About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
Not Voodoo

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
Realizations in Biostatistics
ChemSpider Blog
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa

Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net

Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine

Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem

Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus

Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« Symlin, At Last | Main | Springtime for Oncology »

March 20, 2005

Ancient Metals

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

I'm still too stuffed from an Iranian New Year (Nowruz) feast to do much blogging tonight, or much of anything else. (And eid-e shoma mobarakh to any of my Farsi-speaking readers, while we're on the subject.)

I hope to be moving around well enough tomorrow to finish up a reaction I did on Friday, an old-fashioned zinc metal reduction. Doing that kind of chemistry really makes me feel a connection to the 19th century. Those folks would have understood instantly what I was up to last week, stirring zinc powder in a flask with some dilute hydrochloric acid and washing it off.

That's how you make activated zinc, and that's how people have been doing it for well over a hundred years. On long storage, it (like all the other reasonably active metals) forms an inert coating of oxide on its surface. That's all very well for something like stainless steel - in fact, that's exactly how it remains stainless - but it really interferes with other metal-surface reactions. A quick etching with acid freshens the stuff right up.

Metals that are more active than zinc (sodium, say) form oxide coatings even faster - while you watch, basically. Those metals tend to come in chunks, since they have the consistency of cold butter. Zinc you can buy as a fine powder, but sodium won't put up with being milled (although you can buy it as sort of a fine sand, if you so desire.) To get a fresh surface for metals like that, you can just cut off a fresh hunk and get it in the reaction quickly before it clouds over again. (Don't do it like this, though!)

My reaction was done in straight acetic acid, another nostril-flaring old favorite. When I worked it up partway on Friday, it appeared to have done what I wanted it to, which goes to show how reactions like this become classics in the first place.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


1. manesh on March 28, 2005 8:30 AM writes...

Happy Spring to you too.
Just one note: Please use Persian instead of Farsi as it is the correct term in the English language.

If interested, you can find references here:

"American Association of Teachers of Persian" (AATP):

"The Centre for Promotion of Persian Language and Literature":

Oxford University:
Columbia University:
Yale University:

Permalink to Comment


Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

The Last Post
The GSK Layoffs Continue, By Proxy
The Move is Nigh
Another Alzheimer's IPO
Cutbacks at C&E News
Sanofi Pays to Get Back Into Oncology
An Irresponsible Statement About Curing Cancer
Oliver Sacks on Turning Back to Chemistry