general chemistry

Safety Chat: Nitric Acid Waste

aqua regia

We’re going to be taking time out of our regular blogging schedule to remind everyone about better lab safety practices. Recently at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory someone poured isopropanol into an acid waste container of aqua regia. Aqua regia contains nitric acid, and the reaction for those unfamiliar with nitric acid’s oxidizing power is thus,

$$ \text{C}_3\text{H}_7\text{OH} + \text{HNO}_3 \rightarrow \text{CO}_2 + \text{NO}_2 + \text{H}_2\text{O} \text{ (Good Luck Balancing This One)}$$

Due to the pressure in the waste container, the bottle blew and spewed its golden goodness throughout the room. It fractured the safety sash, and could have really hurt someone.

The lessons you should take home:

  • Get rid of strong oxidizing acid waste as you generate it.
  • Do not trust others near your waste bottles. Don’t let others add to them.
  • If you generate strong acid wastes, probably a good idea that everyone from the undergrads and lab techs to the postdocs are made aware of the incompatibility of organics and nitric acid. You can’t expect chemists to have this knowledge anymore. 🙁


By June 14, 2009 10 comments general chemistry

Consolidating Chemistry Labs

Our lab is consolidating into 2/3 of the space we once had to make room for a new faculty hire starting this fall. That means finding room for all the things that used to fit in much more space. We started by consolidating our inorganic shelves by combining duplicate containers and submitting waste for things we’ll never need.

All of which allowed the opportunity to uncover some really, um, interesting bottles of things.

Talc.  Maybe we’ll refinish our lab counter tops.

Chunk marble.  Seriously.  Quarter sized chunks of marble.  In a labeled bottle.

But the best…..

Oh… 50-75 milliletrs of elemental mercury.  Nice.

Have a great week, everyone.

By June 7, 2009 5 comments general chemistry

Shifting Constants

”]Is this what a mole looks like? [Image from Wikipedia]One of the first things that pops up in chemical education at the high school level is stoichiometric equations where a student is supposed to determine such things as yields, coefficients, and amounts of substance on a purely theoretical basis. This quickly becomes old hat for many students. In high school, my stoichiometric technique (if you could call it that) left a lot to be desired. I tended to “divine” my answers on tests and quizzes by playing with numbers until an answer made sense- then using it. It worked surprisingly well- and I got through classes learning very little but with decent grades. At the time, I wasn’t terribly interested in chemistry, and the class really was boring up until the end, where we got to learn about electrochemistry. I didn’t realize at the time that the subject matter wasn’t being done any justice. To me a mole was a mole was a mole. I just knew there were these numbers that I used to divine answers.

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By May 31, 2009 0 comments general chemistry, opinion

Oxygen, the “Gilligan” of the Periodic Table [Video]

The video was made by Christopher Hendryx as his thesis for Ringling College of Art & Design.


By May 17, 2009 2 comments general chemistry