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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

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May 20, 2011

What Would You Get Rid Of?

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Posted by Derek

Here's a general question for all you lab types, prompted by some rearranging that I've been doing over at my bench: what piece of equipment do you get the least use out of for the space it takes up? Those dusty items that haven't been touched in a couple of years are obvious candidates, but feel free to add some instruments that work, but crowd out other useful items. . .

Comments (52) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


1. Rick on May 20, 2011 11:41 AM writes...

The person at the next bench.

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2. Curryworks on May 20, 2011 12:06 PM writes...

As someone whose mentor changed research directions about 20 years ago and has yet to throw away/donate to landfill the old equipment I elect all of the ultralow pressure long distillation columns who have acquired a layer of dust cm thick.

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3. Pharmaheretic on May 20, 2011 12:53 PM writes...

A much better question is- Who would you get rid of?

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4. Chemjobber on May 20, 2011 12:54 PM writes...

A digital polarimeter is a good candidate from a uses per square foot measurement. Also, IR spectrometers.

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5. Danelo on May 20, 2011 1:01 PM writes...

Still heads for solvent stills. In our group, the last permanent still (dimethoxyethane) was retired a couple years ago, and stills for the more conventional solvents (THF, ether, pentane, benzene, etc.) went long before. Now we use a solvent purification system for the regulars and vacuum transfer or distill the rest after drying/degassing. I would guess that the situation in most labs (especially industry) is similar. And, of course, solvent still heads are usually no small item; we now have at least a half dozen sitting in drawers in our instrument room.

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6. dbush on May 20, 2011 1:04 PM writes...

Being from an aging analytical group, we have plenty of old, outdated components from old MS systems that will, in all honesty, never be used again in our lab or core facility: Cs guns and other miscellaneous sources for old FABS MS systems that we don't even own anymore.

Also, the three first-generation triple quads that haven't been under vacuum for years. My adviser keeps them around for "parts." In the first months of their retirement, the only reusable pieces (roughing pumps, turbos, ion gauges) were cannibalized. Now they're just heaps that need to be moved in order to plug something into the wall. In her defense, I might also have an emotional attachment to the equipment that she probably spent incalculable hours aqcuiring as a young professor, customizing and collecting the data that made her early career

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7. milkshake on May 20, 2011 1:21 PM writes...

any combichem-related stuff: synthesizers etc.

Also chemical storage fridge does not have to be located in the lab, find a space for it somewhere in the hallway.

The polarimeter and IR was mentioned, I would add a melting point apparatus to the list and also Lauda chilled/heated water bath recirculator. Maybe also overhead stirrer related stuff (unless you are doing scale up work) and high-pressure hydrogenation autoclave.

Many industry labs have some old unpopular HPLC (missing an autoinjector, and with a paper plotter in place of a monitor) that belongs to the category "I might use it one day for chiral separation" but no-one does because it is too much hassle.

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8. PC on May 20, 2011 1:37 PM writes...

anything with the word Gilson written on it.
glass chromatography columns

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9. Chemjobber on May 20, 2011 1:39 PM writes...

Milkshake and PC has it right w/r/t combichem equipment. Tecans are enormous and how often do they get used these days? Once a year? Same w/Gilsons.

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10. You're Pfizered on May 20, 2011 1:53 PM writes...

The micro hood near my bench that's used for charring TLC plates after indicator staining. Used once or twice a year at most since the advent of wide-spread LC-MS use.

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11. bearing on May 20, 2011 2:09 PM writes...

Definitely the stand mixer. I just don't bake as much as I used to.

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12. coprolite on May 20, 2011 2:16 PM writes...

Rick-you beat me to it. You ever meet the marketing people? Now that's a waste of space.

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13. AlchemistOrganique on May 20, 2011 2:27 PM writes...

The spinning band column, although it could make a nice conversation piece.

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14. tedthechemist on May 20, 2011 2:37 PM writes...

Dave Brennan - hopefully he will be in jail soon

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15. susurrus on May 20, 2011 3:06 PM writes...

My Pierce block went this week.

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16. JasonP on May 20, 2011 3:19 PM writes...

In every lab I've been in, there is always a huge centrifuge or two that are broken and just sitting there unused and unloved.

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17. Nick on May 20, 2011 3:21 PM writes...

The wide-bore 200 MHz NMR magnet, discharged years ago. It's fairly compact on floor space, but still heavy enough to discourage moving it elsewhere.

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18. milkshake on May 20, 2011 4:01 PM writes...

Speaking of centrifuges: I would also add Savant Speedvac evaporator to the list of instruments deserving to be carted away.

And Chromatron spinning disc LC-system, which carries a great sentimental value to me but it has been made obsolete by Combiflash and prep HPLC

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19. Anonymous on May 20, 2011 4:09 PM writes...

My old cork stoppered glass retort; then again it is nifty to look at and who knows I might need it in the future.

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20. Merck sacked my ass on May 20, 2011 4:31 PM writes...

The safety officer

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21. merck sacked me also on May 20, 2011 5:10 PM writes...

