CoverTime: may the cubane be with you

Another beautiful cover (frontispiece) from Angewandte Chemie….. And another proof (if you really need more) that chemists are huge nerds….

anie201681161-toc-0001-mThis time is a beautiful homage to the last Star Wars movie…… No, not talking about Jar Jar… and not even about a new fluorescent detectors for Midi-chlorians. Force sensors? Not even close…
But let’s go with some order:
I don’t know if you paid attention to it, but there are 25 authors on this paper… 26…. This should already give you the complexity of the research done in there…. 26….
7 Students
9 Doctors
10 Professors
Simply impressive, but in such huge work I would like they use the style of Natures where at the end of the paper there is also the “Author contributions”.

EDIT: Thanks to the power of internet, the firs author of the paper pointed out that the “author contribution” was under my eyes all the time in the supplementary information… So here we go (and again, pretty impressive):

Author Contributions: C.M.W., G.P.S. and J.T. conceived the project. C.M.W., B.A.C., H.X. and S.D.H. chose the cubane targets. B.A.C., H.X. and S.D.H. undertook the synthetic preparation of all cubane analogues and obtained the respective characterisation data. C.M.W. and B.A.C. wrote the paper with assistance from all authors. C.E.J.C. and H.M.C. designed the leteprinim study and analysed results. S.G. and M.T.S undertook the Phase I and II leteprinim metabolism study and analysed the results. A.K. and M.T.S. designed the benzocaine study and analysed results. B.C., A.R., D.W., and S.K.N. designed the SAHA mouse study and analysed results. C.-E.M. and G.H.W. designed the diflubenzuron study and analysed results. J.S. and J.D.V. designed the t-butylbenzene metabolism study and analysed results. G.M.B., C.J.P., and P.G.P. designed the SAHA cell line study and analysed results. S.W.L. performed the LogP analysis. P.V.B. performed the X-ray crystallographic structure determination for compounds 4 and 12. C.P. and J.Mc. designed the scabies study and analysed results.


Anyway, cubanes. I have always loved the cubane synthesis, mainly because the cubane molecule is so nicely perfect. There are also some beautiful pieces on the cubane by Roald Hoffman “in praise of synthesis” and in his book “on the Philosophy, Art, and Science of Chemistry”. Such beautiful, yet complex to synthesize, molecules….

And that’s naturally not the first time, most probably not the last one, that Star Wars enters the world of chemistry….

The classical example is “A supramolecular Star Wars Tie Fighter Ship” where Star Wars is even in the title. And this figure in the paper is just pure bliss:

star wars chemistry

Fun with chemical structures as well here.

Tie Fighter

And what about you, poor trekkies???? Worry not, almost any smartphone based analysis is called tricorder nowadays…..


Other CoverTime: the power of the metal, Robots, 80s vs 90s.

Fear of the Duck

“Fear of the duck, fear of the duck
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the duck, fear of the duck
I have a phobia that someone’s always there”

Finally, after I don’t know how many months of teaching and writing, I’m back!!! Back in the lab.
To celebrate this awesome moment, here some ducks:

During our last course (Nanomedicine) we used a home(lab)-developed micelles for showing the students how a multimodal imaging probe works (fluorescence and MRI contrast agent). Usually for this kind of experiments a “phantom mouse” is used, but we thought that a mouse is kind of boring. What’s better than a duck???
We printed a mold for making small ducks (here on thingverse) and we had quite some fun with agarose ducks:
agarose pdms duck

left an agarose duck, and right a PDMS duck (not really for depth penetration study, but I love PDMS so….)

phantom duck2

Here the dyes injected in the head (red) illuminated by a UV lamp.

phantom duck1

Same duck, this time illuminated by a laser (right).

Then we moved for some MRI experiments… Have you ever seen a 2cm NMR tube?

2cm NMR tube

Well, now you have :) (and a comparison with a standard NMR tube). See how the duck is happy to get a bath in the NMR tube? Now let’s try to measure something…

MRI duck1

This is an MRI of the agarose duck. In white the contrast agent injected in the duck. the black stuff is just air. Nice isn’t it?

MRI duck2

Another duck another MRI. This time without contrast agent (and also without air bubbles inside the agarose…..)


But, wait a minute, the students also formed some quantum dots during the course…. Shall we put them in agarose??? Well, why not?

