Some exciting things happened this week. They might seem small to some of you who have seen it all before, but I thought it was all rather fun.
First was I got added to the blog roll at In the Pipeline. I think Derek is pretty generous in adding chemistry-related blogs to the list, but I appreciate it all the same and note that I had a record number of visitors yesterday. Broke the record by a couple of orders of magnitude, in fact.
The other one was we got a new toy in the lab – an Isco CombiFlash Rf. They got one in the next lab over where I used to work, though I never got to play with it. There were a couple around the building here, but I was still using the old Companion, a rather crusty work horse still separating away and doing a good job of it. But I knew there was money for a new one and it finally arrived, set up in double quick time too.
I took it for a test drive today and was impressed by the ease of use, how straightforward everythng was – and how it took care of things that you might have otherwise forgotten – such as priming lines with the new solvent. I was a little surprised that it did not come with a couple of racks for 16mm test tubes and an adaptor for the small solid sample cartridges would have been nice too. I know, we can just buy some, but aren’t these the basics? Apparently not.
The arrival of a new instrument like this always awakens talk of the days of yore when we didn’t have such things and it was three columns at a time, all packed by hand, collected by hand, a thin layer of silica over everything, except where you’d spilled a bunch of hexane pouring it into the top of the column.
There’s some nostalgia there, for a simpler time perhaps, but you can’t go back, not once you have had everything nicely and efficiently done for you. Why would you want to? Automated purification systems like Isco’s have made our day-to-day work a lot more efficient, as well as less messy and much safer. They have really joined the rotary evaporator as lab standards.
From time to time, I run across someone who says they actually prefer the old way. I smile and nod, slightly in awe of their dedication to old methods (which they usually claim give superior separations). And then I go right back to my Isco and run three separations while they get their next one set up.