When using your rotary evaporator, you are at a constant risk of glassware implosion. In this blog post, we’ll go over the different reasons why glassware implosions occur, the different dangers that are involved, and the different mitigative measures that you can undertake to prevent or reduce the risk of glassware implosions.
Why does rotary evaporator glassware implode?
Using vacuum with your rotary evaporator comes with a significant set of advantages, but if we were to list the disadvantages, one stands out: Glassware implosion. Besides throwing your samples down the drain, all over the wall, and all over you (Wear your PPE), implosions can result in projectiles of glass shards. The risk of implosion is directly proportional to the increase in vacuum: the higher the vacuum, the higher the chance of your glassware turning into a gnarly lab accident. The risk is exponentially increased when glassware is damaged.
How to prevent glassware implosion
1-Checking Your Glassware for Cracks and Signs of Wear:
You should routinely inspect your glassware for damage before every rotary evaporator run, and you shouldn’t use it if it’s visibly damaged. Look for cracks, chips, and scratches. If your glassware isn’t safety coated you could always use filament tape in a crisscross pattern, which will help keep the different pieces of glass together in case of both implosions and explosions. Mesh or netting can also be applied for a similar effect.
2-Choosing the Right Glassware:
When choosing glassware, you should make sure that it is designed to withstand vacuum. And while certain rotary evaporators come with the option of safety-coated glassware, it’s always better to stay on the safe side, and double check the specs yourself. You should also bear in mind that evaporation flasks aren’t usually safety coated given the high bath temperatures that they need to withstand that could degrade the plastisol coating.
3-Using a Fume Hood:
While certain applications force you to run your rotary evaporator under a fume hood, you might want to consider that option to mitigate the risks presented by imploding glassware. You’ll want to keep the sash closed at all times, which will make it difficult to control and operate your rotary evaporator.
4-Increase the Vacuum Slowly:
An incremental increase in vacuum during your operation comes with a solid set of advantages, like decreasing the risk of bumping and foam formation, and a decreased risk of glassware implosion.