Did anyone ever experience the Biotage parallel tlc spotter that they used to sell with the biotage quad systems? Not a big item but a terrible waste of 700 knicker!

Talking of the quad that was a vastly overpriced waste of space.

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22. cynical1 on May 20, 2011 5:33 PM writes...

At my last company - the microwave. I'd venture that there's been many more compounds destroyed in those things than prepared. But I used the tubes all the time in a good old fashion oil bath for some Buchwald chemistry I was doing.

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23. Bruce Hamilton on May 20, 2011 6:25 PM writes...

Water bath, stirred oil bath, vacuum oven.
Agree about moving fridges out of lab, same with shelves/cupboards of rarely used chemicals, provided control of access to them is retained.

I wouldn't move important equipment to another room, because then unknown peers can "use" it. "Use" being a polite synonym for break, block, or butcher.

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24. @Sacked Merck Assess on May 20, 2011 6:37 PM writes...

Yeah, I wasn't a fan of the Biotage Quad either. The SP-1 was pretty reliable though.

I would purge/warehouse the prep-TLC chambers and oversized glass dessicators. They're heavy, take up a lot space, and god help you if one gets knocked on the floor. Semi-prep HPLCs have become more affordable and perform better than any prep plate. Plus, I hate having to re-grease the glass dessicator lids.

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25. Dave on May 20, 2011 11:58 PM writes...

Middle management is about as useful as tits on a bull, at least a piece of equipement has some use.

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26. NHR_GUY on May 21, 2011 2:04 PM writes...

Gilsons? REALLY? These things are the workhorse of my lab (med-chem Big Pharma). I have three systems set up, and they all reproduce on scale what I see on my analytical HPLC. They have been great for doing prep-HPLC on a 2-50 mg scale. Anything bigger I just use multiple injections. The uni-point GUI software is crap. but the newer program (forget the name even though I use it twice a week at least) is pretty good

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27. Anon on May 21, 2011 2:07 PM writes...

Don't you know that a bull has one "teat?" It just takes longer to "milk."

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28. @27 on May 21, 2011 7:06 PM writes...

Creepy anon, please keep the discussion relevant to the topic and rated PG-13.

Anyway, I would toss (or at least donate to Third-World Pharma) the MPLC with the carousel fraction collector. No wonder Tesla had an aversion to round objects. As #13 has mentioned, round objects take up so much space and don't stack well!

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29. Dr chem ist on May 22, 2011 8:10 AM writes...

Does anyone remember the Chromatotron? It was like an old record player but by spinning the silica "record" and dropping solvent onto it you could separate mixtures very easily and quickly! Wish I had one now :-(

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30. milkshake on May 22, 2011 5:08 PM writes...

the only bad thing about Chromatotron was that you had to clean and recycle the silica discs, they were definitely not disposable.

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31. @29and30 on May 22, 2011 6:51 PM writes...

We just tossed our Chromatotron. It was well-used but became imbalanced. Just love the name though...CHROMATOTRON!!!

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32. milkshake on May 22, 2011 7:51 PM writes...

@31: I think I will change my middle name to Chromatotron so that I can be even more unbalanced. And if I have a daughter I will name her Combiflash.

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33. @31 on May 22, 2011 10:06 PM writes...

Somehow I'm picturing a new anime robot series: "Chromatotron, Defender of Chemiverse".

@Milkshake: Please don't name any of your kids kugelrohr or soxhlet!

I'd say it's about time to toss the oversized (1.5 m) ion-exchange columns, although my coworkers would disagree. I would also like to nominate for disposal all the unused/obsolete distillation glassware that resembles drug paraphernalia or self-torture/pleasuring devices.

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34. WB on May 23, 2011 12:05 AM writes...

@33 Ditto on unused and obsolete glassware. We've got bucketloads of glassware that belong in the Museum of WTF.

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35. milkshaken on May 23, 2011 12:20 AM writes...

Kugelrohr and Soxhlet is already taken, its the nicknames for my parents in law

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36. Virgil on May 23, 2011 8:26 AM writes...

Not really equipment, but equipment-related... how many of you have gallons of used vacuum oil (from pumps and ultracentrifuges) just sitting in a cupboard somewhere?

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37. Virgil on May 23, 2011 8:29 AM writes...

Not really equipment, but equipment-related... how many of you have gallons of used vacuum oil (from pumps and ultracentrifuges) just sitting in a cupboard somewhere?

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38. Anonymous on May 23, 2011 9:05 AM writes...

Melting point apparatus. I don't think I've used one of those things since grad school.

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39. nitrosonium on May 23, 2011 11:34 AM writes...

Rayonet. been making molecules here for 12 yrs and never touched this dinosaur. this thing has been here since Derek was here in grad school!

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40. Former Physic on May 23, 2011 11:37 AM writes...

Only a bit off topic. Every science lab in nearly every movie ever made had a jacob's ladder in it. I always thought that was so funny, since they are completely useless other than as a conversation piece.

