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Author: Subject: What has been the most time you have wasted on a failed experiment?
tom haggen
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What has been the most time you have wasted on a failed experiment?

One of my many failed experiments goes something like this: One day for some damm reason I got the bright Idea that I would try and extract some nitromethane out of some 30% nitro racing fuel. Well I put some racing fuel in a 1000ml flask, and added an unmeasured amount of water to seperate the methane. After all the methane was decanted off (which took me about a day and a half for different reasons). I took the remaining nitro-castrol oil mix out to my shitty ass homemade distiller. I distilled the nitromethane out of the nitro-castrol oil mixture, and my final product was some nitromethane with a small amount of water woo hoo! So I stubbornly decided not to take one of hermes' metaphors seriously, and tried drying a liquid over a dessicant (CaCl). A week and a half after I started this stupid ass experiment I decided to gel some smokeless powder with the whole 50ml of nitromethane that I had extracted. Then I mixed some ammonium nitrate into the gel and let it sit in a jar for about another week, untill I found some time and some primaries to try and detonate it. Finally when the time came to detonate this ANNM & smokeless powder putty, wouldn't you know it didn't detonate. I think my diameter was to small, My putty was too crumbly, and there could have been a very small % of water in there some where. All and all I would say 2weeks and about 15 dollars were wasted on that project.

[Edited on 9-4-2004 by tom haggen]

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Nick F
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I'm always starting things and forgetting about them. My lab is full of flasks of mystery liquids, eventually I forget what they are and throw them away. Not much time wasted, just stuff.

Regarding NM extraction, has anyone shaken the fuel with NaOH soln., seperated off the aqueous layer, acidified, seperated the NM and dried? Seems quicker and easier than distillation...

Al Koholic
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Taken from a post in energetic materials regarding the reaction of NaOH and NM.

Mononitroacataldoxime or Methazonic Acid

(O2N) CH2. CH(:NOH), mw 104.07, N 26.92%, crysts, mp 79-80°; sol in w, alc, eth, acet and warm benz or chlf. Can be prepared by treating nitromethane in aq. NaOH or by other methods. Its ammonium salt, C2H3N2O3.NH4 obtained by the action of ammonia on nitromethane, dec on heating with evoln of poisonous hydrogen cyanide. Its K salt C2H3N2O3K, yel ppt expl on heating with evoln of lt blue flame (Ref 2) and its Ag salt, C2H3N2O3Ag, pale yel. ppt, expl ca 100°.

Nitroacetaldoxime, Anhydride, C4H4N4O4, mw 172.10, N 32.56%. Two isomers, a-, mp 168-172° (dec)& B-, mp 121-2° are described in the literature. Ag & Na salts of a-isomer were reported to be mild expls.

It appears that the NaOH soln will react with the nitromethane...extraction may not be possible by this method.

The most time I have wasted on experiments would probably have to do with my attempts at hydrazine from conc NH3 soln and conc NaOCl soln. Making the solutions takes ages of gas addition from a generator and then the boiling down of the hydrazine sulfate (after acidification of course) etc, etc. Just a bitch all the way around with never any hydrazine to show. Don't worry...I've only done a couple attempts so its not like I devote my life to trying to get the reaction to work. I also, develop at least 3 new projects of various nature each week which often get started and not finished for quite some time. Then theres the mental pack rat bin of all the ideas I've never acted on.....yet. Mwa hahaha!
Nick F
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I haven't read that post, but I don't think an acid-catalysed hydrolysis is out of the question...

But anyway, that's OT...

BromicAcid
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The most time I have ever wasted would have to be on my attempts at phosphorus. Eventually I did suceed but there were several attempts in between. Before my first sucess I would have to estimate that I had spent between 80 and 100 hours planning, researching, buying, making everything. I failed about 4 times before I had any sucess at all. But of course the further I got into it the more obligated I felt to actually suceed and the more money I was willing to sink into it. At it's peak I was spending about $50 a week on phosphorus research and production. Right now I'm trying to make a castner cell, it's taken about 20 hours but that hasn't failed yet. I've spent about$30 and 30 hours on hydrazine from urea and nickel and that just failed but of course now I feel even more obligated to make it work too. You know the old saying, if at first you don't suceed try, try, again. Because it's not until we quit that we really have failed. Part of being a chemist is not knowing when to quit.

 Even on a 'failed' experiment, is the time really wasted?

[Edited on 4/11/2004 by BromicAcid]

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Saerynide
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For me, its definately trying to get H2SO4 from MgSO4. I havent invested *too* much money because I managed to get the materials quite cheaply (everything except the MgSO4), but I have invested a lot of time into it. Ive spent countless hours researching, planning, getting materials and setting things up. Its a hole Im digging myself into, but one day, I will dig myself out, and end up at the other side of the world

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IgnorantlyIntelligent
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I'm real tired so I'm maken it short.
15 bucks for suplies to make 100g NG.
10 bucks worth of smokeless powder
Alil ammonium nitrate(activated)
2 feet of fuse
Results: Failed detonation and NG/AN/DBSP blown all over the hill side.

