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If you’re carrying out reactions under pressurized conditions in your laboratory, at the end of the day your safety is your responsibility. Yes, your department ordered a fabulous new pressure reactor that you’ve been itching to get your hands on – but how does the specification meet the needs of your chemistry? Might someone have modified the setup? Maybe someone dropped it and bent an inlet/outlet valve? Whether you’re working with a small single cell pressure reactor or a more complex multi-cell pressure reactor system it is essential to put user safety first.
Check for guidance from chemical laboratory safety signs posted and make 8hat you need to refresh yourself on?
In addition to your in-house laboratory safety rules, we offer an additional 8 straight forward points to check before you put yourself under unnecessary pressure:
Basic material limits: What metal is the pressure reactor manufactured from? Is this a strong enough, or chemically resistant enough material to handle the components of your reaction? Don’t forget to ensure that the o-ring on the vessel and any joints where further apparatus is connected to the head are all sound.
Vessel capacity: One of the most frequently overlooked hazards that can be encountered when operating a pressure reactor is caused by overfilling the vessel. The vessel must never be filled to more than three quarters of the free space, and in some situations, this must be reduced further.
Larger scale bespoke high-pressure reactor platform
For example, when a liquid is heated in a closed vessel if there is insufficient space to accommodate the expanded volume dangerous pressures can suddenly develop. Particularly true of water and water solutions, users must be aware that these can increase to as much as three times their original volume when heated to the critical point (374 °C). At temperatures up to 200 °C the increase in volume is relatively small but after this it expands dramatically.
Temperature and pressure rating: Users must check that the vessel has been tested and rated safe for use at the intended temperature and pressure required to carry out their reaction. If the rating is insufficient, the work must not be carried out. Users should also consider if any residual pressure remains in the vessel prior to opening. One possible solution to this common problem can be found in the novel PressureSyn reactor which incorporates a unique locking collar which can only be opened with a single key that forms part of the vessel head. The vessel simply cannot be opened while any pressure remains.
Maintenance: Whether a pressure reactor is thought of as belonging to a small team or a larger group of scientists, the final responsibility remains with whomever is intending to use the apparatus to ensure that it has been suitably maintained to allow safe operation. That means you! Service records should be accessible and up to date, and users should examine the equipment themselves to look for issues such as erosion of o-rings, damage to fittings on the vessel head which could cause leakage, and obvious wear and tear. If the user has any concerns about the state of the pressure reactor, then it must not be used without a qualified engineer testing and certifying it is safe to proceed.
By-products and loss of control: Have you identified what by-products will be produced as a result of your reaction, and what their behaviour will be? Have you considered under what circumstances the reaction might become uncontrollable? By anticipating these outcomes, the user can take steps to prevent them occurring.
The PressureSyn ultra-safe high-pressure reactor with unique, locking collar
Scale-up: When working with particularly hazardous reactants – especially those which you are less familiar with, it is advisable to start with small volumes and increase only once you have established a safe path to do so.
Are you 100% sure you’ve checked for possible risks for your intended chemistry?
External safety: Have you thought carefully about where you’re working? Many pressure reactors are sized for benchtop scale work and are easily moved. The space should be well ventilated, and ideally either close to a fume hood or exhaust fan so that any gases released can be discharged safely. There should be no naked flames in the vicinity of the pressure reactor. All Asynt pressure reactors feature a burst disk – an integral safety feature which means that should the pressure rise beyond what is safe, it can be safely discharged. However, ear protection is advisable as this discharge, should it occur, can be at a significant volume. Users should note that certain explosive reactions can take place at such speed that the explosion may damage the vessel before the burst disk can release the pressure. The best protection against this is to operate your pressure reactor behind a suitable screen, or in a specialised cubicle.
Reality check: When working with pressure it’s advisable to take a moment and run a risk assessment. Whether this is required as part of your record keeping, or purely as a tool for self-preservation, it is always a good idea. We all get tired, distracted, hungry, caught up with our thoughts and that extra couple of minutes to run through everything we’ve mentioned here might make all the difference!
Why is laboratory safety important? Not taking your time and preparing your laboratory equipment and set up can be disastrous; you may encounter a small-scale issue but when working under pressure, small problems can escalate quickly. It is essential for your personal well-being, that of your team, and potentially all of those in your workplace and general environs that laboratory safety pressure precautions are taken seriously.
I hope that you’ve found these 8 simple steps to keep safe under pressure in your lab useful but if you’d like any further guidance please don’t hesitate to reach out to your local expert. Asynt is a leading supplier of chemistry equipment for scientists in industry and academia around the world. With a dedicated sales team of trained chemists, Asynt draw upon their in-depth application knowledge to provide a high-level of customer support for an expansive catalogue of effective and sustainable laboratory solutions. These include their oil-free DrySyn Heating Blocks, sub-ambient chemistry tools, CondenSyn waterless condensers, turn-key & bespoke solutions for Controlled Lab Reactors, Flow Chemistry apparatus, Photochemistry systems, Synthesis Tools, Evaporators, Temperature Control Systems, Vacuum Pumps and Lab Safety Equipment plus much more.
With product research and development carried out in-house, Asynt draw upon a huge range of skills and expertise in a multitude of areas. From chemistry, mechanical engineering & design, scientific glassblowing, electronics and more – the team will put all their experts to work on your project too, thus providing tailored or fully bespoke solutions for all your laboratory requirements. This ability to customise, not compromise, is integral to the way that Asynt appraises any situation in the lab. In partnership with the desire to work more sustainably, and more safely, this highly respected team are continually striving to provide better tools for scientists everywhere.
For further details about Asynt or the products/expertise available, please visit https://www.asynt.com/about-us/ or contact their experts directly via email at email@example.com or telephone +44 (0)1638 781 709.