Pre-requisites include successful completion of Algebra 1, so it is possible for freshman and sophomores to enroll in the course.
University of Minnesota On June 17, an explosion in a chemistry lab at the University of Minnesota injured graduate student Walter Partlo.
He was making trimethylsilyl azide, starting with g of sodium azide. The incident originated in lack of hazard awareness, school representatives say, and the department response focuses on identifying hazardous processes and communication.
The synthesis was based on previously published methodswith some alterations—in particular, the solvent Partlo used was polyethylene glycol PEGsays chemistry department chair William B. Partlo is a fifth-year graduate student in professor T. When the explosion happened, the reaction was on its second day.
Partlo was on his way from the lab office to the hall when he noticed that the thermometer was askew. The explosion left him with second-degree burns and glass injuries to his arm and side; he also injured an eardrum.
The explosion also destroyed the experimental apparatus and hood. Tolman, Sitek, and other investigators have not been able to definitively identify what went wrong with the reaction, Tolman says.
One explanation is that the explosion was from hydrazoic acid, which could have formed from wet PEG providing water to react with sodium azide or the PEG itself reacting with sodium azide.
Another explanation is that the sodium azide overheated.
More important than the reaction, Tolman emphasizes, is the deeper root cause of the incident: He also thinks that the lab group became became complacent after doing the reaction several times without incident.
The reaction involved a heterogeneous mixture and people had trouble with clumping, and literature indicated that using PEG would help. He has set a limit of 5 g. Unforeseen problems to consider include a transformer or thermostat failing, the water supply to a condenser being interrupted during a reflux, or stirring being stopped.
When planning a reaction, these things should be considered and the equipment and scale of the reaction should be adjusted accordingly to ensure proper management of potential risks. Tolman has ordered lab groups to assess their standard operating procedures and update them if necessary by Aug.
Safe operation cards are something that the department learned about through interactions with Dow Chemical to promote lab safetybut logistical challenges had held up department-wide implementation. Now, each group has until Sept. Tolman has already implemented a card in his lab.
Tolman is also now requiring groups to hold at least monthly meetings at which safety must be discussed. Tolman, Sitek, and colleagues also have recommendations for the chemistry community at large: Update risk assessment procedures a to identify factors affecting the probability and severity of an energetic event occurring b to consider the capabilities of available safety controls.
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