QD = Quantum Ducks:

quantum ducks 1 quantum ducks 2 quantum ducks 3


Luckily no students suffered from anatidaephobia, but in any case, if you are afraid of the ducks, you are not alone:

Disclaimer: this blog post and the experiments described herein were not sponsored nor supervised in any way shape or form by @chemjobber. Any resemblance to @chemjobber, living or dead, is purely coincidental. No @chemjobber were harmed during this course.

CoverTime: Robots

How nerd are you? Can you identify the robot in this cover (without googling)?



Did you get it?

This is a cover from a review in ACIE from the group of Ley about machine assisted organic synthesis. I’m a big fan of Ley and all the automatic things and remote control they have in the lab, but we are here for one and only one reason: The cover!

So, which kind of robot they used for the cover?
I’m pretty sure it’s a badass tripod from the war of the worlds.


Now, let’s forget for one moment that the size of the tripod is huuuuuuge, and I guess is not going to fit in the lab, but my main question is: Why picking up an “hostile” robot?
Frankly speaking, the tripod is not such friendly robot one would have around…. True, it has quite a lot of flexible arms that are handy, but still….

And then I was wondering, which robot I would like to have in the lab? And here the topic gets complicated…..

A random decepticon, although they are not friendly, I just love the metallic voice “DECEPTICON” from time to time.

c-3PO is kind of useless, but it’s nice for the fun and the good atmosphere of the lab.

R2-D2 it will be like that non-english speaking labmate that is impossible to understand, but he fixes the HPLC like no one else.

Ash/Bishop, shall I trust him? Is he going to scoop all my research and send it to someone else?

Data, amazing guy, he knows every-fucking-thing. Maybe little bit arrogant and I-know-it-all-guy, but well, he has his reasons.

Number 5, maybe it’s a good choice. Still I don’t like how he moves.

Robocop, booooooring.

Chappie, undergrads for few minutes, PhD in one day and then he will be the best chemist ever.

Terminator, “I’ll be back”, yes but when? Why did you leave all this mess in the lab? Where are you going? No, you cannot just add Sarah Connor as author in the paper.

HAL 9000, come on, please distill some DCM, is not that dangerous.


And then I stopped thinking about that, the choice is way too difficult to be solved in one day. And you, which robot would you like to have in the lab?


Previous CoverTime: The power of the Metal, 80s vs 90s.

Microfluidics Galore (and ranting)


Finally my paper on how to, in an extremely simple way,  fabricate complex 3D microfluidic devices, even with external components embedded directly in the PDMS block. And let me tell you, it was not an easy ride.

Funnily enough, if you open any review or perspective in any journal, one of the most request for microfluidics is to simplify their fabrication. Here I just put some examples from Nature journals:

For these microfluidic devices to be actually useful, the devices must be usable; that is, these tools must be simple and robust. The ultimate test for the usability of these devices is whether researchers who are not experts in microfluidics—such as most worm biologists—will use them to discover new biology. We encourage you to try!

All the signs indicate that there is no simple solution for accelerating the adoption process; however, there are design choices engineers can make in order to lower the barrier to entry for biologists. How the end-user interacts with a new technology is a critical aspect of whether the method is adopted……… problems should be viewed through the lens of user-friendly assay design…

Much of today’s microfluidics market is driven by large biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and the key to larger adoption of microfluidics solutions is to make the devices simpler.

Finally, integrated miniaturized systems should eventually be relatively cheap. They will be much more affordable than full lab facilities — not least in developing countries.”


Now, you read all those reviews, comments and perspective, and all of them ask for simple fabrication, cheap and portable microfluidic devices. So you start working on that and you develop a new simple methodology for the fabrication of microfluidics device, you don’t need a clean room anymore,  you don’t need to seal the PDMS on another surface anymore. You can even make complex 3D structures or embedding external components in it: heating, sensors, stirring bars, UV-LED and so on. It is also extremely cheap, you can fabricate a working NMR head for less than 2€…. And it’s a methodology paper, that apparently are the most cited papers (at least in Nature journals).

