Minimizing risks, in a risky environment

Minimizing risks, in a risky environment


  • Post By : Dr Arran Solomonsz**

  • Source: Asynt

  • Date: 02 Apr,2022

Before my current role I was a bench chemist working diligently in a Fumehood for 95% of the day with the remainder of the time usually populating all those essential COSHH risk assessments for the variety of reagents I’d be using during my catalyst screening experiments.

Nowadays, I’m on the other side of the Fumehood where I’m part of the team at a company called Asynt, where we specialise in developing innovative tools for synthesis in chemistry laboratories.  We focus on clean, green, and safe equipment, with no compromise on quality or effectiveness.

I honestly wish I could have known “current me” back then! Having some “Asynt” in my life would have dramatically helped during my PhD. Every day I’d work through a list of carcinogenic/toxic/harmful reagents, then usually carry out a procedure involving heating them via a hotplate stirrer and an oil bath as a heat-transfer medium to a flask.

Flammable solvents + hot oil was always a combination that honestly scared me, but that was how I’d been taught to perform reactions.

Most chemical reactions need some heat to take place, but it never occurred to me that there was already enough risk involved in the process, just by handling these chemicals, and that a method existed where I didn’t have to add the extra risk factor of combining heating and oil too.

Some reactions I carried out also involved reflux (boiling a solvent so that it turns to gas) and using a water condenser to cool the solvent back down to liquid, thereby preventing it from escaping and your reaction ‘boiling dry’.

As a keen cook, I know never to put a hot pan of oil near water, yet that’s precisely what I did in the lab, day after day.

So many risks, and fire hazards, just part of my everyday life in the lab…

On this side of the bench, it’s wonderful to have products I’m able to share with scientists that can make their working lives so much safer without having to worry about if it will negatively impact their chemistry. A great example of this is the DrySyn heating block range which was designed by the Asynt chemists specifically to replace oil baths, swapping out that oil with aluminium blocks as a method of incredibly effective heat-transfer.

Having a dish full of oil is an inherent safety hazard and in a busy Fumehood solvents are never far away, nor is a heating source. Together, they are an unpleasant and potentially dangerous combination. Over time and multiple heating/cooling cycles oil degrades too, reducing its flash point. If heated excessively, oil can spit and in the worst case ignite.

There have been many cases that demonstrate what can happen if you look around the web but, thankfully, these days Universities have to offer specific guidance for those using oil baths in their lab.

But why put yourself or your colleagues at such unnecessary risk?

Aluminium blocks don’t degrade and can offer the same – or better – heating performance and uniformity.

You’re removing all risk of being splashed by that hot oil, by hot oil starting a fire in your lab, and – also very importantly – your work need never be contaminated by that oil again. Asynt have a comprehensive range of DrySyn oil-free heating blocks to cater for all sizes of flask and all your favourite tubes/vials.  Each block is fully anodised to be chemically resistant, so they’ll never become worn and have to be disposed of. Environmentally speaking, this is crucial.  If you’d like to read our Best Practice Guide to the safe use of laboratory heating blocks, then you’re welcome to download this here (it’s FREE and there’s no registration required):

The Asynt chemists came to the rescue again, designing a unique solution: CondenSyn – a waterless reflux condenser that eliminates any need for water, and thereby also eliminates any risk of cold water dripping into hot oil.

Another potential hazard to consider in the lab is if a water condenser above your reaction leaks.

This often happens with variable water pressure and loose tubing connections to a tap, and results in multiple sources of danger, without even considering or including what might be inside the flask. The Asynt chemists came to the rescue again, designing a unique solution: CondenSyn – a waterless reflux condenser that eliminates any need for water, and thereby also eliminates any risk of cold water dripping into hot oil. As well as saving innocent tap water going straight down the drain (at a constant rate of approx. 2 litres per minute for potentially days on end) you can avert potential floods which can be hazardous and costly to the environment, to your health, and to your budget and effectively remove another fire hazard from your lab. We take lab safety incredibly seriously at Asynt believe that no one should have to choose between great chemistry or keeping themselves safe.  Why accept anything less?

Dr Arran Solomonsz

The Author**: Dr Arran Solomonsz achieved his doctorate in chemical nanocatalysis from the University of Nottingham, UK in 2014. Today, Arran provides customers with advice on the latest in safe, clean and green technologies from Asynt.

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