• Question: What is a problem that you solved during your most recent project?

    Asked by Minimacman to Sylvia, Sumit, Martin, Kate, Bryony, Aryanne on 12 Mar 2019.
    • Photo: Sumit Konar

      Sumit Konar answered on 12 Mar 2019:

      TNT (trinitrotoluene) the explosive that has been used in world war I and II, I made the compound recently in our laboratory from toluene, fumic nitric acid and sulfuric acid. It is always found to be mixed with two different forms; I was never able to make one pure form over another. After several attempts I was able to make both the forms pure. You want to know how did I make that?

      I dissolved the mixed forms in ethanol solvent. I then did fast evaporation, and I got less stable form in pure form.
      More stable form I got it by slurrying the mixture overnight in ethanol.

      See, this is called preferential crystallisation. We can tweak and get the compound we want. Isnt it cool?

    • Photo: Martin McCoustra

      Martin McCoustra answered on 12 Mar 2019:

      In a sense we don’t solve problems… we generate new knowledge and understanding that might be applied in other areas of science.

    • Photo: Kate McGonagle

      Kate McGonagle answered on 13 Mar 2019:

      Great question! In my work I am always coming up against synthetic problems – recently I had to try and make a molecule containing an oxadiazole and I came up against quite a few issues. Reactions that in theory should have worked were not working and I had to try loads of different approaches and reaction conditions, but, I got there in the end and the molecule has been made!
      This is what an oxadiazole looks like and the molecule I made contained one of these;

    • Photo: Sylvia Soldatou

      Sylvia Soldatou answered on 13 Mar 2019:

      I use a lot of different instrunments, mainly analytical ones that they break or stop working more often that you would think. So, sometimes my work doesn’t involve onky lab work but also mainting the instrunments that we use.
      in terms of problems that appear as part of my lab work, I was trying to solve the structure of one of the compounds I had isolated and some of the peaks in the spectrum didn’t make sense. I struggled for a few days , until I realised I was using the wrong solvent and then everything was fixed!