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Topic: Accidents in the lab  (Read 13145 times)

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Limpet Chicken

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Accidents in the lab
« on: June 23, 2004, 08:14:04 PM »
Hey guys, I think it would be a good idea to have a running thread about the accidents people have in their labs.

I have two for today to start off with,  the first was when I was heating a shallow wide bath of peroxymonosulfuric acid AKA piranha bath, known as a mean-assed oxidizer and strong acid, and my stupid dad bangs on the garage/lab door very loudly, I jumped out of my skin, and nearly threw the acid bath (made with 50/50 mix of boiling conc. H2SO4 and 30% H2O2)
It didn't quite reach him, but it went all over my lab desk and burned the wooden plate on top i use as expendable surface to do stuff on into a black useless mess.

The second, and rather amusing, if you don't happen to be me, was during the electrolysis of fused NaOH with a 24 volt battery and two carbon electrodes, the voltage was high enough but the current too low I think, I was stuck with the battery because I laid waste to my dad's car battery charger at 12V 50Amps a day or two ago electolysing for potassium.


As the NaOH fused over the electrodes, I was catching the balls of sodium metal as quickly as I could and dumping them into oil, however one of them chose to explode, my goggles saved my eyes, but unfortunately sent a rice grain size piece of Na up my nostils! It sounds as unbelieveable as it is, but once you have experienced having molten sodium/NaOH fired up your nose, you will have a whole new way to define pain by!  >:(

On the up side, my mother is buying me some nice ephedrine drops as she believes I just have a cold  ;D
« Last Edit: June 24, 2004, 03:17:28 PM by Limpet Chicken »

Offline jdurg

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Re:Accidents in the lab
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2004, 09:40:43 PM »
Where shall I begin?

1).  Making batteries in a general chemistry lab, when the period ended I was in a rush to get out of the lab and right to lunch.  I wasn't really thinking too much at this point, and grabbed both the anode and the cathode of the battery at the same time.  I got an incredible shock and my fingers were twitching for a few hours afterwards.  Not fun.

2).  In my analytical lab in college, I was doing the analysis of the metal content in a U.S. Nickel and was using both concentrated nitric and sulfuric acids for different parts of the analysis.  Sadly, I didn't label my beakers.  When the period ended and I went to clean up, I put my thumb into a beaker to pick it up with my already full hands.  (Bad mistake).  What I thought was water was actually 98% H2SO4!  It started eating right through my thumbnail, and I really couldn't put it down quickly since the lab was very crowded.  I finally managed to move over to the sink area so that I could put the beaker down in area where it wouldn't get knocked over, and also wash my thumb.  Unfortuneately, some idiot forgot to put the cap on the bottle of concentrated nitric acid, so as I'm moving my full hands over towards the sink, my right forearm caught the top of the HNO3 bottle.  I now have a very nice nitric acid scar on my right forearm that really hurt when I first got it.  My thumb was pretty badly burned by the sulfuric acid, but the nail grew back and there's no permanent damage.  

3).  This one's not really an accident, but more of a chemical exposure incident.  My freshman year of college I was responsible for the chemical inventory at my school.  (I.E. I had to check and make sure that everything was there that was supposed to be, and nothing was in a dangerous state).  The cyanide/cyanate/thiocyanate/etc. section was a very big section.  I spent about four hours down there one day, and it was very damp and not very well ventillated.  All you could smell was the odor of bitter almonds from the cyanide gasses in the air.  (Mind you it wasn't at a lethal level, but you could notice the smell).  For the next few days, I had a massive headache and no energy at all.  That kind of sucked.

4).  In an organic lab my sophomore year of college, we were working with that lovely diethyl ether stuff.  Some of it spilled onto my jacket which I was wearing since it was nearly time to go.  I used a paper towel and soaked up as much ether as I could, then I set it out by the fume hood so that it could evaporate away and not pose a hazard.  Quite a few minutes later, when I finally got everything taken care of that I needed to, I went and got my jacket which was nice and dry and didn't appear to have an odor.  I get outside and take out my cigarettes and my lighter.  I go to light the cigarette when "WHOOOOOOSSSHHHHH" a big ball of flame engulfs me.  It was a very quick flash, but all the hair on my face and my forearms were gone.  Apparently there was still some ether vapors on my jacket which ignited when I lit the cigarette.  Thankfully, there wasn't a whole lot and the hair on the top of my head didn't burn.  It scared the bejesus out of me, however.  (And I didn't notice the ether smell because I had been exposed to it for so long that my nose had grown numb).  

