Ethanol-Water Density Reference

by Terry 9/17/2008 9:05:00 AM

While looking for reference tables, I found a useful link to an Ethanol-Water density table. I would assume that most people who are both working labs and have ready internet access could or already have found similar references on the internet, but it never hurts to share.

http://www.separationprocesses.com/CourseWare/Experiments/Property01.htm

The table is attributed to “Perry’s Chemical Engineers’ Handbook, 6th Ed.” I ordered the 8th edition from my local library to see how it compares.

I also added the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics and Perry’s Chemical Engineers’ Handbook to my Amazon wish list in the hopes a friend of family member will get the hint. Laughing But, at least my local library is pretty well stocked if not.

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chemistry | Personal

Getting More Lab Time

by Terry 9/15/2008 12:16:00 PM

Despite being completely, physically, exhausted this weekend, I managed to get some time in my garage lab. Richard came by and kept me company for a bit while working the experiment. It was fun to set things up, work and have time to chat too. While Richard was with me, I took note on how his visit impacts actually working experiments. Specifically, I made note on the types of distractions his company created. This is not a bad thing, and contrarily, it gave me an opportunity to note what things to pay attention to when I have one or two teenagers working experiments.

For example, goggles and aprons are a must. I need to be habitual about insisting both are worn when the garage is in ‘lab mode’. No exceptions. Saturday was a beautiful day, 75° F (24° C), sunny and almost no breeze, so I had my garage wide open. Richard, who lives a few houses away, walked right in and joined me. I need to set a mental alarm for when that happens. Enter the garage – put on goggles, etc.

Also, keeping a good lab notebook is harder when you are in a conversation. Keeping a lab notebook is more important, so, “excuse me for a moment, I need to write this down”, should be a stock phrase.

I think I am getting better and at working experiments too. I hoped and expected this. It makes sense that efficiency comes with practice. I am making note of the little things I need to have on hand for each lab and particularly how long each lab takes to complete. This will be helpful when I start having people share my lab with me; a day which is fast approaching. As I note and address these peculiarities, I spend less time adjusting and more time working.

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chemistry | Personal

Differential Solubility Experiment

by Terry 8/20/2008 2:24:00 PM

Monday and Tuesday night I started working chemistry experiments with Kaitlin. I was working in the garage and Kaitlin started to get excited and beg to do some experiments. Wow, how can I argue with that! So, together we worked on lab 6.1, Differential Solubility: Separating Sand from Sucrose, from the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments. I can call the whole event a success and a learning experience.

Most importantly, Kaitlin had fun, and I enjoy working with her. I hope her enthusiasm grows with time. At her age, currently eight, she loses interest in many activities after 45-60 minutes. This is typical with most kids her age, I have learned and see this when I teach martial arts and I was reminded of this while working the lab. In essence, I can do many experiments with Kaitlin, but I have to be mindful of how long portions will take. I may need to let her go play someplace else if an experiment ends up being a lesson in hurry-up-and-wait. Surprisingly separating sand from sucrose was an example of this.

I did the experiment using sand from a large bag of ‘play sand’ I purchased at a big-box hardware store. This play sand is low quality with coarse and variegated particle sizes and materials. That is, it is as much silt as it is pebble. When mixing equal mass of the sand and sucrose (powdered confectioners’ sugar, in my case), adding water and filtering the mixture, I noticed it took hours for the sand to drain. It held the water like a sponge. I expected this to a point, so I let the filter apparatus sit overnight and it was still holding water the next day. This really drove home the point on managing Kaitlin’s time when working experiments.

The end results are interesting. The play sand retained almost 5% of the sucrose mass, despite liberal rinsing with water. The increased volume of water meant it took much longer to evaporate the filtrate and recover the sucrose than if I could have used a third the volume of water. Again, this is another point to consider when working with an eight-year-old. The retained mass and the physical nature of the sand turned the filterant mass into a kind of candied concrete once I dried it in my small oven. Still, I call the experiment a success overall, particularly since all my masses are accounted for, within margins of error.

So, now I am looking at the same experiment again, with an eye toward timing and materials. The play sand is good for some further experimentation. I would like to know more about its composition, for example. However, I am looking at working with kids, ages 8 to 19 at the moment. I need to consider doing the same experiment with a very consistent and uniform sand source, like filtered aquarium sand, where the particles do not retain or react with the filtrate.

