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Wet Chem Labs - Glassware

Gary in CA

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Getting started in many research labs takes glassware.  The amount of glass used in Organic is serious, less in other specialties.  A new arrival should expect his bench to be stripped when he arrives.  If there is anything in it at all, be grateful.  If any of your lab mates donate to you, be effusively grateful.

Glassware is expensive.  Every single piece you obtain from the storeroom will probably be charged directly to your research account.  It's easy to burn through $2-3 K per month at the storeroom.  It's also hard to pay you more salary when you're busting the budget on glass.

It can easily cost $10-20K to outfit a single researcher with just basics.  Add in a a couple of vacuum pumps, a rotary evaporator, a couple of manifolds, a few desiccators, and the specialized glass that your particular project will require, and it could easily be much more.

Breakage is inevitable.  Your lab will probably have a bench located somewhere with a pile of star-cracked flasks and other pieces that aren't quite destroyed but aren't quite usable either.  So will the other labs in your building.

Old guy trick:  Learn to repair and anneal star-cracked glassware.  It is not hard. The U will have a glass shop and it is smart to make a friend there.  If scientific glassblowing is offered as a course, take it.  If possible, learn to repair and even build more complex tubes and flasks.  But at a barest of minimums, learn to mend star cracks.

A crafty grad student can build an elaborate collection of glass quickly by repairing cast offs.   And a good repairman will always be in demand. It will make you an indispensable and popular member within and without your research group.

I took several courses in glassblowing as an undergrad.  By the third year of my PhD research, my own bench was worth in excess of $100K.  I ran a part-time repair and lending service.  Even other research groups would ask for help on weekends and evenings when the glass shop was closed.  As a bonus, you'll make new friends outside your circle.

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Having outfitted 2 labs and 3 hoods with glassware and I think you're highly overestimating the cost.


I don't think I could order enough glassware to make $100k- heck, even a good Buchi rotovap and pump is less than $6k, and a good 5 place schlenk line is under $800. Add in a good cold trap and dewar for ~$300. Everything else is quite cheap- I just ordered all the stuff for a new post-doc and a new grad student, and the whole order was under ~$800. And that should be enough glassware for years.


Also, from the accidents I've seen result from improperly "repaired" glassware, I don't think I'd ever consider it worth the risk. It's not hard to stop the glass from leaking, but it's quite difficult to completely erase that area as a weak spot in the glass. And if I'm heating something highly explosive or toxic, or plan to subject it to extremes of temperature or pressure, I want to be very, very sure that it can stand up to them!


Practically, I can think of 1 university in our state that has a glass repair shop. Maybe another two in the surrounding states. And maybe two universities I know of that currently offer a scientific glassblowing course?


And while you can do repairs with a bunsen burner and/or oxy acetylene torch, they're a lot harder, especially when you have no one to help out in learning the techniques.


Round bottom flasks are usually less than $15 (size dependent). Compared to the cost of your time, and the cost of the reagents going in those flasks, it's a minor expense.


Also, when your first topic is removed by the moderators, it might be a reasonable idea to ask *why* before you just repost it. 

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