Well, most of the equipment used in the O-Chem labs is made of glass. So here's a page of information on the safe handling of glassware, including the correct method of cutting glass tubing, handling broken glass, and disposing of broken glassware.
Glass is used in chemistry because of its relative inertness to just about all types of chemicals. Glass is not a true crystalline solid. It does not have a true melting point, one that is sharp and distinct. It more nearly resembles a solid solution of an extremely viscous liquid, which gradually softens when heated. It is this property of glass which makes glassworking possible, and as such, an incredible variety of labware.
There are many types of glass; they differ in terms of their softening point, strain point, annealing point, linear coefficient of expansion, etc. The glassware used in the O-Chem labs can be roughly divided into "soft" glass and "hard" glass.
"Soft" soda-lime glassware is not heat resistant because it has a low melting point (600-800°C) and a high coefficient of expansion; when it is suddenly subjected to extreme temperature changes, it will break or crack. However, it can be used for such equipment as volumetric flasks, glass tubing, stirring rods, graduated cylinders etc. It cannot be used with high heat, as from a hot plate or an open flame. It can, however, be worked with a Bunsen burner.
"Hard" high-temperature-melting (750-1100°C), heat-resistant borosilicate laboratory glassware (Pyrex or Kimax brand glassware, for example) is used wherever sudden changes in temperature may occur, e.g., beakers or Erlenmeyer flasks which may suddenly be chilled, round-bottomed flasks, distillation columns and condensers -- in fact, just about everything in your equipment drawer. This kind of glassware may be subjected to direct high heat, and can be worked only with an oxygen torch. It will usually be marked as "Pyrex" or "Kimax".
Glass tubing is used frequently in the O-Chem labs, usually to build a vacuum trap used with vacuum filtration. The size typically used is 6mm diameter soft glass tubing.
If you need to use glass tubing in your experiment, the TA will demonstrate its use, and the tubing will be supplied. If not, it is always available at the OCS window on request, and OCS personnel will be happy to demonstrate the proper method of working with glass tubing.
When glass tubing is cut, sharp edges result. These can cause cuts and serious injury. Always take care when cutting glass tubing and when handling the cut pieces of tubing.
To cut a piece of glass tubing:
Pieces of glass tubing (and sometimes thermometers) are frequently inserted through rubber stoppers. This procedure, while seemingly a simple one, is responsible for a majority of student injuries incurred in the O-Chem labs. To avoid injuring yourself, work safely and follow these instructions.
To insert a piece of glass tubing through a stopper:
Once the tubing (or thermometer) is snugly inside the stopper, it's not a good idea to try to remove it after use. If you need to remove the stopper, come to the OCS window, where we will use the most simple and direct method to remove the stopper: by cutting it off with a utility blade.
For many years, manufacturers have been fabricating lab glassware with ground-glass fittings, or "joints", having standard dimensions and designed to fit each other perfectly. The joints are sometimes referred to as "standard taper" joints, because the joint is designated by a size (or taper), and any piece of standard taper glassware will fit any other piece of glassware with a similar standard taper.
The size used in the O-Chem labs is "14/20". Other common sizes include 19/22 and 24/40. The first number indicates the approximate diameter of the larger tube in millimeters; the second indicates the length of the ground surface. Generally speaking, the larger the numbers, the larger the joint size, and the larger the glassware.
There are several advantages to using ground-glassware, including avoidance of contamination of chemicals due to cork, rubber, or plstic connections, efficiency in setting up due to the quick assembly of apparatus, etc. About the only disadvantge of ground-glassware is the higher cost of the individual units: the items in your equipment drawer with ground joints are among the highest-priced items you will be using in your lab course.
Ground-joint glassware is precision-ground to a specific taper, and this allows the snug fit when two corresponding pieces are joined. But proper care must be taken of the ground surface to ensure that the equipment will function properly when used.
Although ground-glass joints usually seal quite well without the use of lubricants, it is generally a good idea to lubricate them to prevent "freezing" and therefore breakage. Under most conditions in the O-Chem teaching labs, a lubricant should be used. This makes it easier to separate ground-joint ware and prevents leakage. Ground-glass joints must be kept clean and must be cleaned prior to lubrication. Dust, dirt, chemical residue, and/or particulate matter may score the surface and cause leakage.
Stopcock grease is the joint lubricant used in the O-Chem labs. It is kept in a small jar on the side shelf in the teaching lab, with the rest of the stock reagents and supplies. Note that the grease is hydrocarbon (petrolatum) based, and therefore is soluble in most orgnic solvents. This means that you will need to re-apply fresh grease every time you carry out a reaction, since it may dissolve somewhat during use.
Use a boiling stick to apply a small amount of grease to the upper part of the inner joint, taking care not to grease any part of the joint which may come in contact with vapor or liquid and cause contamination. A properly lubricated joint appears completely transparent, with no striations.
