After reading these comments, these thoughts came to mind.
In all honesty, we rarely use natural gas in our gen chem labs. We have 1 lab where we look at flame tests - but that's it. It's not something that is used often. Our organic class occasionally runs a grinard reaction, and so it is used there for an experiment or two, but again, not often.
For instruments requiring continuous gas, of which only our AA comes to mind, we of course have tanks of acetylene and compressed air. So we are not using methane for any of our instrument fuels at the moment.
But, since starting our biochemistry major, we have a lot of use in that area in terms of sterile manipulation of things. This is where my hood comment came in to play, as you don't want to do sterile things in a chemistry fume hood as it's way too hard to keep plates sterile. The biochem majors use the gas constantly, mostly for flaming loops for inoculations or just for sterile pouring of solutions from one container to another. Very common.
One way I can sort of monitor gas usage is due to the fact that all of our rooms have electronic solenoids that trip in the event of a power outage. It storms a lot in Indiana, and so our rooms are often without gas. One needs a key to reset the safety, and I'm the key master, meaning they don't get reset without my knowledge. Most of our rooms are off all the time, so overall use is very low.
You can do a lot with portable propane tanks (even Mapp gas is hotter). I find if I need to manipulate glass, I use Mapp gas or something similar, as it just works better for what I need. We have a few propane torches around, that we store properly, and use on occasion.
Our students would prefer to use hot plates for most things that require heating of solutions in a beaker. It's just easier and more stable, so they don't even think of using a burner for that. Hot plates aren't cheap though ;)
Good luck with this.
Thank you all. Your comments are, as always, very helpful.
While reading them I have come up with a theory. See if this has any merit and feel free to send comments (even if you think it's crazy!) J
Thinking back to my early days in chemistry I remembered that benches had plumbed natural gas so they could provide a "continuous" supply of gas. That "continuous" supply would be the only advantage over a source of heat say from a propane torch or an alcohol lamp.
These temporary devices can be used for sealing an ampule or bending an occasional piece of glass or even sterilizing an inoculating loop.
Then I asked myself why was there a need for a "continuous" gas supply? Other than an instrument flame, or bending or polishing glass it was used so we could heat or boil chemical solutions on the lab bench (before we students had instructional fume hoods of course).
Certainly, heating solutions today would be performed in fume hoods so the need for a "continuous" supply of gas at the benches diminished.
Today, bench installations with these gas taps now should probably be restricted to non-chemical use and monitored, otherwise the temptation still exists to put a beaker on a Bunsen burner and perform operations that should really be performed in a fume hood.
Make sense? Your thoughts?
Laboratory Safety Manager University Environmental Health and Safety
Previous post | Top of Page | Next post