Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Quest For Crystals

Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday. A (very) late night out watching the Superbowl as well as a 2 hour French lesson yesterday evening meant I was running on empty by the time I got home. An early night and a session in the gym this morning as well as some completely uncharacteristic warm and sunny weather and I am revitalised and ready to tell you about my continued failure to get anywhere with my many and varied ideas for the next big advancement in the chemical sciences and more specifically, organocatalysis.

My current minor foray into sugar chemistry has left me yearning for, and in some cases expecting crystals. Every chemist secretly (or in the case of the guys over at Carbon-Based Curiosities, completely openly) hopes for inch long colourless crystals at the end of every experiment. Of course, this happens maybe once a year, maybe even less in some cases but that magical moment when it does goes a good way to keeping most of us sane. It just reminds me that I’m not a complete moron (very often) and that I might actually be halfway decent at what I do.

Anyway, on to today’s quota of frankly rubbish luck. I’ve now been trying to get a crystal structure of a compound for quite some time. I’ve tried everything I can think of, but today I finally thought I had made a breakthrough. I changed the counter-ion of this salt I’ve prepared, removed the solvent, dissolved the residue in hot ethanol, left it to cool slowly, waited around until 7pm, and there they were. Small pale yellow crystals. I filtered them, washed with cold ethanol, dried them, took them down to the NMR room to see an NMR which looks like complete crap. I have no idea how this has happened but it genuinely made me wonder why I bother with it sometimes!

1 comment:

  1. Hey man, first time visitor, I really understand a lot of what you tell us in this blog so i'll keep reading you for long I think :) I'm about to start my PhD in supramolecular chem, and during my year and a half of master's degree in the lab, my labmates in sugar chem got, say, 2 compounds out of 60 that were crystalline. I always made fun of them and their oily sticky yellowish crap ^^ Working with heteroaromatics/HB systems is nearly 90% precipitaiton/crystallisation purification, lucky me ^^