Hilbert's cubeYou finish your work and think: it should be extremely easy to publish, isn’t it? At the end you did everything they were constantly asking in review, comments and perspective: simple fabrication, complex devices and cheap. Naturally it was not the case…. I’ll not tell to which journals I sent the paper, nor the editors that didn’t see the improvement of this methodology. I’ll just tell you that it was not easy, not easy at all. The only way to cope with all those rejection was to read this blogpost once every week: Papers that triumphed over their rejections. Not that I’m going to win the Nobel with this paper, but I think it’s quite interesting, and getting rejection over rejection was kind of frustrating. This paper was lying on my desk for a full year, before finally finding an editor and a couple of referees that finally saw the simplicity and the power of this new methodology.

At the end of the day I’m a researcher, I like to be in the lab and coping with rejection is part of the game. A silly frustrating game….

And i like to make videos (as you probably know):

I did also an Homer microfluidics:

Homer microfluidics

and this, for obvious reasons (I swear I didn’t send it to any editors):



End of the story: Never ever give up!!! Did I just Rickroll you??? Seriously???
Ok, ok, you may think this post is just spam, and well, maybe it is, but this is my blog isn’t it? :D

ISMSC 2015 – Strasbourg

Another year, another ISMSC (International Symposium of Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry). After two years of stop I finally went back to one of my favorite conference, this year in Strasbourg. As always, here you will not find anything scientifically relevant (it was amazing as always), but just some random facts. And no, no video this year (for ISMSC 2012 New Zealand – The Lord of the Posters see here: trailer, part I and part II).

Die Straße en roseIn a city that is half german and half french the only thing you can do is singing Die Straße en rose. The city welcomed us with a temperature that ranged from 35C to 120C, few of us developed gills for breathing in a close to 100% humidity weather, showing an impressive survival skill. Some of us melted away during the conference and come back in water bottles, and the rest of us, the ones with more than 25 fat percentage (like your lovely) started frying. It is kind of weird being in the sun and start hearing the classical frying noise coming from your skin. But the smell of bacon was amazing.

Rue de what?My hotel was in this lovely street. And no, before you ask, I didn’t met any. Historical and geographical fun: there is even a city called Bitche (safe for work link, come on guys, I’m not THAT bad) and the surrounding called Pays de Bitche. Any guess how the inhabitants are called?

fools on paradeThe conference centre, knowing that the chemists were coming, hanged this amazing piece of art in the room. Apparently everyone knows we are fools….. In the drawing you can also see Miley Cyrus and her wrecking ball.

baguette holderPoster tubes have beer around for a while, but only when you are in France you realize they are perfect baguette holder. And when you open the tube and that amazing bread smell is coming out…..

balanced dietDuring the 5 days of conference, I had a very balanced diet consisting of 50% pain au chocolat and 50% macarons. Healthy? I think so, after all it was balanced.

wankers 4 everFound this near the place of the Gala Dinner. Show me some self-love! It is also kind of ironic coming from a street called Rue the Bitche….


Those birds were also walking all over the Gala Dinner place. When, later in the night, they serve you  some meat that seems duck but not quite, then you start wondering…

video posterFor the first time (for me) I had a video poster. Cheap (35€) chinese tablet taped on the poster and video on loop. Et voila’ some fancy microfluidic devices.

microfluidic business card IMG_7343As this year I was presenting some microfluidic devices, I did some microfluidic business card. Few selected people now have this nice microfludic device on their desk (or in a closed drawer, or in that trash can). What? how did I do this? Well you still have to wait few weeks, and keep on eye on the Advanced Science ASAP :)

bombardier Then after 5 days, 3 (or 4) new collaborations, a lot of fun and two kind of massive hangovers, it is time to go back home. With a “bombardier”……










For a fistful of pics

Lately I’m quite busy and I didn’t manage to update the blog as much as I would like….

So here some random pics (I use some of them for talks), some original, some downloaded from the magic place called the internet:

American Dad’s chemistry

Yesterday I was watching an old episode of American Dad and part of the story was set in a chemistry class…. Are the writer of American Dad as scientifically good as the one of the Simpsons or Futurama? The episode is the 11×05 “now and Gwen”.

american dad chemistryClassic periodic table but weird molecules poster… And why the hell there is a world globe in a chemistry class????

american dad chemistry

Sexual joke while cleaning the test tube. Pretty accurate I would say :D

american dad chemistry

Quenching a fire with organic solvent…. not a brilliant idea (but I saw it happen once).

american dad chemistry

Uhm… a couple of protons missing?

american dad chemistryApparently they solved it few seconds later. Part of the periodic table is also correct.