One thing I am trying to note carefully as I walk through experiments in the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments is the time it takes to complete each lab. This will help as I rework experiments for my ‘science club’ and in scheduling time.

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Fear Induced Tyranny

by Terry 8/12/2008 8:10:00 AM

This morning I read on Robert Bruce Thompson’s web site his comments [ttgnet.com, MakeZine.com] on an article in the Worcester, Massachusetts, Telegram; Chemist allowed to go home, sans his lab. Apparently, Mr. Deeb, a retired chemist had a chemistry lab in his basement, conducting experiment possibly in support of patents he owns. His lab was seized after fire-fighters responded to an unrelated call.

Pamela A. Wilderman, Marlboro’s code enforcement officer, said Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws.

“It is a residential home in a residential neighborhood,” she said. “This is Mr. Deeb’s hobby. He’s still got bunches of ideas. I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation. … There are regulations about how much you’re supposed to have, how it’s detained, how it’s disposed of.”

Mr. Deeb’s home lab likely violated the regulations of many state and local departments, although officials have not yet announced any penalties.

Because Mr. Deeb is being cooperative, he is not being charged. Not yet.

The comment, “I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere”, is pure fear and ignorance.

You see, we ain’t sure if he’s done wrong, but we’s sure can’t let him have this stuff. It may be dangerous and we don’t think he’s qualified.

So, without apparent warrant, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has executed some hidden authority to dismantle and dispose of Mr. Deeb’s personal property and, while doing so, look for possible violations of some regulation or zoning law.

To my understanding, typically a zoning violation is met with a request to become compliant before the authorities step in. Stepping in and looking for violation is disturbing at best.

Whether this is tyranny or not, I cannot say for sure, as I do not have all the facts. Greg Laden contrasts this in his comments. At the very least, it is a slippery-slope case; once the powers-that-be step on this slope, the slide down begins.

Karen, my wife, suggested, strongly, I should at least discuss my desire to build a lab in my garage with the local fire department. I am glad I did so. I met with a couple of firemen and the fire chief for half an hour discussing my plans, providing the list of chemicals and quantities I would likely have an storage plans. They were encouraging and supportive. I accepted and implemented their recommendations. Meeting with the fire department gave me some sense of relief that my local fire department and officials are still sane.

I certainly do not want to have what happened to Mr. Deeb happen to me. But I will not bow to fear.

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chemistry | Opinion | Policy | Snoqualmie

Progress at Last

by Terry 7/30/2008 9:38:00 AM

I have finally made some progress on my home chemistry lab. I set a rough target for having everything ready to go by the end of summer (really the start of the school year), around the end August. So far I am on track, and maybe ahead of my plan because I am just plain overeager. I took pictures of the currently clean and fully assembled workbench, which is the mainstay of my plan. With everything coming together I will be able to run a few labs sessions to establish a routine ahead of working with others in my ‘science club’ scheme.

My inspiration for a home chemistry lab and creating a science club where I can tutor my daughter and a few neighborhood kids came from my interests in the sciences, teaching and the efforts of Robert Bruce Thompson and his book, Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments. I am ready to act on that inspiration.

I spent a portion of Sunday afternoon with my friend Richard working in my garage leveling my workbench and attaching the melamine counter tops. The counter tops are nothing special, just quarter-sheets of melamine-coated particle board. Years ago, when I managed a SCUBA equipment service center, I built my work bench out of the same material, which held up for years of abuse. Now, like then, I want a cheap, easily replaceable and chemical-resistant work surface. I am compromising pretty for pure function.

My lab-bench is another compromise. At one point I acquired some industrial steel shelving, rated to hold something like 400kg. These can be assembled in various shapes, including a bench-height configuration. I bolted three of these benches together rather than building or buying cabinetry. It is not precisely pretty, but it works. I can also remove and relocate the entire bench quickly, although I have no reason to do so at this time. The downside is there are no cabinet doors to protect what is stored on otherwise open shelves; more on that in a moment.

Leveling the bench in the garage was not difficult. Most garage concrete-slab floors have a gentle slope so fluids drain out of the garage (like a water dripping off a wet car, which happens a lot in the Pacific North West). Conveniently, the foundation wall of the garage is level and has a three-inch lip on the inside of the garage wall along the floor. Richard and I perched my bench on the concrete lip, helpfully leveling the far side of the bench, and attached the metal frame to the garage wall. We shimmed the front legs to level the near side and then extended the front legs with some scrap wood. We finish it off by attaching three panels of melamine to the top, leaving a slight overlap on the front edge.

