KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Failure to seal a glass flask containing chemical by-products was the apparent cause of an explosion that injured two University of Tennessee students Aug. 3, a report said Thursday.
William King and Yongsoon Shin, graduate students in chemistry at UT-Knoxville, received cuts when a glass container exploded following a procedure to synthesize cobaltocene, a metallic compound. Neither were seriously injured.
Dr. Craig E. Barnes, chemistry professor in whose lab the accident occurred, said King and Shin had finished the process when perchlorate salts and other chemicals were accidentally exposed to air. The atmosphere apparently contained enough moisture or oxygen to detonate the mixture of salts and other materials.
The procedure has been successfully performed more than 20 times in Barnes’ lab. In the future, the report says, cobalt salts, which do not oxidize or explode in air, will be used to produce cobaltocene.
Barnes’ report said flasks containing both cobaltocene and salt byproducts are to be capped in the inert atmosphere chamber where the separation is done. The perchlorate residue flask was not capped.
King was carrying the container approximately 15 feet to a safety hood for safe disposal when it exploded.
The students were treated at UT Medical Center for their injuries. The explosion did not damage the laboratory or its equipment. Normal safety procedures were in place, Barnes said.
Contact: Dr. Craig E. Barnes (615-974-3446)