Microscale: A Wee Revolution In College Chemistry Labs

Microscale chemistry, which began a decade ago as an effort to save money on a major lab renovation at a small New England college, today has revolutionized undergraduate chemistry. This system, which uses techniques and equipment that allow students to work economically and safely with relatively minute amounts of chemicals, is now implemented in colleges throughout the United States and is the subject of several textbooks and lab manuals. It all began in 1980, when renovation of the antiqua

Rebecca Andrews
Nov 25, 1990

Microscale chemistry, which began a decade ago as an effort to save money on a major lab renovation at a small New England college, today has revolutionized undergraduate chemistry. This system, which uses techniques and equipment that allow students to work economically and safely with relatively minute amounts of chemicals, is now implemented in colleges throughout the United States and is the subject of several textbooks and lab manuals.

It all began in 1980, when renovation of the antiquated ventilation system in the organic chemistry labs at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, could be put off no longer. Funds for the improvements were scarce, however, so instead of spending $250,000 to install a whole new system of fume hoods and vents, Bowdoin's chemistry professors developed an entirely new way of doing undergraduate chemistry. The techniques and equipment they designed, in collaboration with professors from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., enable...