Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A selection of interesting "reactions" from around the lab...

Happy Hanukkah and Thanksgiving Eve to all, here in the Baran lab, we have a lot of pretty mundane reactions running on a day to day basis, but sometimes things get weird. Here's a few of my observations that I've managed to photodocument. As for the details of these reactions - I'll let those that ran them chime in if they care to. 

[...Click through to see some photos...]
Figure 1. Quentin's wacky distillation.
To be honest, this isn't super weird, but the set up is amusing and I like it. We've got a 100 mL flask that barely fits in the oil bath being used to heat it, a long, aluminum foiled wrapped vigreux column topped by a cute short-path distillation head followed by a second water jacketed reflux condenser,  and finally a dry ice bath on top of two lab-jacks. This entire apparatus appears to be held up by a single, small clamp (though, its probably got some support on the left side from the dry ice bath).

Figure 2. Emily, scale up, scale way up.
Isn't it great when you can't scale up past 10g or your yield drops off? Here we have ten, 10g x 1L reactions, first step of Emily's synthesis. Someday, I may work on process scale and understand these phenomena of scale, but for now, 10g at a time it is. In order to run these reactions, she occupies no less than five hoods overnight. I suspect she has run >100 of these 1L reactions.

Figure 3. Rotovaps, hah! The old weekend water/acetonitrile blow down, courtesy of Rodrigo himself.
In case you were planning on using that ice bucket, don't! It has some important material from the HPLC in it. (Editor's note: I am informed that this wasn't actually that important --don't panic Phil-- despite the label.) As his hoodmate, I'm certain that this didn't decrease in volume by more than 10 mL over the entire weekend.

Figure 4. My own boiled potato broth. Not for human consumption.
Soup for group meeting... or Baran lab doing some simple biology? Since this one is mine, I can fill in some details: making a potato broth as the substrate for a fungus to grow on; a fungus which produces natural products! Is this the first biology we've ever conducted ourselves in the Baran lab? Perhaps!

Anyone have any other photos of funny set-ups or reactions? Lets see them.


  1. Yes, maybe it does look a bit like potato pieces... but it is cubed brains! Something that is routinely used in the Baran lab for making the head cheese. Because, after you had grown enough Penicillium mold with your head cheese as a carbon source, it does, indeed, become - a blue headcheese! And from that, my friend, you may isolate Marcfortines A, B, C, D, E, A, T, H.

  2. Dear Emily,
    Sorry but if you can't sale up past 10g then there is something you still have to fix with your reaction. Running 10 x 1L is not the answer.

    1. Hi Quintus--I like the name--very Harry Potter,

      I think Dane slightly misrepresented the reaction. I can run it on larger scale--I max out at about 30 grams because I am limited by size of the glassware we have and the reaction does need to be run quite dilute. On larger scale the biggest issue is the work up--which again is limited by the size of the largest separatory funnel the lab has. Phil encourages us all to take time to work out, but I am only so strong... I find it easiest to work it up in 20 or 30 gram batches.


  3. Yes, I can appreciate what you say very well. On scale-up things do get heavy very quickly.
    You can buy double - walled glass reactors up to, well any size. They usually have a valve on the bottom and they are connectable. You do your extraction in there with a mechanical stirrer. No lifting required.
    You can even do hot or cold extractions. Get one with a frit and you can do hot filtrations before you crystallise anything. It's like having your own miniature chemical plant.

  4. Wow...I think Figure 3, at least in California represents deliberate criminal activity. Do you have an Air Quality Control Board in San Diego? Probably just a big fine the first time. I think your boss would be nervous for a different reason than your reassurance is aimed at.