In this episode, Bob discusses wet chemistry and HazCat® with Todd Burton.
Complete Show Notes
2:35 What is HazCat®?
- Developed back in the 1980s when a white powder was spilled on the Golden Gate Bridge
- They had no way of identifying the powder back then, which had an economic impact because they closed the bridge
- HazCat® is a cookbook for chemists – follow the recipe and interpret the color of the end result
- System uses wet chemistry to identify solids or liquids – essentially a backup system for blind spots in IR metering technology (i.e. sodium chloride)
- Can identify a liquid or solid in 30-45 minutes maximum
- Designed to identify the 200 most common substances you’ll find on road or rail
- You need half to a third of a test tube of the substance, which is more than you need with IR
- Kits are relatively inexpensive and allow you to identify the 20% of substances your meters can’t
8:55 Bob and Todd’s Wet Chemistry Liquid Experiment
- Set up a table with a bunch of racks of disposable test tubes and denatured alcohol
- Had a whole kit of different spoons, clamps, clips, re-agents, pH paper, etc. and a propane torch
- Todd gave Bob an unidentified liquid and had him follow the HazCat® wet chemistry flow chart
- Bob asked the questions indicated on the flowchart and checked out the accompanying book, which told him what he needed for the experiment
- Three main tests in the kit:
- Oxidizer test – if yes, you go into oxidizer land
- