The Little Rotovap That Could, But Probably Shouldn’t

I suppose the category “In the Lab” is slightly inappropriate. This isn’t from either the labs I’m associated with (research or teaching), merely the lab two friends of mine work in. But I don’t have an “In a Lab” category, nor do I particularly wish to incorporate one, so… deal with it. Semantics aside:

This is ‘ol vappy. At least, that’s what I named it. I think it might be one of the saddest rotovaps around.

'Ol Vappy

It’s the resident of one of the labs here, a lab that is unfortunately strapped for cash. I can’t say how old it is, but I can say for sure that it is, indeed, old. Let’s have a closer look at the little guy…


Here is what supports the whole beast. Once upon a time, before the advent of the fancy motorized rotovap, they apparently supported and adjusted the positioning with these things. With respect to ‘ol vappy, this stand doesn’t work. I mean, it works, in that it does support the damn thing, but it is no longer adjustable. I was instructed to not even attempt to adjust the base, lest the universe collapse upon itself.

Over the Shoulder

Here we can also see that there is no attached water bath. Instead, an oil bath atop a rather dubious looking hotplate/stirrer has been substituted. For some reason, it has a superfluous septa attached – reasons nobody could explain to me, yet everyone suggested I leave on, just in case… Furthermore, there is no knob, so you have to utilize that awkward “nipple-pinch” technique to turn it on or off.

Dubious Indeed

Speaking of dubious hotplates, this one has even been maimed by some reaction or scalding oil spill…

It’s apparent that he’s been physically abused by his current owners, and is in need of a new, loving home. If you wish to adopt or sponsor ‘ol vappy, please let me know.

Kidding aside, I don’t know how to feel about this. On one hand, it’s unfortunate that this thing is fairly decrepit, and should have been put out to pasture by now¹. Doubly so that there are research labs anywhere that don’t have the cash to upgrade when necessary. However, on the other hand, it’s very “triumph of the human spirit” that the damn thing (barely) works at all….

[1] Speaking of “out to pasture,” I’ve seen where rotovaps go when they die! While walking to the NMR one day, I spotted a door in the basement I’d rarely seen open. In front of the door was a cart filled with half-dismantled rotovaps, and when I peered in as I walked by, I saw walls filled with all kinds of used/broken/half taken apart rotovap pieces, and other mangled labware. Tending to this room was a very Doc Brown looking fellow who was sitting at the workbench inside. The whole experience was very surreal, and if I didn’t have NMRs to run, I would have asked to play/tinker with things and perhaps attempt to come up with some sort of Rotovapenstein. (Rotofrankenvator? Rotovrankenstein? Semantics….)


4 Responses to The Little Rotovap That Could, But Probably Shouldn’t

  1. psi*psi says:

    That’s in pretty bad condition! But the vaps you have to adjust manually aren’t that uncommon–my last lab had them, and they mostly worked fine. (Except…one developed an annoying squeak and also had a tendency to set things on fire.)

  2. tlp says:

    why politicians still not send such stuff to undeveloped countries as humanitarian aid to support science there? I believe some universities would take it, at least for student’s practice.

  3. Ooh how sad 😦 My life was changed when I started using a dry ice/acetone rotovap instead of the water/vacuum aspirator-driven ones! I wish I could give you one of our many broken/dismantled rotovaps to revamp, though you’ll be in grad school soon enough, presumably. Then your new lab will be full of fun toys like VIAL ADAPTERS for your rotovap!! Woohoo!

    Very intrigued by that room full of parts…

  4. Oh Dont Care says:

    Who really cares what you geeks want to do in life. No one is interested in your soppy stories of famous wannabes.

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