Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline asked his readers this week, “What reagents will you never foget?” The responses are, well, attention-grabbing. Here are a few:
Worked in a stockroom as an undergrad back in the day. One of the faculty gave me a bunch of stuff to “dispose” of & said it was all good to put down the drain.
One solution was a cyanide and another was an acid. I’ll not forget that funny, not together unpleasant smell. Nor the feeling of my knees buckling.
I was decomposing about 500 ml of used Phosphorous Oxychloride by dripping it slowly from a sep funnel into a large beaker of ice.
After talking with my lab partner for a bit, I noticed that the ice had completely melted and the POCl3 was sitting under the water layer un-decomposed.
Forecasting the inevitable eruption, the only thing I could do was close the hood door and pray.
Quite a mess when it went off…
As a metallurgist I generally have a pretty boring view of chemistry. At 900C pretty much all organic chemistry is just a low grade source of carbon. What is memorable is the once every few years that I have to etch an aluminum sample with hydrofluoric acid. No accidents, but it sure inspires care and rigid following of safety protocols.
The other memorable chemistry is mixing up Nital solutions (4% nitric acid in Ethyl Alcohol). A lab partner added alcohol to the nitric acid once, which generated an impressive volume of orange fumes that etched every exposed steel surface in the lab. My memorable encounter is just getting a few drops of nitric acid on my arm, It stings and leaves a stain that takes a couple weeks to fade.
Go check out Derek’s post for more!