March 9, 2006

Innovations in LN2 Storage

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at March 9, 2006 11:13 AM

It sounds like an Aggie joke: a Texas A&M chemistry lab had a liquid nitrogen tank with a leaky pressure relief valve, so some clever individual solved the problem by replacing the valve with a metal plug. This ultimately transformed the chemistry lab into a rocketry lab.

The cylinder had been standing at one end of a ~20' x 40' laboratory on the second floor of the chemistry building. It was on a tile covered 4-6" thick concrete floor, directly over a reinforced concrete beam. The explosion blew all of the tile off of the floor for a 5' radius around the tank turning the tile into quarter sized pieces of shrapnel that embedded themselves in the walls and doors of the lab. The blast cracked the floor but due to the presence of the supporting beam, which shattered, the floor held. Since the floor held the force of the explosion was directed upward and propelled the cylinder, sans bottom, through the concrete ceiling of the lab into the mechanical room above. It struck two 3 inch water mains and drove them and the electrical wiring above them into the concrete roof of the building, cracking it. The cylinder came to rest on the third floor leaving a neat 20" diameter hole in its wake. The entrance door and wall of the lab were blown out into the hallway, all of the remaining walls of the lab were blown 4-8" off of their foundations. All of the windows, save one that was open, were blown out into the courtyard.

Fortunately no one was working in the lab at 3 am when it went off, so no one was hurt. However, this certainly redefines the concept of blowing up the lab. I'll have to keep this story in reserve in case I need to explain an accident to my advisor. "Did you hear about the guys at A&M who plugged their nitrogen tank and destroyed the building? Aren't you glad I only broke a vacuum pump?"

Via Uncertain Principles.

Tags: Lab, Science

Citizens demand more pictures.

Posted by: Lemming | March 9, 2006 12:57 PM

And to think in AP checm in high school they almost gave me some liquid N^2

Posted by: shellock | March 9, 2006 2:49 PM

Did I mention that I accidently found the key to our lN_2 tank a few months ago? It's kept under less security than the working staplers and scotch tape. There are definitely some benefits to being in the condensed matter group rather than a math department... :)

I need to let the current undergrads that I know where this is.

Also, more lN_2 means more ice cream!

Posted by: Mason | March 9, 2006 2:58 PM

Paging "True Lab Stories"...

Posted by: agm | March 9, 2006 6:05 PM

Wow, that ranks up there in the "oops" moments in chemistry lab (though I can think of many, many less destructive examples). And to think all of our lN2 tanks are kept unlocked in unlocked gas storage cabinets...

Posted by: Jolene | March 10, 2006 12:37 PM

As a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, I realized better than most that there really is only one thing to say:

Heh. Heh. Heh.

Posted by: JSpur | March 10, 2006 12:50 PM

Something is wrong here... No one was working at 3AM? Must be another Aggie thing.

Posted by: Mylanda | March 10, 2006 1:44 PM

UT Austin considers TAMU a rival?

Why bother (at least academically)?

TAMU has a couple decent departments (the math dept, for instance), but Austin has a lot of really good departments.

Posted by: Mason | March 10, 2006 4:42 PM

Alas the link to "rocketry lab" points to a server that cannot be found now. Perhaps the server is temporarily out of service. The google cache of the page didn't preserve the photograph.

The links from the cached page tried to point at the detailed report of the event, but the report is no longer found.

At least the news stories about it are still present, but they too lack photographs.

How can we remember the mistakes of the past and not repeat them if someone sneaks up behind us and DELETES the news stories that prove the event was real, not urban legend!!!

Posted by: William Cattey | November 3, 2006 4:46 PM
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