Quiz: Know your chemistry glassware

Margarita Milton

Choosing the correct glassware can be tricky for a first-time chemist, and even experienced hands sometimes forget about the obscure apparatuses they rarely use. While some reactions are versatile and can be performed in a beaker, others require specialized glassware due to, for example, air/moisture sensitivity or the need to remove compounds formed during the reaction while it is ongoing. Here is a quick and hopefully fun quiz on laboratory glassware, including examples for preparation, reaction, and purification.

Choose the correct name for the following glassware:

a. Dropping funnel
b. Separatory funnel
c. Collection bulb
d. Emulsifier
e. Addition funnel

a. Dean-Stark apparatus
b. Gilbert Stork apparatus
c. Condensation apparatus
d. Claisen adapter
e. Trap-to-trap adapter

a. Pestle
b. Antique water bowl for pets
c. Mortar
d. Crucible
e. Trituration vessel

a. Solid phase synthesis flask
b. Schlenk flask
c. Teapot
d. Bomb flask
e. Bubbler

a. Sublimation apparatus
b. Straus flask
c. Photoreaction apparatus
d. Piece of alien spaceship
e. Fractionating flask

a. Consciousness adapter
b. Dissociation apparatus
c. Memory-sublimation chamber
d. Something that does not belong in lab
e. Something that does belong in lab

Answers / Uses

1. Separatory funnel: Used to separate two liquids that form layers because of their different densities. The difference between separatory and addition funnels is small, and if this question were given in an actual lab class, I would probably get angry emails from students. Calling the separatory funnel an emulsifier is unfair to the glassware. It is hardly the separatory funnel’s fault if your stuff is forming an emulsion.

2. Dean-Stark apparatus: Condenses water from a boiling solution in its sidearm and is used in reactions where water is a side product (often esterifications). The boiling solvent is usually toluene because it azeotropes water, then phase separates in the sidearm. Once the sidearm gets full, the water can be released through the stopcock.

3. Mortar: For grinding solids into powder to expose more surface area, usually to make the solids dissolve faster or form a fine suspension. The pestle is the second part that does the grinding. I did not know which was which as an undergrad because the words were never used separately. I did not find out until recently—quite recently.

4. Solid phase synthesis flask: Allows for the removal of liquids through the fritted neck and is used for the stepwise synthesis of oligosaccharides. First, a carbohydrate is attached to a polystyrene backbone. Next, the byproducts and solution are decanted through the frit using positive pressure of inert gas (that is somewhat like a teapot…) The polystyrene/carbohydrate chain remains in the flask. Then, another carbohydrate is added and the process is repeated until the oligosaccharide is of the desired length.

5. Photoreaction vessel: Houses a mercury lamp, which releases UV light that activates molecules suitable for photocyclization (most notably stilbenes). The mercury lamp goes into the inner chamber, which has quartz walls to allow its UV light to pass through. The “ears” on the inner chamber are for water to flow through because the lamp gets hots. The solution of compound goes in the outer chamber. Compounds that absorb visible light do not need this setup and can be photocyclized with regular light bulbs. Intensity of light, however, is important to speed up the reaction. A post-doc in my group bought lamps so bright, they were actually marketed for use on airfields.

6. Your choice.

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Margarita Milton grew up in New York City. She received her BS in Chemistry from Stony Brook University after working on the synthesis of aromatic belts in the lab of Nancy Goroff. She is currently a graduate student in the Nuckolls Lab at Columbia University, where she creates novel architectures involving perylene diimides. In her spare time, Margarita likes to read and write.

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