HOW (not) TO – Chem lab mistakes


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Derek posed a great question about chem lab equipment gone wrong, check out the comments for some good ones and post yours –

Here’s a question for the readership that should generate some interesting answers: what’s the most valuable item you’ve seen someone ruin in a lab? I’ll leave it broad enough to include both equipment and materials, and I expect to cringe numerous times on reading the comments.

How Not To Do It: Ruining Stuff. In the Pipeline: – [via] Link.

12 thoughts on “HOW (not) TO – Chem lab mistakes

  1. says:

    Most of the stories on the link have to do with centrifuges or other equipment that could easily have been made smarter. Rather than taking a walk around the room, why doesn’t the centrifuge STOP if it’s badly unbalanced? And why aren’t there fire alarms in chemistry labs? And so on… We seem to have a checklist of things that need to be better engineered.

  2. tantalum says:

    This wasn’t in a chem lab, but I did know of a fellow intern that attached ~$40k of laser displacement instrumentation to lightweight camera tripods for a pyroshock test. After the BOOM (approx 12 lbs of C4, IIRC) two were on the ground, and all four units were dead. The test engineer that was supervising didn’t think that requesting the correct tripods and the sandbags used to weigh them down was worth delaying the shot for. The data trailer didn’t have a “bombproof” canopy (to protect from flying debris) however, and that ended up the major yelling point in the meeting that next Monday morning. Personnel safety always trumps equipment repair/replacement.

  3. jswilson64 says:

    We were always having people “forgetting to turn off’ our spectrophotometers, UV fluorescence detectors, and so on. The bulbs aren’t that costly, but still, a $500.00 bulb that’s supposed to last 250 hrs, could last a couple of years if shut down properly between uses, or a couple of months when used by the morons my boss let use our lab.

  4. Sally599 says:

    Modern centrifuges do stop when imbalanced, or rather do not even start their rotation; however, many of the centrifuges in use have been sitting aroud since the 70’s because they are so expensive that people don’t routinely replace them as long as they function, we just send out for repair. The other thing that can happen is that people use chemically incompatible tubes, if the bottom melts out of a tube you get a major imbalance pretty fast and if you are at any speed at all it takes like 5 min or more for the brake to actually get the speed down safely which may not be fast enough, the classic story of this usually involves the rotor shooting across the room causing extreme danger for anyone in its path.

  5. cheesy says:

    Carol never wore her safety goggles… now she doesn’t need them.

  6. Spectrafuge says:

    I saw a giant floor centrifuge get ruined. It was very expensive.

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