[Edited on 11-4-2004 by IgnorantlyIntelligent]

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unionised
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My current project at work is to find a better way of measuring a class of compounds (better reagent, better technique, whatever). It's been running about 3 years and has cost about £150000 (About a quarter of a million Euros, something like that in dolars). It looks like I won't succede.
I'm not putting any information about what the class of compounds might be because I don't really want my boss finding this sort of thing.

If anyone has wasted more time and effort than this on a project either
1 I hope you got paid for it; or
2 You should get out more.
axehandle

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Well, it doesn't involve chemistry, but is a quite fun anecdote nevertheless.

It was about 10 years ago, and I was (in my spare time) trying to come up with my OWN data compression algorithm. I spent about 1/2 a year drawing diagrams, optimizing assembly code, writing clever hash algorithms etcetera. Well, my algorithm worked. On text files it typically reduced the size to about 30%. Then I kind of dropped the project, given that everyone elses and their grandmothers algorithms worked slightly better.

Come 1997. I was studying CS at the university, reading a book about, among other things, compression algorithms.

Suddenly I got this feeling of dèja vu, while slowly opening my eyes more and more, studying the implementation in detail...... linked lists there, hash table there, back pointers, QUOTE and COPY bit...... just to find that I, 4-5 years earlier, had <b>re-invented</b> the LZ77 algorithm! It had been known for 20 years, and I had spent half a year "inventing" my "own" compression algorithm.

I felt slightly peeved, and about 30 years late, but also a little proud.

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tom haggen
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Well I spent about 3 months designing, constructing, and assembling a 3D model in solidworks one time. Only to lose the file to a faulty hard drive. In your case axehandle, it seems a little reasearch would have saved you a lot of time. Oh well, you obviously know a lot about algorithms to be able to reinvent someone else's procedure.

[Edited on 19-4-2004 by tom haggen]

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axehandle

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The Internet was NOT available to the public at that time.

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kyanite
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I didn't waste too much time, but I spent a few days preparing, try to turn phenylalanine to the phenethylamine, only to find that I would have made the levro (because of aspartame)
Oh man that would've sucked....

[Edited on 7-3-2005 by kyanite]

Pommie
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 Quote: Originally posted by axehandle .... just to find that I, 4-5 years earlier, had re-invented the LZ77 algorithm!

I've never come across LZ77, but would guess it's got something to do with the LZW algorithm I tried to get my head around in 1986ish. You obviously have a very different brain pattern to most if you could independently reinvent it.

The nearest I got to an original algorithm was a circle routine that worked like the string and nail type circles. You know, make a square of nails and join all the first nails then all 2nd etc and you get a circle in the middle. It was lighteningly fast for the day (about 1985 on a Sinclair Spectrum). I later found out that it had been first documented about 20 years earlier.

Mike.

P.S. Apologies for being OT.
Chris The Great
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 Quote: Originally posted by Nick F I'm always starting things and forgetting about them. My lab is full of flasks of mystery liquids, eventually I forget what they are and throw them away.

lol my lab is like that to, though I often get white precipitates and can't figure out what the hell I did, and am afraid of it as there is a distinct chance it is a highly unstable explosive.

And then my waste bucket occasionally bubbles/reacts etc when disposing of waste chems I thought were safe, forgetting about something else I dumped in there like a litte bleach, lots of carbonates and then HCl, and then freaking out when it starts vigourously bubbling (no chlorine though....phew).

As of right now I have not wasted hours and hours into a complete waste of time, though I have had plenty of failed experiments.
BromicAcid
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 Quote: Originally posted by BromicAcid Right now I'm trying to make a castner cell, it's taken about 20 hours but that hasn't failed yet.
Failed at this the first time after roughly three months of planning. Suffered hydroxide burns and a fire. Approximated cost \$100, over the next three cells taking up an additional 30 hours or so and costing me terrible pain in my eyes, burns on my skin, and reagents, I have probably succeeded in recovering nearly a gram and a half of sodium Again, I must say "Even on a 'failed' experiment, is the time really wasted?" I mean, there isn't much literature to go on for molten salt electrolysis at home, all the effort, money, and reagents were worth it to learn what I have learned.

Edit: BTW, I also do the 'Store every odd product I obtain with the intention of analyzing at a later date only to forget exactly where it came from and end of discarding it' thing....

[Edited on 3/8/2005 by BromicAcid]

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 Sciencemadness Discussion Board » Fundamentals » Miscellaneous » What has been the most time you have wasted on a failed experiment? Select A Forum Fundamentals   » Chemistry in General   » Organic Chemistry   » Reagents and Apparatus Acquisition   » Beginnings   » Responsible Practices   » Miscellaneous   » The Wiki Special topics   » Technochemistry   » Energetic Materials   » Biochemistry   » Radiochemistry   » Computational Models and Techniques   » Prepublication Non-chemistry   » Forum Matters   » Legal and Societal Issues