Jul 14, 2010

how I exploded the lab: PART THREE!

remember when I spilled nitric acid all over our lab and exploded the fume hood? Well, unfortunately, the hits continue. This time in China.
We were just out enjoying ourselves on the Bund in downtown Shanghai when I get a phonecall from a very frantic labmate informing me that my experiment was on fire! Turns out the heating bath I was using with methylsiloxane oil had caught fire. I was using the machine exactly as it had been explained to me by a professor. She had said that 200C was not too high of a temperature because methylsiloxane oil does not boil until 250C. Fair enough. I had been using the machine for like two weeks at that temperature without any incident. Well, as I know have come to find out by checking the MSDS, methylsiloxane oil does not boil until 250C, but they make that measurement under an inert atmosphere (nitrogen). In actuality, if you heat the oil in air it has a flash point at 205C. The flash point is described by wikipedia in as the following:

"The flash point of a volatile liquid is the lowest temperature at which it can vaporize to form an ignitable mixture in air. "

can you see where this is going? I had the temperature set to 200C- a mere 5 tiny degrees away from fume hood apocalypse. Well, after two weeks of getting lucky and having no problems... DOOM!

I am so so so lucky that a girl was in the lab across the hall at 9PM at night (bless you hard working chinese/korean grad students). She hurried over, grabbed a fire extinguisher and hosed the room down. I wasn't even there! This could have been really bad. (all that yellow powder is from the fire extinguisher)
Needless to say, I felt sick and was really worried when I had to go in the next morning to explain the fire to the Institute's Security. It was super embarrassing to have half the people in the institute crowding around me as I tried to clean it up.
But eventually, after a good amount of scrubbing it's once again clean and good as new... sorta. A few machines will definitely be decommissioned.
And I might add that the hood sash has never looked so clean!


  1. TAYLOR?! I... wha... how...

    Seth has never ONCE blown up his reading room. Maybe you need to rethink some things. Are they ever going to let you back into Harvard or China?



  2. It was only a matter of time really.

  3. Hey Jodi love the fish paintings! Glad you also have some friends to hang out with in China too.

  4. the reading room is no place for a mighty warrior.