The following applies only to glass stopcocks; teflon stopcocks require no lubrication.
Use a boiling stick to apply two circular bands of grease around the stopcock, midway between the bore and the ends. Insert the stopcock into the barrel (of the separatory funnel) and twist several times. The grease will spread out and the joint will be completely transparent.
Avoid using too much grease; it could plug the bore of the stopcock. If this happens, come to the OCS window and request a pipe cleaner to unplug the bore.
At the end of your lab period, you should take apart and clean all ground-glass joints. The grease is hydrocarbon-based, so it is soluble in most of the organic solvents stocked in the teaching lab rooms. Leaving a joint sticky with grease provides a surface to which dirt and particulate matter can adhere, possibly scoring the surface when the apparatus is used again. Leaving a joint assembled can result in the joint "freezing" together. Similarly, take apart (glass) stopcocks and store the piece unassembled.
Proper assembly of apparatus is necessary to assure a successful experiment. It also helps to prevent glassware breakage, and therefore might save you from having to pay for a few costly items. Follow these guidelines:
Laboratory distillation glassware, separatory funnels, and reagent bottles with glass-to-glass connections sometimes become "frozen", or stuck. To loosen stopcocks, stoppers, or ground-glass joints, you may use the following techniques.
Caution: Remember glass is fragile, and broken glass can cause cuts and serious injury. Use care and handle gently! Do not apply too much force or subject to rough treatment. If you would rather not attempt any of the following procedures, simply bring your frozen joint to the OCS window and request that OCS personnel assist you.
To loosen a frozen joint:
Most pieces of lab glassware can be cleaned by washing and brushing with a detergent or with a special laboratory cleaning product called Alconox (the "SOAP" jugs in the lab rooms next to the sinks contain a dilute Alconox solution). After they have been thoroughly cleaned, they should be rinsed with tap water and allowed to dry.
Always clean your glassware and apparatus immediately after use, if possible. It is much easier to clean the glassware before the residues in them become dry and hard (plus you are more likely to remember what the item was used for to decide what will clean it best). If dirty glassware cannot be washed immediately, put it in water to soak. Handle glassware carefully when cleaning it, as the soap and water will make it slippery. Be sure to rinse off all soap or detergent residue after washing glassware to prevent any possible contamination later.
To dry your clean glassware, you can rinse it with small portions of acetone (there are a couple of wash bottles in the lab rooms containing wash-grade acetone). This should be used sparingly. Another method of drying glassware is to use the dryer oven located in the GC room between the lab rooms. You can determine whether glass is clean by spraying distilled water on it: water spreads out evenly and smoothly on clean glass, but stands in droplets on soiled glass.
Sometimes the residue on your glassware won't come clean with just soap and water and scrubbing, although most of the time it will. There are a few other methods to clean your glassware, but it really depends on the nature of the residue. The following tips should cover most of the eventualities you will encounter in the O-Chem teaching labs:
It is not OCS policy to clean glassware for students, though OCS personnel will be happy to give tips on cleaning methods. If you really, really can't get a stain or residue off your glassware, we may allow you to exchange it for a clean piece. If we can tell you expended a fair amount of effort, we will be more accomodating.
In general, don't! Broken lab glassware, in addition to having sharp and jagged edges which can seriously injure you, also have the added element of danger in that there is most likely chemical residue on the glass itself. Cutting yourself on a piece of broken glass with chemical residue on it could seriously mess things up, especially in an organic chemistry lab.
So if you have broken a piece of glassware holding any chemicals -- a reaction, or simply a reagent waiting to be used -- alert your TA. Your TA will advise you in the proper method of cleaning up a chemical spill.
If you break a piece of glassware and chemicals are not involved, obtain a small dustpan and broom (there are a few sets in each teaching lab) and sweep up the pieces. Discard them in the 5-gallon white plastic bucket marked "BROKEN GLASS" in the lab. Do not handle broken glass by hand, if it can be avoided. Also, only place CLEAN broken glass in the "BROKEN GLASS" bucket. Broken glassware with chemical residue should either be cleaned (if there is a way to do so safely), or placed into the "LAB TRASH" bucket.
If you break a mercury thermometer, alert your TA and then come to the OCS window to request a mercury clean-up kit. Please do not throw the broken thermometers away in the general, lab, or glass trash! Place the thermometer in the mercury clean-up kit and return to the OCS. Broken thermometers result in mercury spills, which are toxic! Either your TA or OCS personnel will explain how to use the clean-up kit to clean up any spilled mercury from the thermometer. To safeguard against thermometer breakage and mercury spills, handle thermometers very carefully, do not use them as stirring rods, and always store them in their protective plastic casing.