professor decided to dispose of it. I asked why we had it, and one of the graduate students replied, "The real question is, why do we have this?" - and pulled a liter jar of the stuff out of a bucket under a table. Apparently nobody knows. But it's still perfectly good mercury and would be very expensive to safely get rid of. So they keep it.

Other findings of note included approximately 1lb of sodium metal in the cabinet under my fume hood, distributed among at least three jars (that I noticed). Two are topped off with mineral oil, and one with kerosene, which strikes me as an odd choice. The fist-size chunk in the clear jar appears badly corroded, and all of the jars look to be old.
403: Igor (Igor)
( Jun. 9th, 2009 02:11 am)
Internship is going well, aside from some bureaucracy that means I have to wait even longer for keys to the lab. (I picked up a set with my name on them Friday... and they turned out to be the wrong keys.) Borrowed a set from the professor in order to work late today.

I set up a reaction around 16:00, then left it alone. Came back at 20:00 to do the workup on that and increment purification of the previous batch of products. Left just before 02:00. It was quiet and peaceful, and really feels like I got a lot done. (Some deceptively okay-looking busted equipment notwithstanding.)

I'm also finding that it's not just me who thinks the professor's idea of safety is a bit skewed. He learned chemistry in a time where chloroform was a standard component in cough syrup, benzene came from the hardware store, and Coca-cola had real coca and kola extracts in it*. It seems to have left him with a rather cavalier attitude towards useful but potentially harmful substances. That aspect of his practice isn't normative, fortunately.

* Edit: It has been pointed out to me that Coke still contains natural coca and kola flavorings. Since the early 1900s, the coca leaves have been processed to remove cocaine (before being shipped to Coca-Cola Co.), while the kola component remains unchanged.


403: Listen to the song of the paper cranes... (Default)


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