5).  My senior year of high school my chemistry teacher asked for volunteers for a chemistry demonstration to be given at night for the general public.  I volunteered as I loved chemistry and she was putting me in charge of an alkali-metal demonstration.  A friend of mine also was helping out, and he just wanted to put the biggest piece of sodium he could find in some water.  He grabbed a chunk about the size of a large gumball and went to throw it in a small beaker filled with water.  Seeing how if the sodium hit the water there would be a huge explosion, I quickly put my hand over the water and the sodium fell into my bare hand.  I suffered some very minor chemical burns to the palm of my hand, but it could have been far worse.  Still, that hurt like a mother-fu**er!

6).  High School Chemistry Lab.  We needed some glass tubing for a lab we were doing, and it needed to be bent in a specific configuration.  All the school had was some old straight glass tubing that the previous chemistry teacher had used many, many, many years ago.  So we had to go and bend the tubing in a flame.  We started heating the tubing up and it began to turn a little bit yellow.  Then it turned a brownish-red color, then it started emitting fumes as a red liquid dripped out the end.  Apparently the tubes had been used to collect bromine in the past, and the bromine that seeped into the tubing was leeching out as it was heated.  Sadly for me, I was between the tubing and the air vent in the ceiling and got a nice whiff of the bromine.  It has a foul, horrendous, nasty odor that is appropriate for its name.  It smelled exactly like a skunk that took a bath in bleach.  

7).  Yet another high school lab "accident."  I needed to weight out a specific amount of sodium silicate for a lab were doing later in the week.  (During my study hall I'd go into the chem lab and make solutions for my teacher since it was better than sitting on my ass in the library).  I used the electronic balance and started to pour out the powdered sodium silicate.  Unfortuneately, the silicate was in a VERY fine powder form and a lot of it became airborne.  I inhaled a great deal of it and had a lot of trouble breathing.  I quickly just went over to a window and tried to get some fresh air.  The worst part about that is the fact that sodium silicate is right up there with asbestos.  It's not something you want getting into your lungs.  
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chemicalLindsay

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Re:Accidents in the lab
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2004, 05:04:51 AM »
well i dont know of many great accidents (due to little practical work) but however I do know of a couple little accidents.

1.this isn't a accident but when my dad worked as a metalergist he used to use an acid called hydroflouric acid that would take of a fingernail inseconds and god knows what do to your skin.

2.My second little accident was when i was testing a solution for hydroxide ions with phenolphein solution and spilt all of it over myself and damn did i smell bad as well as losing basically all of my ever so limited phenophein solution.

3. also this isn't really an experiment but one time when I had freinds over we decided to stay up late and practice our pyrotechics.Due to the isolation of crackers and no or not much sparkler dust we decided metho would be something cool to light and watch.So my freinds and I poured some on the pavers and lit it and a blue flame was produced.I then became worried about it and tried to kick it out with my thongs instead my left or right thong caught alight and I was running around with a thong half alight.

Corvettaholic

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Re:Accidents in the lab
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2004, 01:26:09 PM »
I don't think I've had any chemical accidents yet, but I've sure had some run-ins with electricity!

1) First time making a 2 farad capacitor bank in highschool, charged at 40 volts. Great for blowing holes in a desk. Also good for giving me the shock of my life when I accidentally connected both terminals to me.

2) While I was making my microwave gun, I first had to take apart the microwave oven to get the magnetron, big ass capactitor, assorted diodes, and transformer. Unfortunantly, I failed to mention that it was currently plugged in during the disassembly process. Scared the crap out of me, and I didn't figure it out until I got shocked twice. I'm a smart guy like that.

3) Plugged this little electromagnet thing I made way back in the day, into a 220volt outlet in my old apartment. Apparently, all the insulation melted off, and I got a good amount of current going through me. Made me jump across the kitchen and slam into the fridge, and I smelled like burning for quite a while. oops. Now I'm afraid to get within 5 feet of one of those outlets.

4) When I was younger and dumber, me and the guys were doing experiments with gasoline and a bonfire. As in, get a sealed container, compress it as much as possible by denting the sides, then placing it into a very low, hot flame. Angle it just so in the coals, then run like hell. Made really neat flame tornados and mushroom clouds, until one day my pal David got a hold of the spare gas can. He wanted to add more gas to the fire. It didn't need more gas, it was already burning. He caught the can on fire, and instead of snuffing the flame he waved the damn thing around and sprayed gas, flaming gas mind you, on all of us.

Limpet Chicken

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Re:Accidents in the lab
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2004, 03:15:11 PM »
As a child, I tried to set up an electrolytic cell, I drilled two holes in either side of one of my moms fine china cups, put a lead with a plug with the fuse replaced by a metal core on one end and two carbon electrodes on the other into the cell.

