Elsevier’s HazMat Navigator (disclosure – I am the senior editor) addresses LAH friction sensitivity as follows:
Care is necessary in handling this powerful reducant, which may ignite if lumps are pulverised with a pestle and mortar, even in a dry box [Augustine (1968) a]. An actual explosion destroying the mortar, has been claimed as the result of attempting to grind down large pellets, though contributory factors seem probable [Schatzschneider (1996) a]. A rubber mallet is recommended for breaking up lumps [Gaylord (1956)
Based on Russ’ report, I am up-dating the LAH record in HazMat Navigator to reflect an increased awareness of the friction sensitivity.
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Dear Chemical Safety Experts,
One of the labs on our campus had a fire when the researcher scraped lithium aluminum hydride (LiAlH4) out of the glass jar in which it was packaged. The LiAlH4 was old and the researcher was using a dry metal spatula. A quick review of the manufacturer’s Material Safety Data Sheet informed the user of moisture sensitivity but there is no indication of friction causing a fire.
The supervising faculty member reported personal knowledge that friction can cause ignition of LiAlH4.
The manufacturer (Sigma-Aldrich) of this material was contacted and responded:
From: Gregory Stachowiak
[mailto:Gregory.Stachowiak**At_Symbol_Here**sial.com] On Behalf Of Sigma-Aldrich
Sent: Friday, June 24, 2011 8:17 AM
To: Russell Vernon
Cc: Chantalle Carver
Subject: RE: 199877 -- Lithium Aluminum Hydride
Hello again Russell,
We do not have any data on-hand suggesting that friction alone could cause ignition, however, all of our handling of this chemical is performed inside a glove bag under a completely inert atmosphere (argon specifically). This inert atmosphere, combined with the idea that we don't "spread the product out over a large, flat, combustible surface" is likely why we have never had any issues with fires starting during the packaging process.
As shown by those links, however, such an ignition does appear to be possible. All we can recommend is handling this product under argon in a glove box or a glove bag to minimize the oxygen and moisture contact and therefore minimize the chances of a fire.
Unfortunately , because we have not had issues with this problem, we do not have a specific written procedure for weighing it, no.
Stachowiak / Scientist,
Technical Service Associate
6000 N Teutonia Avenue / Milwaukee WI 53209 / USA
P: (800) 231-8327, x5326 / Gregory.Stachowiak**At_Symbol_Here**sial.com a>
http:// www.erowid.org/chemicals/dmt/dmt_synthesis1.shtml scroll down to step 3:
So it appears likely that friction alone in the presence of air may be able to ignite lithium aluminum hydride.
You may want to evaluate your own use and written procedures to prevent this from happening in your world.
Russell Vernon, Ph.D.
Environmental Health & Safety
University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave
Riverside, CA 92521
Direct (951) 827-5119
Admin (951) 827-5528
Fax (951) 827-5122
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