Not that much chemistry, but it’s still fun to see chemistry in pop culture :)





Parafilm Galore


Parafilm is without any doubt the most used consumable in all the laboratories in the world. Need to seal something quickly? Parafilm! Need to repair something? Parafilm! Need to stop bleeding from a glass scratch? Napkin and parafilm! Your shoe is broken? Parafilm for keeping it useful until going back home!

Parafilm! Parafilm! Parafilm!!!!

But, this magic plastic, is used only in labs? Of course not, such amazing material is used to keep oxygen out of your favorite whiskey, wrapping your flowers or painting your models… It’s one of the few things that you can find in the lab and in the “real world”.

But, who invented this magic film? When, and how? Useless questions that I tried, without any luck, to answer:

Parafilm is a 50:50 mix between polyolefins and paraffin wax. It was trademarked in 1934 but some previous references are found in a patent dated 1932. Those dates are quite important as they are between the two great wars, therefore the parafilm was not one of the invention pushed by the war (like for example the silly putty). And it fits with the discovery of the synthesis of polyolefines.

And that’s more or less everything I managed to find about it. Who was the man (or woman) that discover it? I don’t know, but THANK YOU!!!

Naturally if you have any good hint on the parafilm history, please contact me :)

Videogames and science #2 “Dying Light”

Second post from the series “Videogames and Science”. First one here.

After finishing Far Cry 4 and The Walking Dead Season 2 (no science in both of them) I’m on Dying Light, an amazing free roaming zombie video game from the same people that did Dead Island (another zombie game that I loved). As most of the zombie games you need to do some quest while brutally slaughtering zombies here and there. Without saying that the game is pretty amazing and extremely fun to play let’s see how “science” is depicted in this videogame:

In one of the main quest you will go in a school looking for some “anti zombie drugs”. Here the science class:



Like in “The Last of Us” science is primarily identified as microscopes…. Microscopes, microscopes everywhere… Then we have an Erlenmeyer flask and a huge Bunsen burner. And yes, I’m using a two hands ass-kicking head-removal axe.

IMG_7009Some other stuff: What looks like a separator funnel and a thermostat.

IMG_6999Very important safety flyers all over the room and….


…. some safety guidelines.

IMG_7016 2

A classic periodic table…. Wait a minute…. Do you notice something weird? Yes, indeed, the colors! What happened to the colors? Which kind of weird periodic table is it? After a little research I discover that this is a wikipedia-made “periodic table by value“. Some programmer at Techland probably remembered that there were colors in the periodic table but didn’t know where….. Wikipedia keeps track of the change of everything, and the exact periodic table that is in the game is the version of July 2012.

IMG_7013Oh, look at that, some properly drawn chemical structures…. Even the reactions are correct…. And in fact they (probably) came from Interestingly, the article was also written in July 2012. The game was released in 2015…..


Another (almost) well drawn chemical structure (there is a H missing on that nitrogen). But what’s that? Caffeine? Theobromine? I would have expected a caffeine molecule, but it is not. That molecule is a theophylline…. Now, someone badly drawn the caffeine molecule or was drawn on purpose? No one knows……



The Pi, down to I don’t know which decimal…..

IMG_7022And last but not the least…. The Sierpinski triangle…. Almost in perfect time with the amazing Nature Chemistry paper on molecular Sierpinski assembly.


For now that’s all, I think I’ll need another 20/30h for finishing the game, so, see you with the next game (probably Bloodborne or The Witcher III) if there will be some science inside.



First try of twitter in real time for a good cause….. AcademicAprilFools:


CoverTime: The power of Metal


One of the most “metal” cover I’ve ever seen is coming from a Chinese group: Gong’s publication on ZnO “nanopencil” featured the cover of Nanoscale. Let’s forget for one moment about the nano-whatever word and focus on the beauty of the cover: Two metal missiles flying under a heavy storm.

