Monday, July 2, 2007

Isopropanol--least favorite alcohol EVER!

I have a very short, but rather bad history with isopropanol. I'm sure it's a great alcohol, possessing many admirable qualities and useful in any number of applications--just nothing that helps me. In fact, I seem rather adept at using it in ways that make life that much more difficult.

For instance, I once accidentally added isopropanol to a liquid-liquid extraction I was doing to collect data for my master's. I was using water and hexane, and meant to get hexane, but picked up the bottle next to it, which just happened to be isopropanol. I added it to about half the samples before realizing the phases weren't separating as they should. Just my luck, every phase was miscible. I don't think there was a compound in the lab short of dirt I could have picked that would have been a worse thing to accidentally add.

Today, I was trying to clean up some spilled sodium iodide that spilled on a balance. I used water first, then decided I wanted to use the balance, so I sprayed alcohol on it to encourage it to dry faster. Not just any alcohol, mind you, but isopropanol. I watched, horrified as the isopropanol fumes rolled down over the iodine-covered plastic, reacted with the left-over iodine and stained the balance a dark yellow. Does ethanol do this? No, of course not. Only isopropanol. Grr.

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