Ok, maybe they are good at demonstrating that heat rises, but they don't really do anything. They are one hell of a safety hazard, though.

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41. MTK on May 23, 2011 12:46 PM writes...

As someone who works in a small company, I might have to ask for some of that equipment which would come in mighty handy for those of us with small (read zero) equipment budgets.

As antiquated as some of those things may be they still work great when needed. For instance, we still have one of those old HP GC's with the circular tray as the autosampler and a thermal paper integrator. It's a workhorse. Still churning out the data.

I'd love a chromatotron (but only if it has the old quartz lid.)

The liquid handlers are great if you're working in an analytical lab doing lots of sample preps and injections, but as a synthesizer they stunk. The problem wasn't the instrument per se, but rather that the companies tried to apply the platform into applications it wasn't really well-suited for.

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42. Anonymous on May 23, 2011 1:10 PM writes...

Most certainly combi chem stuff.

Ironically you need surprisingly very little and equipment to do parallel synthesis effectively. A simple eppendorf repeater, coupled with a speed vac and semi-prep HPLC will go a long way.

Everything else seems to take up space.

I'll bet that there is at least 10 million dollars of Tecans and flow equipment gathering dust in the US alone.

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43. nitrosonium on May 23, 2011 2:22 PM writes...

To all those with "outdated" and "obsolete" glassware. please do not throw it out!!!!!! i am a dedicated collector of strange, unique, antique chemistry glassware and lab equipment. I WILL TAKE WHAT YOU HAVE.

I do this for the preservation of the history of our field. contact me at dmgatdukedotedu if you have anything you'd like to send

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44. anon the II on May 23, 2011 3:10 PM writes...

To #42:

You're mostly right but those Tecans weren't necessarily useless. It was very good hardware. You just had to have reasonable software to control them. And you couldn't buy it. You had to write it. And that was real hard, cause Tecan was little help and most IT groups were worse than useless. But it could be done. We did it, or should I say, someone in my group did it. And they got used a lot (TLC spotting, Liq-Liq extractions, filtration, aliquot removal for analytical, etc) without much complaining. Of course, for reagent addition, we preferred the Eppendorf repeater.

But for the vast majority of people who bought a Tecan, it was useless.

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45. newnickname on May 23, 2011 10:04 PM writes...

#33: "Somehow I'm picturing a new anime robot series: "Chromatotron, Defender of Chemiverse"."

Actually, Analtech still has the video of the Adventures of Ana L'Tech defending The Realm using the Analtech Cyclograph, their version of the Harrison Research Chromatotron. I gather that we're not allowed to post links so I leave you to google for it. Or, go to the Analtech blogs and look the Ana L'Tech topic on the right hand side.

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46. @newnickname on May 24, 2011 7:44 AM writes...

Using the voice of Beavis from "Beavis and Butthead"...

Heh heh, heh heh...Analtech...heh heh, heh heh.

Seriously though, I'm not a fan of Analtech's TLC plates. You can hardly mark them with a pencil without destroying the coating! I would rather cut my own Whatmans than use those clunky plates.

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47. Anonymous on May 24, 2011 10:50 AM writes...

At 3:10 in the video, the voiceover says, "Short A, people. Please grow up." Pretty good video. It won some awards. (More links to funny science / chrom videos via Ana L'Tech youtube page.)

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48. Hap on May 24, 2011 12:59 PM writes...

It's not equipment, but I nominate the teamwork binders from the corresponding seminars telling us how to play nice with each other. (They didn't work, by the way.)

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49. AlchemistOrganique on May 24, 2011 8:15 PM writes...

Just discovered a box of the infamous Analtech pre-scored TLC plates. What's with the extra-wide non-coated space? I presume that the logo is supposed to be an abstract representation of a reaction flask. However, on re-inspection, the logo does resemble a sagittal view of the lower abdomen, with a clearly defined lower bowel region. Gonna check out the Ana L'Tech video...

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50. Amy on May 27, 2011 7:43 PM writes...

I'd get rid of some of the students in my lab. Some of them have been working towards PhD's for almost 4 years and are still yet to make a single novel compound. These same students also take up the most space, glassware and equipment. Go figure.

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51. Secondaire on May 29, 2011 3:04 PM writes...

We have an ozonator contraption that's about thirty years old and is the size of a small refrigerator. Nobody's used it in the 5+ years I've been here and the dust on top is like an inch thick.

We also have some melting point apparatuses that are so old that I cannot even figure out how they work. I don't even know where the sample goes, and they have swiveling magnifying glasses and a flip-switch evocatively marked "vibrator."

@46 - I like their prep TLC plates. I find they have considerably less soluble siloxane binder crap than other brands. Nothing like using ~5% MeOH to desorb and seeing a peak at #@%!$ing 0.02 PPM in your NMRs that's so big it's in the next room...

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52. Secondaire on May 29, 2011 3:22 PM writes...

Oh yes. And I second (third, fourth, Nth) the canning of old distillation/spinning band columns. I showed them to my class to demonstrate how theoretical plates work - they've found no use besides that.

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