Two songs come up in my mind watching this cover:


and I can only imagine the group working on this, singing along this song in the lab after getting the cover published:

“Brothers of metal
We are fighting with power and steel
Fighting for metal that’s all that’s real
Brothers of metal will always be there
Standing together with hands in the air”



15 reasons why NOT to date a chemist


Early this week I was reading this “dating advice” on 15 reasons why to date a chemist. Although most of their points are quite good there is always the other side of the coin…. So… 15 reasons why NOT to date a chemist:

1) We may be smelly. We are daily working with thiols, amines, tosyl chloride and so on and so on. We get used to the bad smell in few hours and we don’t care anymore. But the stink of amines stick on you for days giving you that “did you use cat’s pee as cologne” distinct smell.

2) We work 24/7/365. Even when we are not in the lab we are usually thinking about something chemistry related. We may seems interested in what you are telling us, but in all honesty, we are just thinking “maybe I should use less equivalents of X in my reaction”

3) We are stubborn. This sometimes is a good point, but most of the time it is not. We may spend days in trying to figure out why the dishwasher is not working. “Shall I call the technician?” – “No f. way, I’m on it, I have a PhD in chemistry I can do this”. It may take more than one month before calling the technician….

4) We are not big fan of chitchatting. Human relationship are not our favorite thing. If you want to talk about what someone did and why he/she acted in that way it’s kind of meaningless for us. Do you have data, proof, strong evidence of something, can you reproduce it? If yes, then we can analyze that, otherwise it’s just philosophy.

5) We have an analytical mind. We analyze the problem, dissect it into smaller problems and then we solve it. You may not like the solution, but trust us, most of times that’s the best solution.

6) We cannot stand non-scientifically educated person. In a party your best friend is “enlightening” other people on how toxic aspartame is and you see in our eyes the fire of “oh, for Finkelstein sake I’m going to destroy him/her”. Your significant other already told you million times to let it go, but it’s stronger than us bashing someone with some good chemistry.

7) We always have deadlines. Always. Now for a paper, now for a grant. Please do not disturb, I’m trying to write.

8) We are really picky on Tv shows. In CSI someone is storing a pipette upside down? Funk that show, I’ll never watch it again and I’m sending them a two pages long explanation on how to proper use a pipette.

9) We want acetone. Waiting for glasses to be dry is unacceptable, give me some acetone and I’ll take care of them.

10) We may be extremely annoying in the kitchen. “What are you doing? Did you put the steak before the pan was hot??? NOOOOOOOOOOO, for the sake of Maillard, why are you doing this to me? whyyyyyyy?”.

11) Sometimes we can lose a lot of time at the TSA in the airport. It may take a while to explain your research and why the residues on your computer triggered their alarm.

12) We have tons of chemistry books and printed literature around the house.

14) We are superstitious. We don’t believe in that, but if it works….. Having a green cap for your NMR tube is a good sign. Using balloons of different colors for different reaction because it worked with that specific color of ballon. Never change it!!!!

15) We know how to make drugs, bombs and how to kill you with thousand different chemicals.


This list is mainly for organic chemist (that’s because of my background), it may not apply to computational or physical chemists.
So, how many of you I pissed off with this list? Do you think I’m wrong?
Be honest with yourself and you will see that at least half of the points can be easily applied to yourself.


CoverTime: 80s vs 90s

Let’s start a new category: It’s CoverTime!!!

The first topic of this category is ’80s versus ’90s……

He-Man was a chemistIn the beautiful cover for the last issue of ChemElectroChem the Spanish group headed by Ibon Odriozola decided to use He-Man (aka Violoman) as a powerful chemist. In the ’80s favorite cartoon Skeleton this time become Skelectrode. Kudos for the use of comic sans, this so many time abused font, here is used properly. What else should I say? FOR THE POWER OF GREYSKULL!!!!!!
I can see a small tear in your eye, chemists born in the ’80s…. Here you go: watch the trailer of the awful movie “Master of the Universe”:

Naturally all of you know that Dolph has a master degree in chemical engineering…..


Second cover of the day, and this time for the chemists born in the ’90s:

PoCheMon ChemistryThis cover of Chemistry A European Journal was designed by an Italian group headed by  Marcella Bonchio. Why using a poké ball for a chemistry cover? That’s because you didn’t know that pokemon is the acronym of POlyoxometalate CHEmistry for Molecular Nanoscience. How genius? Funny things is that there are waaaaay more than only 151 polyoxometalate…. Gotta catch’em all!!!!

