Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Setting Up an Amateur Lab

DrIronic101 - 16-9-2019 at 19:44

I'm a chemistry student looking into installing an amateur lab at home for studying organic chemistry. A couple questions I had:

-What equipment and reagents will be essential for a lab?

-What equipment and reagents aren't essential but preferred for a lab?

-What equipment and reagents would be a horrible idea to buy and would land me in a legal mess?

Thanks for any replies!

j_sum1 - 16-9-2019 at 20:23

Welcome to the world of "I wish I had a bit more time and a couple of additional reagents and an extra three-neck flask".

Let's go for some basics first -- you need a suitable space. What you can accomplish is limited by that more than anything else.
Suitable space means:
  • Enough bench area to work. There is one member who has set up distillations on a windowsil but it is not recommended. If you have more than one project on the go at a time (which is probable) you need space for laying stuff out, labelling it and getting it out of the way of other stuff.
  • Enough storage for both chems and equipment. Realistically, itemise everything that you think yo might need to store and double the space for that.
  • A management plan for water and gas. You might get away with a bucket but you probably need a sink. You might have to go without a fume cupboard which will limit what you can do. You will need a system for cleaning and disposing of stuff.

    As for equipment and chemicals... my advice is always to build your lab one project at a time. If you have something that you want to accomplish then buy what you need for that. You will build your lab incrementally and everything that you have will be useful to you. You will also avoid the horror stories that might arise from having purchased large quantities of suspicious items that you don't in fact need. (Referring to your legal mess comments.)
    That said, if you are doing OC, you need a distillatiuon kit, a set of flasks, beakers and measuring cylinders, spatulas and stirring rods. You will need either a stirring hotplate or a mantle or both. You will need a stand and clamps. You will definitely need a decent scale.
    You will want a range of basic chemicals and solvents. A bit depends on what you have available in your area. A good supply of H2SO4 (even unclean) will give you nitric acid, hydrochloric acid and acetic acid with the appropriate reagents. You will want ethanol or isopropanol, DCM, acetone and probably an assortment of others.
    A good first round of projects is to raid what you can from OTC sources and extract / purify to get the things you need. And your approach here will depend largely on what scale you are working at and what is available locally at your budget level.

    DrIronic101 - 16-9-2019 at 20:30

    Glad to see a good reply. I'll have no issues with space -- I have plenty of leg room where I can set up a lab.

    I think one of my first projects will be synthesizing and experimenting with nitrates. Starting with nitric acid, moving on to nitrating organic compounds. In general, I'd just like to get a good feel for applying chemistry to the lab, and understanding the nuances of chemical manufacture/synthesis.

    j_sum1 - 16-9-2019 at 20:35

    A good read while you are at this stage of things might be to find the "tour my lab" thread. Lots of good ideas there. And you can post your own pics once you are set up.

    Another good approach may be to devour some youtube clips and see the kind of projects that people undertake, often with quite limited reagents. There is a therad here called "Chemical Diamonds on Youtube" that will give you a comprehensive list of channels to subscribe to. Add chemplayer to that list. Now off Youtube and on bitchute and temporarily retired from making videos. But remarkable in many instances for what could be done in the world of OC with a hotplate and a beaker.

    CharlieA - 17-9-2019 at 17:24

    In setting up a lab, I've found Robert Bruce Thompson's "Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments" to be very helpful.

    Sulaiman - 18-9-2019 at 05:43

    Quote: Originally posted by CharlieA  
    In setting up a lab, I've found Robert Bruce Thompson's "Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments" to be very helpful.

    I just downloaded a pdf version of the book,
    (google quickly finds a free pdf version)
    easy to read and I agreed with almost everything I read.
    I've only got to page 106 so far.

    I would not have paid for such a book, because it gives me nothing new,
    but it is a good read/refresher.
    I'd recommend it to anyone considering the hobby.

    CharlieA - 18-9-2019 at 16:53

    Robert Bruce Thompson and his wife also wrote "Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments." Never having taken any biology course, and my only contact with biochemistry was when I worked in a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sigma Chemical Co. and synthesized various organic compounds, so when I recently bought a microscope this book has been very helpful.

    Yttrium2 - 18-9-2019 at 17:24

    I would find out what you are wanting to do-- before setting up the lab :D

    -- That aside,

    I would acquire things that are precursors to other things. such as HCL-- NaOH
    maybe even a hoffman apparatus so I could make my own (though this probably isn't the best method)

    I had a thread somewhere that talked about what chemicals were at the start of chemiistry - It was basically some rocks that Alchemists heated to make either sulfuric of HCL, I forget what it was, and where it was unfortunately, if anyone has this information please get back to me.

    Using this tree diagram, think of the chemicals that would branch out and lead to other chemicals... (its kind of hard to say what I'm getting at here)

    TREE_D1-5bfd6875c9e77c00517cf100.gif - 4kB

    TimApple - 16-10-2019 at 11:32

    Get a hotplate/stirrer (if you don't already have one). Its the most used item in my lab. Also, good luck on getting your lab up and running! I wish you yields of >80% ;)