Wednesday, January 14, 2009

some science...

All of you who knew me knew this was bound to happen:

I work with a lot of inorganic complexes, meaning they contain metal centers of some sort.  Well, since the world was built the way it was, it commonly means that I get some stuff with really pretty colors.  Here's just one example:

Beautiful color.  I want to bottle this.

The little white chunks you see in the bottom there is sodium metal, which is explosive in the presence of water.  This property also makes it very good at getting rid of small bits of water in organic solvents (small bits means no explosions).  The clear stuff is THF, which is a typical solvent t=hat I use to dissolve a lot the compounds I work with.  Many of the compounds I work with are very sensitive to water, meaning that even a small bit can pretty much ruin whatever I'm trying to do.  This picture helps to avoid that.  By placing the sodium metal into the flask filled with THF, we can eliminate any traces of water that might be present, ensuring we're working with water free chemicals.  The blue color is from benzophenone, which is just another organic chemical.  What's special about it is what happens when it reacts with sodium:

When it makes that thing on right (called a radical for those with some chemistry experience), it turns blue.  If there is water in the THF (water eats up radicals really really well), it won't turn blue, meaning there's too much water for the solvent to be used.

The bad part about working with these things is that they're pretty dangerous.  If someone messes up and gets a significant amount of water in the still, it blows up like a bomb since THF is very flammable.  Yup, that's how I roll.

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