Friday, March 16, 2012


So, something happened today which should increase my output here (as it's far too low).

I know have a proper browser on this computer. Well, I say proper, it's IE8, so it's a marked improvement from IE6 (and it works). This means that I can now blog properly from work and not have to rely on my phone.

Expect more from me, but not today. It's Friday and I don't start anything new on a Friday.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The vagaries of unpredictable machines

So, it turns out that Mike the mass spec man was off for longer than I realise, so, with my potentially superb results still awaiting, I recruited fellow researcher Mandy to run them.

The tension was palpable, in just 30 mins I'd know if my adapted technique works and I get a bucket of kudos (and some personal satisfaction).

The OES is broked. Arrgghh.

These things happen, but at least now I know how to use the damn thing and what's likely to go wrong with it. Shame the thing that's wrong with it today isn't one of them.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Calcium is a go!

So, I've been working, on and off, on trying to get calcium separated from strontium for a few weeks. As mentioned previously, the article from which I've been getting my method from was, aside from giving me a general outline and a feeler for the reagents required, next to useless. So I've had to do things the old fashioned way: trial and error.

It was great! I felt like a proper pioneer of science; throwing chemicals into a test tube (well, a centrifuge tube) and seeing what happens. Turns out; I was using far, far, far too much hydroxide to get my metal ions to precipitate, with the conclusion some cations who quite like to abandon solution with their new OH partner then dissolve right back up again (I'm looking at YOU cobalt!) when there's enough hydroxide available.

Used less this time, but Mike the mass-spec man isn't in until Wednesday so I'm going to have to wait to see if calcium made it through the process, leaving his chums behind.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Who'd have thunk it?

So, turns out I was right; my notorious apathy took over and left this folorn blog postless. Add this to the fact my work PC doesn't do google very well (meaning I can't blog from work) and you get a few weeks without anything. I've got it on my phone now, so things should (ha!) improve....

Anyway, things are afoot in the calcium separation. All will be explained.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I used to like the word 'legacy'

So, yes, I used to like that word. It created images of things worth holding onto, of past success influencing future endevour and the retention of that which was worth retaining.

After working through some of our elder computer systems and the myriad forms that they take... well, suffice to say I'm not such a big fan of the word and what it represents.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Real scientific methodology...

The weekend

So, it turns out the weekend isn't so good for motivation when it comes to writing blog posts, who'd've thunk it?!

As it stands, the most likely research I'll be blogging about first is the separation of calcium from its alkaline earth family. It seems like there's some potential commercial application but, from what I've been told and read, calcium and strontium are really, really similar. In fact, almost identical, especially when it comes to wanting to stay in solution. Ho hum.

So, first off, where do you go? Well, if you've access to it, then Web of Knowledge is a good place to start. A quick search of terms and so on will usually get you a long list of articles that have some connections to what you want. However, calcium separation isn't one of those with a lot written on it. Bummer.

I did find one piece though with a lot of promise; wrote a paper in in which he described the kind of separation I plan on doing. w00t! Success!

However, it's crap.

I don't know whether the author was bound by some propriertory(?) confidentiality, or if the company he did the work for didn't let him give all the tricks away, or the author was just a very bad writer of scientific papers, but the outcome is that it's almost impossible to follow. So bad, that if it were a recipe to bake a cake it would go something like this:

Get flour, eggs and sugar.

No measurement, no timings, nothing useful at all aside from a tantalising glimpse of a good analytical method. Oh, there's results showing you just how good it is, how it separates the Ca from the Sr just right... but it's going to take a lot more work to figure this one out.