This blog is my attempt to reconnect with the world of chemistry. I have a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and make a living doing research for a large company in Michigan. As times have changed, that company has changed its focus and I no longer have as much chance to do the basic, fundamental research which I most enjoy. Through this blog, I am hoping to recapture the magic which I felt during my graduate (and undergraduate) days in college. Expect topics on chemistry and alchemy along with some non-chemistry related items which I think might be interesting.

"The chymists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasure among smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I would change places with the Persian King."

Johann Joachim Becher (phlogistonist)
Acta Laboratorii Chymica Monacensis, seu Physica Subterranea, (1669).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Chemical Odds and Ends

I don't like coffee. At all. Period. If I need a caffeine fix, I head straight for the soda machine. As far as I know, everyone else at work drinks coffee. If I show up for a meeting at 8 in the morning, I'll be the only one there with a soda. Despite my distaste for coffee, I can at least understand why people drink it. What I don't understand is why people would drink decaffeinated coffee -- I mean, what's the point? If you're not getting a jolt from it, why would you want to pour that stuff into your mouth in the first place? To be fair, I'm sure there are plenty of people who cannot understand how I can eat at White Castle either.

Many years ago, I heard about the use of benzene to decaffeinate coffee and I was doubly thankful that I had never been interested in it. The coffee companies had probably stopped using benzene long before I had heard about it, but that didn't stop me from kidding my coffee drinking friends about the health risks. I ran across this article on the decaffeination process the other day and thought it had some interesting chemistry.

I do like honey, although it's used so infrequently around our house that it tends to crystallize into a solid long before we get around to using it. My knowledge of honey is rather limited -- I know it comes from bees and that you shouldn't give it to a child less than a year old. Apparently it also has some medicinal properties of which I was unaware. Most bacteria cannot grow or reproduce in honey and so it can be used on wounds as a topical antibiotic. If you are interested, check out this article on the properties of honey.

Finally, chemists in Italy have created a derivative of aspirin which causes less stomach irritation. I originally thought maybe they had just gotten rid of the acid group, but apparently they generated nitrooxy-acyl derivatives using the acetyl group instead. The derivatives are shown here.


Ψ*Ψ said...

I don't understand decaf either, and I'm an inveterate coffee drinker. Then again, I'm also always sleepy. And losing my caffeine response, which is sad.
Read somewhere that honey is the best treatment for burns--beats colloidal silver. Wonder what colony collapse disorder will do to the price of it...

Chemist Ken said...

Since I don't drink nearly as much soda as I used to, my caffeine response is greater now than it ever has been. Or perhaps I'm just more attuned to its effects now. If I drink a coke without eating anything, it will take less than half a can for me to feel jittery. Unbelievable!

Ψ*Ψ said...

Beyond jealous! Four shots of espresso and a cup of coffee doesn't even keep me awake anymore.