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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

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July 3, 2012

They Don't Make These Things to Have Dichloromethane Poured on 'Em

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Posted by Derek

With all the electronic notebooks around these days, and the ubiquity of computer hardware and keyboards around the HPLCs, LC/mass specs, and so on, I'm surprised that we don't see more of this. But that is the first keyboard I've seen melted in a lab setting - perhaps I'm just leading a sheltered life.

But ginger ale in an Apple wireless keyboard? I can get that at home, courtesy of my kids. (The hardware survived, although some of the keys were a bit crunchy for a while. . .)

Comments (14) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


1. Schlake on July 3, 2012 10:43 AM writes...

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, my father had an electronics repair business. He had a vast array of powerful sovlents. One day, my portable DVD player was skipping, so I thought I'd clean the lens. I grabbed the wrong can of solvent though, and my DVD player melted down to just metal components in a pile of goo.

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2. Karen on July 3, 2012 10:44 AM writes...

This happened to me before with acetonitrile as well (well, not to that extent). Once on the mouse and several times sealing my pipet boxes...

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3. stuff on July 3, 2012 10:52 AM writes...

Once melted my Swatch to my wrist whel labmate spilled dicholormethane on me. Took days to get free and lost some skin.

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4. RB Woodweird on July 3, 2012 11:10 AM writes...

The peptide synthesizer is plumbed into a gallon of chloroform and requires a PC on the bench to control it. Eventually, the bottom of the CPU case was glued to the benchtop.

Soda on a keyboard? Put keyboard in plastic bag, pour in gallon of deionized water (I actually used supermarket distilled water). Shake around, repeat as needed based on volume of crud exuded from keyboard. Shake as much water as possible from keyboard, set aside to dry out. A couple of days later, clean and functioning keyboard.

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5. mike on July 3, 2012 11:52 AM writes...

I lost a number of cheap black plastic Casio calculator watches to accidental acetone and halogenated solvent rinses. Now I stick to the chrome plated ones. Somewhat more expensive and they're getting harder to find, but better solvent resistance.

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6. CanChem on July 3, 2012 12:05 PM writes...

We used 20L drums of solvent in grad school, and took turns filling the smaller bottles from them. A petite lady in our labs once struggled with the DCM drum, and splashed about a liter onto the floor. Her platform boots with their 4" plastic soles made really neat looking puddles. She managed to loose herself before getting welded to the ground though.

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7. Clumsy chemist on July 3, 2012 12:09 PM writes...

In my lab there is a wooden table above the steel box we keep our flammable solvents, which has a HPLC from about 1995 that is used by another group So that's where people fill up the stubby solvent bottles, Needless to say, people miss and cover the bench with their solvent of choice.

That computer now has 3 mice fused to the table, the look of the girl from the other group was priceless when she tried to figure out what had happened the first time.

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8. Virgil on July 3, 2012 1:17 PM writes...

I once had someone at a meeting knock an entire 1/2 gallon jug of water over my laptop (an IBM thinkpad, back in the day when they were solid machines, none of this Lenovo malarky). Ripped out the battery pronto, shook the bejeezus out of it, and left it on the heater/AC in the hotel room overnight. The following morning it started right up and is still works today.

For solvents though, nothing quite beats getting a new grad' student to clean their polystyrene cuvets with an acetone wash bottle.

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9. Canageek on July 3, 2012 1:53 PM writes...

Yeah, I've noted that you really don't want to grab the acetone instead of ethanol when cleaning lab goggles.

I did hear a story on the Cyberspeak podcast about a guy who was using custom made computer hardware that didn't fit into the case, so he used it with the case off. He then knocked a bottle of sulphuric acid into the case. Lost 6 months worth of data.

That was the winner of the 'worst abuse you've seen a computer take' contest; 2nd was the laptop that took 2 sniper bullets to the screen in Afghanistan.

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10. CMCguy on July 3, 2012 2:15 PM writes...

Its not only regular type stuff you need to be aware of incompatibilities in the lab as once moved into nice new labs with wonderful over-sized hoods however we were not told the "glass" was not glass but polycarbonate material. With in a week I learned this unexpected difference the hard way when decided to clean a few specks off the interior with acetone and created a large permanent foggy streak across middle of the window. Within 6 months to a year I would say pretty much every one in the labs had their own abstract art collections (that interfered with monitoring form the outside). Of course the "mangers" were not to pleased how the underlings had treated their showplace labs, rather than focusing on their culpability for not taking this issue into consideration when they designed the labs (even though granted polycarb is safer option for stopping objects propelled at high velocity).

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11. Pet Peeve on July 3, 2012 3:25 PM writes...

Derek, the 9-key in the picture isn't "melted". It merely got dissolved by DCM.

Sorry, reading that phrase triggered long-buried memories of explaining the difference between melted and dissolved to bewildered undergrads.

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12. partial agonist on July 3, 2012 4:10 PM writes...

All of the computers that are hooked up to Isco combiflash companion chromatography stations in the lab eventually seem to get a solvent bath, and they start looking like Salvador Dali's melting clocks.

Keyboard goes first, then mouse. Everytime an office computer gets retired we hang onto the keyboard and mouse as backups for these lab computers

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13. Ben on July 5, 2012 3:41 PM writes...

some useless hack copied this post...

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14. Wheels17 on July 7, 2012 5:58 PM writes...

I used to work in a plant where we used hundreds of millions of pounds of Dichloromethane a year to dissolve plastic. It was the key solvent used to solvent cast the cellulose acetate sheet used as the backing for photographic roll films.

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