A coming of age tale:
The rotovap is easily one of the best engineered things ever to grace the lab. It’s simplistic, does exactly what it’s supposed to do, lasts forever as long as you take care of it, has modular replacement parts, and everything’s analog – pretty much my criteria for engineering of anything. (Not analog analog, but all the controls are accessible immediately, by hand.)
However, knowledge of the superior design makes rotovap troubles particularly insulting/frustrating, because you know that 99% of the time, they’re your fault. There was this one time, though, that the neck of a flask broke spontaneously while on the rotovap. Which, although alarming, was salvageable, and most importantly, not my fault.
Worse than the typical stubbornly bumpy flask is when it’s really obviously your fault. Like when you’re putting your flask on the bump trap, think its secure, lean over to grab a Keck clip, take your other hand juuuust off the flask, and it not only falls into the water bath, but shatters on impact… because I did that for my first time the other day! Hooray. And I must say, it was not enjoyable.
Armed with a giant funnel, an even bigger sep funnel, and the aid of a labmate, we poured the grimy mess into a more manageable vessel. A quick separation later and I yielded about half of the original volume I had intended to rotovap. (Upon closer inspection, the other half wound up on the floor as it dribbled out of the water bath but didn’t quite make it into the funnel. Oh well.)
On the plus side: the whole ordeal happened pre-column. So I collected my organic layer best I could, and continued along with no other interruptions. Also, I’m glad that I reached this ‘milestone’ with helpful grad students around. I hadn’t really considered the prospect of reclaiming my product before it was presented to me as an option. Then again, it was only step 1. Had I been several steps underway, I might have immediately turned scavenger… Biggest plus of all, I get to share the lovely experience with you.
On the down side: I lost about half my product. I’m still obviously the new undergrad.
Advantage: Chiral Jones.