A trip to the discount store supplied the plastic tubs and drawer sets for storage, my compromise for cabinetry. I unpacked the lab equipment and glassware last night into the bins, with room to spare. I have some minor storage issues still to work out, like where to keep the 50ml glass burette. The pipettes fit into the drawers well enough for now, but the burette is too long. At the moment I have it clamped on the ring stand. I would like to find a suitable way to protect everything from dust and mishap, so leaving the burette on the stand is not ideal. The thermometer comes in a nice triangular clear plastic tube. A source for similar plastic tubes would be ideal. It protects the glassware from damage and dust, does not roll and can be stored in a larger, sturdier cylinder either standing upright or on its side.

I still have extra bins and drawers for chemical storage. The draws are basically bins in plastic frames; no holes in the sides or bottoms of the drawers. This is great to capture any inadvertent leaks if I store stock here. I will spend some time this week sorting out what should go where. (Kaitlin likes to help with this too. She already stocked one drawer with our lab notebooks and a supply of pens and pencils.) I have a large lidded tub and space on the garage floor under the bench for bulk storage which I have not utilized yet. It is a bit cramped, but not hideously so.

Temperature is a minor issue. Snoqualmie, 25 miles east of Seattle, has a maritime climate. Not too hot, not too cold. We get cold spells in the winter below freezing for a week or more. I plan on storing some items in bins I can bring into the house and store in the pantry during the winter. If I do lab work in the winter, I do have a space heater and halogen work lights to help warm the area, but that may not be a good mix if there are fumes and odors and I cannot open the garage door for ventilation. Winter may be the off-season. Not that Karen would complain too much about that. Such is life.

Lastly, I am trying to keep in consideration having a couple kids working with me (there are two interested at the moment, in addition to Kaitlin). Counter space is limited, but one advantage using the garage is that I can move the car to the driveway. I have several folding chairs and tables in the garage, easily accessible, making for an instant classroom or extended work area.

The lab is ready to start working in and working it will identify and address remaining, some perpetual, issues. Conducting experiments in the future will likely create new issues, requiring new equipment, time and new supplies too. I look forward to the challenge. I need to start through the labs. At the moment time is an issue. I have martial arts practice and teaching several times a week in addition to my ‘paying’ job to work around and I need to create a schedule Karen and Kaitlin will be happy with. Patience is the key. Equipment is not the only recurring issue; time and family are more important and perpetual. Progress sometimes comes in inches.

Pictures
My workbench
 

Drawers of equipment and glassware

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A Screed on Autism, ADHD and the Martial Arts

by Terry 7/25/2008 3:56:00 PM

I posted a short screed on Autism, ADHD and the Martial Arts. It really is just a rant of my opinion and observations. Some people may disagree. All I can really argue is if you have doubts or concerns about having an autistic or ADHD child try martial arts – do not let your doubts prevent trying martial arts. Whether or not the child can keep up is not the issue. They may take longer to reach proficiency in some areas, but the benefits on self esteem, self control and long term mental and physical health are tremendous.

I won’t argue there are extreme cases. And those are just heart wrenching in there is often little anyone can really do. Or rather much that can be done but little to heal the grief and pain. And if this is the condition you face, I am not professing any miracle. But, I am not arguing for the extreme cases, only the cases that are quickly called autistic or ADHD which 30 years ago would have been considered high-energy or short-attention children. I was once one of those.

I was seriously failing school until I figured out I could manipulate the system to alter my curriculum to make it interesting. I had a GPA of 2.4 as high-school freshmen and turned that into a 3.5 GPA by the time I graduated. I earned my BSCS with honors and a 3.9 GPA. In elementary school the teachers wanted me in the remedial programs, where I simple got bored. I required too much effort to stay interested in what was being taught. I learned from that and use that knowledge now. I try to keep kids interested in what they are doing.

I am trying to figure out how to do that with science. I am on track to starting a science club by end of summer. I want kids to see the fun in science. The sciences (and, frankly, reading science fiction by authors like Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven) are what drove me to succeed in school. I have the same passion for martial arts. I just ordered Kono Magazine for Kaitlin with keeping here interested in the martial arts as the primary reason (Roland Osborne is enacting the same idea with Kono Magazine, http://www.konomag.com/Kono_AboutUs.pdf). I will use my garage chemistry lab to keep her interests in science alive as best I can too.

