Explosions

There comes a time in every researchers life when something explodes. That time came for me last week in the worst possible situation. My game plan was to pop into the lab, mix a few chemicals, and get out before class started in 15 minutes. I was in the middle of the very long process of coating glass slides in polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP). The next step was to mix a chemical, tri-methyl… something or other, into a solution of acetic acid. To do this I needed to heat the solution. Little did I know that if the bottom of your beaker is wet when you put it on the hot plate, you increase the thermal conductivity of the glass to hot plate in certain areas, creating a temperature gradient. This disproportionate application of heat caused the glass to crack on the bottom, the sound of which sent shivers down my spine. The acid and other chemicals began to leak out of the bottom of the beaker and onto my work bench. When I tried to pick up the beaker and move it to the sink the entire bottom shattered sending a torrent of harmful chemicals splashing over my work area, my lab mates’, and the entire floor. Imagine a 2-liter bottle of coke full of toxic waste being unleashed all of a sudden. I spent the next two hours cleaning up and I missed class. Luckily nothing important was damaged, except my pride.

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Posted in 2010-2011, EUREKA

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