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Chemistry Lab Goes Green
The design for Phase II of construction for the new chemistry laboratories in the Science Building includes a plan for going very small…and green.  Of the two planned laboratories, one will be a General Chemistry Teaching Lab and the other will be an Organic Chemistry Microscale Lab.  Microscale Chemistry is a new approach to the science which confirms, at least for chemists, that less is indeed more.  Instruments, beakers, ventilation systems, quantities of chemicals used in experiments, are all scaled down in size producing the same results but significantly saving money and important resources.

Microscale chemistry is a pollution prevention method that decreases the amount of chemical waste generated during laboratory experiments. Standard chemistry procedures are re-written for individual experiments and specialized microscale equipment is utilized to perform the work. In some cases, the amount of a particular chemical needed for an experiment has been decreased by as much as 99 percent.

Microscale techniques in the laboratory offer a host of benefits over traditional chemistry methods.  Safety in the lab is greatly improved due to decreased exposure from chemicals reducing the possibility of fire hazards or explosions.  The time needed to perform experiments decreases due to shorter reaction times.   Also decreased is the amount of storage space necessary for chemicals.  

In terms of ventilation, systems can be smaller and run on less energy as there is less waste to funnel out of the lab.  Microscale reduces chemical waste and improves air quality due to the greatly reduced volumes of solvents and other volatile substances used.  The costs to dispose of chemicals are also greatly reduced.  Quantities used for Microscale experiments are typically about one tenth the amount used in traditional experiments. 

Mount students will benefit greatly from this novel approach to chemistry and they will be encouraged to think about waste minimization while carrying out routine experiments, something that will serve them as they embark on their careers. 

Some colleges have been reluctant to use Microscale chemistry and its techniques because it requires the purchase of specialized equipment and textbooks.  At the Mount, there will be no need to upgrade equipment since the science labs will be new.  The planned construction of Phase II of the new science labs will ensure that a host of eager students will reap the benefits of the Mircoscale Lab.  This is the visionary technology that awaits our future scientists.   

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