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).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Where Has All the Ammonia Gone?

This weekend, I was filling a bottle with some copper nitrate crystals for display in my office at home. They are a really beautiful shade of blue and as long time readers of this blog know, I love bright, pretty colors. My daughter wanted to dissolve a few crystals in water to make a blue solution, and so we did, but the solution was disappointingly pale. Sure that I could solve the problem, I went to the laundry room where we keep many of our household cleaners, hoping to find some ammonia which we could add, since Cu((NH3)62+ is much more intensely colored. To my dismay, I found that we do not carry ammonia any longer (assuming we ever did). So I rummaged through the various cleaners, sure that at least one of them was ammonia-based. The glass cleaning solution looked promising, but the label stated "ammonia free formula" so that was out. Finally I found some Windex with "Ammonia D," what ever that is, and tried adding that to our copper solution. No color change occurred, although a precipitate did form. Acknowledging my defeat, I told my daughter I'd bring something back from the lab on Monday.

Today, a few pinches of ammonium carbonate did the trick and restored my standing as a chemist in our home again.

Instructors at the University of Nottingham have put together a series of short videos describing each element of the periodic table . I haven't had the chance to go through all the elements yet, but it's definitely worth a look.

1 comment:

Liberal Arts Chemist said...

I might be wrong but you may have been precipitating some insoluble intermediate copper (II) hydroxides when you used the "Ammonia-D". I think if you had stuck to your guns it would eventually have re-dissolved and given you the dark blue solution.

Welcome to the "Dad has a doctorate ... no not the useful kind" therapy group. We should get t-shirts.