As I’ve used a video for the ’80s I should use one for the ’90s as well….

and I’ll leave you with this image:


since now on, you will never manage to say pKa without thinking of Pika Pika Pilachu… You’re welcome :D


Another TEM “problem”?

Do you remember the 2013 TEM scandal ? Well, today we may have a new one.

Everything started with this post on reddit….

and in all honesty some of the pictures look little bit strange…. People are still debating if the copy-paste was done with MS-Paint or scissor and glue….



From: “L-Cysteine-capped ZnS quantum dots based fluorescence sensor for Cu2+ ion”, Masilamany Koneswaran and Ramaier Narayanaswamy, Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, 2009, 139, 104–109, doi:10.1016/j.snb.2008.09.028″ and “Mercaptoacetic acid capped CdS quantum dots as fluorescence single shot probe for mercury(II)”, Masilamany Koneswaran and Ramaier Narayanaswamy, Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, 2009, 139, 91–96, doi:10.1016/j.snb.2008.09.011″


From: “CdS/ZnS core-shell quantum dots capped with mercaptoacetic acid as fluorescent probes for Hg(II) ions”, Masilamany Koneswaran and Ramaier Narayanaswamy, Microchimica Acta, 2012, 178, 171–178, doi:10.1007/s00604-012-0819-0″



And a beautiful 2015 paper from: “Ultrasensitive detection of vitamin B6 using functionalised CdS/ZnS core–shell quantum dots”, Masilamani Koneswarana and Ramaier Narayanaswamy, Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, 2015, in press, doi:10.1016/j.snb.2015.01.017″

What if I tell you that the main author of the papers is also the editor of the journal that published 3 out of the 4 papers above-mentioned? Are you screaming blasphemies thinking of your rejected papers?


One of the (other) editors will be soon informed about the story. Hoping that somethings will happen I’ll keep you updated….


UPDATE (20-02-2015): in two of the four papers the FTIR from two different samples are practically overlappable….

“Ultrasensitive detection of vitamin B6 using functionalised CdS/ZnS core–shell quantum dots”, Masilamani Koneswarana and Ramaier Narayanaswamy, Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, 2015, in press, doi:10.1016/j.snb.2015.01.017 (figure 3)

fig3and “L-Cysteine-capped ZnS quantum dots based fluorescence sensor for Cu2+ ion”, Masilamany Koneswaran and Ramaier Narayanaswamy, Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, 2009, 139, 104–109, doi:10.1016/j.snb.2008.09.028 (Figure 3)



But doctor, I AM PAGLIACCI…..




Few of my favorite:


Me and my thermal camera

Recently I’m working on some hot hot hot reaction and I needed something fast to monitor the heat, what better excuse to buy another toy??? I’ve got a seek thermal camera for my iphone (, pretty cheap and extremely simple to use.

Now the main question: is it working?

I should say, I’m pretty impressed by it. For its price is quite amazing (again, I’m not getting paid by them :) )

Pictures pictures pictures:

RotovapA beautiful rotavap, you can clearly recognize the bath, the hot pump and the cold parts for the collection of the solvents.

Fumehood thermal cameraMost important things in a fumehood, a reaction refluxing, a 5L DCM (the handle is warm as someone was using it) and a packing silica column.

officeBack in the office with my macbook, still the heat from my arms and a freshly laser printed papers on the left. This is probably the meaning of “hot papers”….

Hot flaskOne of the first lesson that you lear when you enter in a lab is that a cold flask looks the same as a hot flask. Not anymore!!! You can also see the heat transfer where the flasks touch.

Oh, and I almost forget…. You can make video as well :)

Is your heating plate working?

Or you can make beautiful drawing with acetone and then wait for the evaporation:

Or maybe you just want to drop a pellet of NaOH in concentrated HCl…..

At the end of the day the seek thermal camera is an extremely nice toy to have in the lab. Hopefully sooner or later you will also see the use in one of my future paper :)


Sugru in a chemistry lab



Screaming voice from the back of the room: “What the hell is sugru????”. Sugru, my dear friend is an amazing material that has millions, if not billions, different applications, from preparing old stuff to hack new stuff. Their website has nice videos about it.

Screaming voice from the back of the room: “I’m in my lab, why the hell should I care???”. You see, my dear friends, sugru can help a lot also in a standard chemistry lab, and this chemistry world blogpost is a clear example.