I then fused some NaOH in the cup and proceded to turn on the juice, There was a tremendous cracking sound, the cup quite violently exploded, while the electric supply to the whole house was shorted almost instantly.

At that age (about 12) I didn't realise you couldn't use mains power for electrolysis lol.
My parents were definately not best pleased.

Offline hmx9123

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Re:Accidents in the lab
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2004, 02:07:29 AM »
Only one note to this, and that is if you're using pirhana solution, you had better be very careful with what you do with it.  I would NOT recommend using it outside of a chemistry lab.  It forms organic peroxides very easily with just about anything organic you throw at it, which makes it incredibly dangerous very quickly.  One of the labs here had problems with it; someone had filtered the solution through a frit, oxidizing the organic material in it, and did not immediately get rid of the solution with heavy dilution.  He left it stand for an hour or two, at which point the peroxides formed detonated and shattered most of the glass in his hood, along with burning a lot of the liquid organics therin to nothing.

If you're looking for good accident stories, though, talk to any chemist about their experiences with LiAlH4.  I don't know anyone who's worked with the stuff that doesn't have a good accident story about it.

Limpet Chicken

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Re:Accidents in the lab
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2004, 06:44:52 PM »
Thanks for the warning about piranha bath, I had no idea about it having a tendency to peroxide formation, I am going to bee VERY paranoid with it from now on ;D

I have been after some LiAl4 for a while now, hard to get hold of, but from what I have read, if you are going to be incredibly careful with just one chemical , thats the one you don't want to mess with, that stuff is SCARY.

Just had my first encounter with NCl3 today, scary stuff. ;D

Offline jdurg

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Re:Accidents in the lab
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2004, 09:12:44 PM »
ALL Nitrogen-trihalides are scary stuff.  None of them are to be taken lightly.  Trust me.   ;D
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Limpet Chicken

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Re:Accidents in the lab
« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2004, 01:16:58 AM »
The trifluoride is the only one that is stable actually. It would be interesting to see what the tri-astatide was like, probably so unstable as to detonate totally without cause ;D and I bet, even if elements 117 and 167 existed for any length of time, the trihalides would be so unstable as to decompose on formation.


I have never made NBr3 or NF3, but I have made the trichloride and triiodide and they are not something you would ever want to make in more than 1/4 gram amounts ;D
« Last Edit: July 04, 2004, 01:19:01 AM by Limpet Chicken »

budullewraagh

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Re:Accidents in the lab
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2004, 10:38:13 PM »
well, seeing as i haven't had my basement lab set up for long, i don't have many horror stories to tell.

in fact, i can only think of one:
while trying to find resources for my lab, i came across some "muriatic acid".  my parents said it was 25 years old at least.  so, i decided to titrate some with draino to check for concentration.  i opened the container and HCl(g) was released.  when i added the draino, a gas was released and i got a nice whiff of it.  apparently it was chlorine peroxide.  definately not good at all.  i caughed for a minute or so, but fortunately i've been fine since.

Offline movies

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Re:Accidents in the lab
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2004, 04:10:09 PM »
I've been quite lucky in my chemistry experience and I haven't had too many accidents of note.  Here are the major ones though, both small fires:

First was while filtering off some Raney Nickel (a common reducing/desulfurizing reagent).  The metal itself is ignites in air, but it is easy to control as long as it is damp with water or ethanol.  In this particular case though I must have had the vacuum on too high and the water/ethanol dried out.  It started sparking, much as LiAlH4 does if you leave it out in the air, and then ignited some of the ethanol from the reaction.  Fortunately this was all contained in the funnel and no other flammables were around.  I was able to dump some water on it and extinguish the flame.

Second just happened to me about a week ago.  I was cleaning out a distillation apparatus that had been set up with sodium metal.  There was probably a good 20 g of sodium in there, whomever set it up went way overboard.  Regardless, I was quenching the sodium by adding the chunks on piece at a time to a 50/50 solution of isopropanol and methylene chloride at 0 degrees.  This is usually more than enough to control the quenching (sodium react much more slowly with alcohols than with water, and the solution is cold an dilute too).  Anyway, to my surprise when I added one of the larger chunks the beaker caught fire.  Adding water wasn't really an option as that would just make the sodium react faster.  Luckily I was able to act quickly and blow the flame out.  It was a lot more excitement than I had planned on though!

One of the other student in my lab just had an LiAlH4 fire yesterday.  I've never used the stuff, and I sure won't unless I have to.

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