11 March 2014

Things I won't work with

I found this series of hilarious chemistry blog posts by a chemist called Derek Lowe. His series is titled "Things I won't work with" and it covers compounds that are too hideously stinky or volatile to consider sharing a lab with - everything from "simple little things like, say, fluorine azide and going up to all kinds of ridiculous, gibbering, nitrogen-stuffed detonation bait." It's worth a read, even if you don't understand chemistry because he is a brilliant writer. Highlights include:

- "Hexanitro? Say what? I'd call for all the chemists who've ever worked with a hexanitro compound to raise their hands, but that might be assuming too much about the limb-to-chemist ratio."

- “You can isolate [titanium tetraazide], it seems, as long as you handle it properly. It turns out that brutal treatments like, say, touching it with a spatula, or cooling down a vial of it in liquid nitrogen - you know, rough handling - make it detonate violently. I think that staring hard at it is OK, though.”

- “The safety literature is just full of alarming stories about old lab benches that had had perchlorates soaked into them years before and exploded when someone banged on them. They're a common component of solid rocket fuels and fireworks, as you'd figure.”

- “This, folks, is the bracingly direct route to preparing dioxygen difluoride, often referred to in the literature by its evocative formula of FOOF … FOOF is only stable at low temperatures; you'll never get close to [room temperature] with the stuff without it tearing itself to pieces.”



Tracy P. said...

I have a budding chemist on my hands--he will love this stuff one of these days!

gartcott aka Penny Hannah said...

A staggering total of 9% for chemistry in my first year at high school, forever determined my lack of scientific ability. I do however, retain enough memory of the periodic table to be able to shout at the television, when quiz contestants give ridiculous answers to general knowledge questions. I did enjoy the article all the same.

Hippomanic Jen said...

So now I have a reason for my avoidance of chemistry labs! Dangerous places!

Allegro ma non troppo said...

Love those examples. How does the link work? Gotta be on Facebook, or something?

I've tried clicking it, and I'm all out of ideas.

Unknown said...

I'm totally sure there's a link to things i won't work with... like poop, vomit, blood etc... oh wait, we're mums, so we have to!