Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Plastic Chemistry Sets for a Student

HexJam - 29-9-2008 at 06:03

Hi guys/gals

I'm just starting out on this chemistry madness thing and have enrolled on a home-learning course with a local college. The course is quite heavily theory oriented, but I'd like to keep my hand in with the practical side of things and was considering buying a chem set to play with at home.

After some surfing I spotted some nice glass sets, but they were all quite expensive and I noticed some plastic sets that were much cheaper.

I was wondering, do you guys think these are any good or a waste of time/false economy? Also, what do you think I should be purchasing as to constructing a good all round chem set (with a slight organic chem bias) for a begginer?

Thanks people!

Maja - 29-9-2008 at 06:52

If you are hooked really strongly, buying plastic set won't help you ! :)) You will be forced to buy glassware, but now ... You can just do experiments in jam jars etc... What kind of "practical chemistry" do you mean ?

DJF90 - 29-9-2008 at 08:01

Jam jars are good but are limited when it comes to heating; they usually crack quite easily. Just buying a few bits of proper glass will really help, mainly a couple of beakers (I recommend 50ml and 250ml), an erlenmeyer/conical flask (125ml?) and some test/boiling tubes are pretty much essential. Add to that a plastic (PP preferably) or glass funnel, and a spatula and you've pretty much got the basics for inorganic chem.

chemkid - 29-9-2008 at 11:04

Through in a graduated cylinder and simple balance as well as SAFETY GLASSES! Also, if you want organic, some plastic tubing to run water through and wrap around the top of a test tube to form a sort of condenser is useful.


[Edited on 29-9-2008 by chemkid]

vulture - 29-9-2008 at 11:44

Plastic means you're forbidding yourself to do organic chemistry, as most organic solvents will dissolve your plastic set. It's good for aqueous chemistry, but nothing else.

DJF90 - 29-9-2008 at 12:04

It also limits heating... How are you supposed to heat a plastic beaker on a tripod??

JohnWW - 29-9-2008 at 14:44

The best polycarbonates are supposed to be good up to 400ÂșC, and resistant to most solvents, except strong alkalis and acids that could cause hydrolysis of the polymer.

Panache - 29-9-2008 at 16:06

Most chemistry based plasticware is polypropylene or high density polyethylene. For the purposes you describe (starting out adding a to b as instructed etc) there is nothing that will harm the polymer as it is inert, the thing it doesn't like is heating above say 120-140C, which means nothing warmer than this should ever be applied to it. So if you want to boil some water you will need to immerse a beaker in a pot of oil sitting at 140, which is slow but thats the cost of doing things in plastic.
I love lab plastic i use it extensively but i'm clumsy when bored and break so much glassware when washing it. 5L glass beakers cost a lot to drop if glass and nothing if they are plastic.
A further note if you are contemplating using jam jars etc use the thinnest one possible as these are the least susceptible tot he thermal cracking that is the demise of most soda glass based items. This theory can be tested by pouring boiling water into a room temperature fine thin stemmed wine glass and doing the same to a jam jar. Just stand back when doing the jam jar.

Picric-A - 29-9-2008 at 23:03

You can buy polycarbonate beakers out there but from what i have seen it would be cheaper to buy a simple borosilicate beaker and a flask and a set of ten test tubes. You can get all this from ebay.
I agree with maja though, start with jam jars until heating becomes absolutly neccesary.

HexJam - 29-9-2008 at 23:49

Hey, cheers for the replies guys, you've gave me lots to think about!

As for what I'll be doing with them, just basic lab skills stuff, practacing titration/distillation etc, just getting the basic techniques down. Just I think that I'll probably help me remember/understand the course a lot more if I actually try out some of the experiments/techniques rather than just reading/watching videos of them.

Right then, so far my shopping list is (I already purchsed some safety glasses!):
Graduated cylinder, Balance, Beakers (50ml & 250ml), Erlenmeyer/conical flask (125ml?), Test/boiling tubes, Funnel, Spatula. I must admit I'm pretty tempted to just save up a little and make the investment for some glass stuff like (and maybe just get a few plastic pieces to compliment it)

I have a scales/balance in the kitchen that is apprently accurate to 0.1g that should be OK right? (Assuming I wash it afterwards ;-))

Picric-A - 30-9-2008 at 06:18

Originally posted by HexJam
As for what I'll be doing with them, just basic lab skills stuff, practacing titration/distillation etc, just getting the basic techniques down.

If you wana practise titrations and distillation then you will need to get a burette and quickfit apparatus. Far from simple glassware...
Start small and when you decide you wana keep this hobby up get the equiptment.
Scales correct to 0.1g should be fine.

DJF90 - 30-9-2008 at 08:29

An alternative to quickfit is the "old skool" distillation glassware, with all the connections made with cork or rubber. This is satisfactory for some work, but when distilling particular chemicals they can attack the seals and contaminate the distillate/produce a leak in your apparatus. Picric-A gives good advice, wait till this is a serious hobby before you move into this sorta stuff.

ScienceSquirrel - 30-9-2008 at 08:48

To attempt volumetric work you are going to need a serious balance accurate to at least .0.001g or better.

[Edited on 30-9-2008 by ScienceSquirrel]

woelen - 30-9-2008 at 09:32

Have a look at this webpage about setting up a home lab. It describes what basic things you should buy for doing inorganic chemistry.

It also describes what chemicals you can buy to start with.

EDIT by woelen: Changed link, so that it works again.

[Edited on 12-6-12 by woelen]

chemkid - 30-9-2008 at 13:32

.1 grams is great to start! (coming from the guy who used a triple beam balance with no magnetic balancer and that never gave the same weight twice for most of his life).

But i really disagree with the use of jam jars. If i had started with jam jars, i would probably have a couple of burns right now...Reactions often get hot unexpectedly, especially when your new to chemistry. (100 grams of aluminum and 300mL of concentrated HCl) If something gets to hot and goes wrong, your probably don't want your glassware breaking on you and making the problem worse!