• Question: What is the most dangerous experiment you have done ?

    Asked by becksblowup to Ahmed, Francesca, George, James, Nitheen on 12 Nov 2014. This question was also asked by izzywizzyxxx.
    • Photo: James Sullivan

      James Sullivan answered on 12 Nov 2014:

      Hi becks,

      Normally we’re very careful when we design experiment to ensure they are carried out safely.
      The first part of an experiment involves the risk assessment where you detail all the things that might go wrong so you’re able to avoid these.
      When dangerous things happen, explosions, chemical leaks, burns, glassware cuts etc. they are accidents from not having designed the experiment properly, or due to some other error.
      Having said that, every scientist has accidents from time to time – especially when they are students. I’ve stabbed myself with a syringe, burnt myself with strong acids, and had small fires.

    • Photo: Francesca Paradisi

      Francesca Paradisi answered on 12 Nov 2014:

      Anything that involves unstable compounds is potentially dangerous (a very volatile solvents, highly reactive metals etc) but like James said, before doing a reaction we are assessing the risks and take the appropriate precautions (work at low temperature, have something at the ready to counteract a spillage etc).
      For me personally I found that distilling ethers was dangerous as they can leave behind highly flammable compounds and then you have the ether and…BOOM!!

    • Photo: George Dowson

      George Dowson answered on 12 Nov 2014:

      Safety in the lab is incredibly important and I’ve had reactions go bad on me. One memorable case was when I accidentally made hydrogen cyanide from acetonitrile (a common solvent). I planned ahead and considered that the risk of this reaction occurring was extremely low. However when it came time to end the reaction I was aware it might possibly in the worst scenario have formed and turns out it had!
      Had I been lax I may have been seriously harmed or hospitalised but really it shouldn’t be something that would worry you except as a lesson in safety.

    • Photo: Ahmed Osman

      Ahmed Osman answered on 17 Nov 2014:

      The experiments I am doing at the moment as it is explosive I flow methane and oxygen over palladium catalyst and this reaction is explosive.