Hmm, that was a lot more than I expected to rant on about.

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Rooto Household Products

by Terry 7/18/2008 10:18:00 AM

Yesterday I went to lunch with Karen and Kaitlin. I stopped at the pharmacy to ask if I could order various supplies for my home chemistry lab through them. After lunch I ran down the block to the Carmichael’s True Value hardware store. There I found several products I wanted to add to my lab.  Ammonia (with no coloring or other additives) and 100% sodium hydroxide drain cleaner. I forgot to look for root killer (copper sulphate) which I believe they carry. Oddly, Home Depot and Lowes, the nearby big-box stores, do not seem to have these products in concentrated or mostly pure form. I will have to go back and get the copper sulphate at a later date.

True Value sells products from Rooto. I called Rooto to see if they had MSDS files for these products. They happily said yes and asked where they could fax them. I never bothered to setup a fax receiver on my home PC, email is my preferred method. No problem, for the products I am looking for, they have electronic MSDS documents. Apparently not all their line is available in electronic format, but they have what I need. All is good.

The home chemistry lab is slowly moving along.

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I stopped by the Pharmacy today

by Terry 7/17/2008 3:47:00 PM

I stopped by the Pharmacy today during my lunch. There are two locally owned pharmacies in town, both owned by the same family. The closest is in the grocery store a few blocks from my house. Unfortunately, I cannot buy bulk chemical supplies from them. The other store, about two miles from my house, is a compounding pharmacy and has a full lab for making custom medicinal blends.

They are checking into whether their state license allows me to purchase chemicals of various kinds from them. I gave them the link to http://www.homechemlab.com/ to get the basic list of chemicals I would need over time; I hope they can provide when I run low on some items. However, they are willing to supply me with glassware and supplies without issue. This is very helpful.

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I cannot get started soon enough

by Terry 7/8/2008 10:45:00 AM

I have a large order from Elemental Scientific due to arrive, but I won’t have time to unpack it until I return from Orlando next week. It is just as well, I suppose, as I have not had any time to work in the garage this last weekend. On the HomeChemLab.com forum (http://forums.homechemlab.com/) another user posted a concern and prompt for people to start posting their experiences on the forum (Dont be shy...say hello). I am now realizing how much effort it takes to build a lab from scratch. Note that I am not really surprised, more like impatient. I want to get started now, if not sooner.

To paraphrase what I said on the forum: I would presume once you have a lab and the supplies, you will use it. And if you have made that investment you will likely use it for years. There is staying power in the hobby that transcends time better than some hobbies. This is an investment.

For me, the investment is partly for my own pleasure and knowledge. It is also an investment in the future for my daughter and anyone else, particularly youths interested in science.

One teen I talked to told me he was excited to take a science course at the local high school next year because the teacher does a cool experiment with Hydrogen. I would think it would be cool if the student could do the experiment, not the teacher. Gee, I can go to school to watch someone else do science!

I cannot wait to unpack the equipment. I cannot get started soon enough. I cannot wait to see my daughter and others want to learn as they experiment.

You too can build your own chemistry lab. You too can do science at home. Robert Bruce Thompson made it pretty easy. Start by getting a copy of the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture. The effort is less than you probably think and the rewards will be more than would appear.

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The new scale is here!

by Terry 7/2/2008 9:38:00 AM

I received the MyWeigh iBalance Lab Scale balance yesterday, via FedEx. It looks great. I hope to get it calibrated and setup in my garage today sometime. My order from Elemental Scientific should be coming early next week. Originally I thought it would arrive late this week, but I forgot Friday is the Fourth of July. Oh well. That gives me the weekend to do other projects around the house and garage.

Kaitlin took an immediate interest in the scale. I have a kitchen scale I use for baking with a 1g resolution. I think I will take both scales, side-by-side and show her the difference in measuring with something like 5g of rice, sand and maybe a highly uniform set of objects. (I used scales to inventory o-rings when I managed a SCUBA service department. Some o-rings are very costly for mixed-gas applications, and are very small. An accurate count of o-rings is not usually earth-shattering, but some of the o-rings I used where a couple of dollars each and the size of a pin-head. Being off in my count by 10 or so with a hundred different sizes adds up fast.)

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About Terry Losansky

Terry Dee Losansky

I am a software architect, actively practice and teach martial arts and live in Snoqualmie, Washington. I have an amazing daughter who is the jewel of my life.

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