Screaming voice from the back of the room: “Oh my God, that’s pretty impressive, I’m out for buying 10kg of it”. Ok, ok, ok, now relax a little bit and think about the video. What if you modify your glassware with sugru and then during your nice DCM column sugru becomes sticky leaving a forrest of peaks in your NMR spectra?

There is almost no data on the amazing material (no, i din’t get paid from sugru) stability to organic solvents. So in my spare time I decided to do some experiments on it.

First of all, as most of the amazing plastic materials down here, sugru principal component is PDMS (yep, the same  stuff of microfluidic devices,  breast implants, crappy food and naturally silly putty). How do I know it? Well, it’s not a secret, you can find the patents here, here and here. Now, if you tell me “PDMS”, the first thing that come up in my mind is “swelling”.

Let’s try to swell some sugru in organic solvents then. I used a standard pack of blue sugru, let it cure for 24h in air, cut it in small pieces and then left it in various organic solvents for 12h. Then I measured again the length and the weight.


Swelling of sugru in different organic solvents
Swelling of sugru in different organic solvents

First of all, and extremely good point, the dye was not leaking in any of the solvents tested. This means that either the dye is covalently linked in the silicon polymer or in huge particles.

As kind of expected, the swelling of sugru is practically identical to the one of cross linked PDMS (classic paper from Whitesides here). Swelling(S)= D/D0 where D is the length of sugru in the solvent and D0 is the length of the dry sugru.

Complitely stable in water, water/HCl and Water/NaOH (S=1 for all the three), in Acetone (S= 1.03), Methanol (S=1.01) and DMSO (S=1.05)
Moderate swelling in DCM (S=1.15), EtOAc (S=1.20)
High swelling in Toluene (S=1.35), Hexane (S=1.40), DMF (S=1.42) and TEA (S=1.62).
The sample in EtOAc, Hexane and TEA were also extremely brittle.

So, depending by how you want to use sugru, and how long it will be in contact with organic solvents I would avoid the high swelling ones….

Now, the second things that comes up in my mind when you say “PDMS” is……. “Surface modification”….

Also in this case, sugru act like PDMS, 20 seconds in the plasma oxygen oven and the groups on the surfaces are beautiful hydroxyls, ready for other amazing reaction on surfaces….

Surface modification of sugru
Surface modification of sugru

I was naturally too lazy to check the contact angle, but I think is pretty evident :)

For now that’s it, another amazing material in the DIY chemistry toolbox. Stay tuned for more use of sugru in a chemistry lab.

And the winners are….

I’m naturally talking about the “unknown compound competition“. Let’s crunch some numbers first: the post was viewed c.a. 1000 times, 11 chemists participated in the competition and we now have 2 winners.

chemist competitionSo, what was the solution? A tricycle, of course :)




This research was mainly done by our (at that time) (A)Ma(zing)ster student Suzanne, and you can find our amazing Tetrahedron Letters paper here (it is not the final version yet, as we just received the proof).

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand….. The winners areeeeee……… (drum roll)…………..

1st: Zach Reitz from the university of Santa Barbara

2nd: Manuel Ortuño, ex Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Congratulations to the winners (we spent quite a lot of time (and NMR time) cracking the structure) and thanks to all the participants. It was fun to host this competition.

What did the guys won? A special Dutch pack composed of:

A pair of warm warm klomp for the cold days deciphering  spectra or writing papers in the office:


Dutch food…. When someone say that in the Netherlands the food is pretty bad….. well….. believe them…. But, somethings are pretty good, and as we could not ship herrings (dutch style) nor oliebollen, we opted for licorice and stroopwafels. The latter are pretty good stuff. You should get a hot cup of tea, put the stroopwaffels on top and wait 5 minutes, the syrup inside the waffles become warm and the cookie is amazing.


Some 3D printed stuff. I’ve got a 3D printer and I’m still learning how to use it properly. Here the silver metal with the Bohr electron shells.


Nice thing of this print is that, although printed in a single piece, is completely movable. Pretty funny. I would love to say that it is something I designed, but it’s not the case. You can find all the atoms on thingverse.


Once again, thanks to all the winners, participants, random readers and HR people. Enjoy chemistry and have fun!

EDIT: John Anderson (@NMRChemist) explains here how the LR-HSQMBC could have helped us in solving the structure. Thank you, once more, twitter and thank you John.