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!
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 :)
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.
Some other stuff: What looks like a separator funnel and a thermostat.
Very important safety flyers all over the room and….
…. some safety guidelines.
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.
Oh, look at that, some properly drawn chemical structures…. Even the reactions are correct…. And in fact they (probably) came from masterorganicchemisry.org. Interestingly, the masterorganichemistry.org 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…..
And 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.
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”
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.
The first topic of this category is ’80s versus ’90s……
In 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:
This 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
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)
and “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)
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 (http://thermal.com/see_the_unseen.html), 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:
A beautiful rotavap, you can clearly recognize the bath, the hot pump and the cold parts for the collection of the solvents.
Most 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.
Back 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”….
One 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 :)
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.
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….
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.
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.
So, 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
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.
Another year wandering in the lab is finished. Have great holidays, eat like no one business, drink till you get great ideas and have a lot of fun. A lot of referees are waiting for your papers in 2015…..
And naturally thank to all of you, also this year we managed to get >100.000 visits. See you next year folks.
And remember that the competition is still open. So far we have 2 winners, and I’m waiting for the 3rd one….. hurry up…….
As our paper has been accepted and it will be published soon, we decided to run a small chemistry competition. We tried to synthesize a substituted azobenzene using a literature procedure….. Naturally we didn’t got the desired azobenzene but something else…. This something else have been unknown for quite a long time before we discover what it was. Will you able to unveil the unknown molecule???
Goal: guess the unknown molecule and send an email to email@example.com with the drawn molecule and the hypothetical mechanism.
Prize: The first three that will guess the final molecule will win….. well, i don’t know what, most probably will be something 3D printed, but could be also traditional dutch food (Stroopwafels or pepernoten), or anything else… I really have no clue so far. Anyway, I’ll send the gift (if someone managed to get the right molecule) in January after I come back from vacation.
Time: the competition will be on until there will be three winners and/or the paper will be published (but so far we didn’t get any proof yet, so it will take some time).
Ground rules: People that already know the answer (group members, colleagues, friends and so on) naturally, cannot partecipate. Come on guys, i can always offer you a stroopwafel….
Good, let’s start then:
Desired reaction on the right, we didn’t manage to get even 1% of it. But we got 30-40% of the unknown product on the left. Reaction condition on the bottom. Funnily enough the mass is the same of the desired product. But the UV-Vis is clearly not the one of an azobenzene….
1H-NMR in benzene-d6
1H-NMR in CDCl3…. did you notice something different?
There I will give a short workshop on “dare to communicate” hosted by Harm Ikink (@harmikink) focussing mainly of Twitter for chemists. The main question is “why should I use twitter?”. I’m afraid there is no simple answer to this question. I’m using it mainly for fun, interaction, and outreach. It is like being in a conference with thousand of chemists easily reachable with a single 140 characters tweet. Each of them with different backgrounds, working in different fields and with different expertise, grouped all together because, at the end of the day, we are all chemists.
But let’s go with some order, and first things first, the history of Twitter:
Done with the followers? Now we can start with the hashtags then. I prefer using a program for twitter rather then the web interface. With program such as TweetDeck you can easily follow hashtags in separate columns, and this will simplify your life.
The hashtag of the conference you are going to (in this case #Chains2014).
The news hashtag, for example #ChemNobel a couple of weeks before the nobel announcement.
And whatever other hashtag you may find interesting :)
What should you write? That’s up to you, something nice happening in the lab, nice pictures, weird results, commenting some paper and so on. Please, please and please do not use twitter as news feed, writing only about your new paper, your new grant, new students and so on is not really useful for interaction and we already use a RSS feed for that. Unfortunately many chemistry journals and university are doing it, this is simply useless.
And always follow the rule number 1 of using social media, comments and general interaction of internet: don’t be a dick. Blaming on twitter a journal editor because he didn’t accepted your paper, or shaming your competitors is not very nice and possibly counter-productive:
Now go out there and have fun with Twitter. I’m @V_Saggiomo and I approve this message.
