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).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Non-Standard Laboratory Equipment

Over at The Chem Blog, Kyle describes his development of a photochemical light source built out of items purchased at the local Wal-Mart. I'm sure we all have stories about the ingenious use of items obtained from outside the laboratory environment. Years ago, when I was working on "Better Ceramics Through Chemistry" projects in the metallurgy department (yes, I was exiled to the metallurgy department for a while. I'll discuss that in more detail at another time.), my co-worker used a wet isostatic press to compress ceramic materials in preparation for high temperature sintering. Basically, wet isostatic pressing consists of sealing the material in a flexible waterproof container, removing as much air as possible from that container, placing it into the oil reservoir of the press, and then letting the press pressurize the oil until the ceramic material is compacted to the desired density. Unable to find a suitable container from the usual lab catalogs, he eventually took a trip to the drugstore and bought some condoms. Apparently they worked like a charm in the isostatic press. Unfortunately, he ended up paying for them out of his own pocket since he didn't have the nerve to submit an expense report to upper management.


Ψ*Ψ said...

That's awesome. Don't blame him for paying out of pocket--I wonder what management would have said?

Chemist Ken said...

It's a very conservative company. I'm sure he would have gotten a response of some type from above.

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