Disclaimer: this is (as most of the case on this blog) a funny, non-serious post. DO NOT do the following things in your lab!
You are ready to set up a reaction, open the flask drawer and…. Nothing… All the 50 mL flasks that you cleaned yesterday are gone. All. Of. Them. All the NMR tubes are gone as well and your freshly distilled DCM is half of what it was this morning. There is a white layer of crap in your separator funnel.
Who you gonna call???
No, the guilty person was not a ghost nor a parallel universe. You have been touched by the infamous glory of Lab Thieves.
This category of people is widely spread in the university labs all over the world.
They are among us!
Those are few tips and tricks on how to deal with Lab Thieves:
1 – First-Aid reaction set-up. Always store the bare necessity glassware for setting up a reaction in your backpack. 50mL Flask, stirring bar, a couple of hamilton syringes and a stopper. In this way, no matter where you are, you will be always ready for starting a reaction on-fly. Just remember to put it out from your backpack when you travel around. TSA people are usually not that happy when they discover that you are a chemist.
2 – To clean or not to clean. DO NOT WASH your glassware. NEVER! Lab Thieves are well-known to steal only clean glassware. Recent studies have shown that a group of Lab Thieves were extremely confused when in a room with only dirty glassware. After a short while they just left the room in search of freshly cleaned glassware.
3 – Fight back. Intentionally contaminate some clean glassware with something sticky but colorless. A drop of silicone oil is usually enough. Do the same trick with some NMR tube as well. Just remember which ones are the contaminated and which ones are not. When during a group meeting someone is showing an NMR spectra with a huge peaks around 0-1 ppm then you are allowed to stand up and scream at them “GOTCHA!!”. Then challenge them to a spatula duel to the death or whatever other duel you use in your lab for solving controversies.
4 – It’s a liquid problem. It’s not a big deal that “someone” is using the solvents in your fumehood, but still, it’s pretty annoying to pour fresh solvents in your 250 mL bottles every hour. The secret here is in the labels. Randomly change the labels on your bottles, but remember the labeling system you used…. Or use a secret code for each solvent…
Water = That’s not water
EtOH = Water of life
CHCl3 = Liquid goodnight
Acetone = Napalm
Et2O = Magic Dreams
Cyclohexane = I’m on a boat
And so on…… Now just sit and watch the Lab Thieves sweating in panic like Indiana when he has to choose the right Holy Grail (not so subtle citation).
5 – Lock and Key. Lock, lock and lock everything you can. Be the keymaster of Gozer (little bit more subtle citation). Do not forget the keys at home.
6 – Dye, Lab Thief, Dye (another subtle citation). Use few dye packs in some of your drawer, better if bluetooth connected on your phone. They will not explode only if your cellphone is in proximity. Then walk around the department looking for pink colored people.
7 – Hello I’m X and I am a Lab Thief. Talk with them, show them that there is still a possibility for them to be accepted in the society. They can redeem themselves. Teach them how to clean their glassware. Show them the LTAA (Lab Thief Anonymous Association). Give them hope. Bring them to the bright side of the lab. It will take some time, probably years, but day after day they will clean their own glassware and they will stop to be Lab Thieves…….
Now you can finally go and steal their freshly cleaned glassware….
That’s an amazing guest post from my labmate Rui Carvalho (@rkramska). The Tao of a PhD:
“The further one goes, the less one knows.” Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – 4th year PhD
“When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Speaking of lab work
“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – During coffee break
“Take care with the end as you do with the beginning.” Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – While writing a paper
“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – When reology results do not make sense
“Our enemies are not demons, but human beings like ourselves” Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Speaking of referees
“If you search everywhere, yet cannot find what you are seeking, it is because what you seek is already in your possession.” Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Before figuring out how to use the chemicals list
“Stop thinking and end your problems.” Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – On a Friday evening
“A beaker is only as useful as the emptiness inside it, very much so like my thesis.” Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Talking about his thesis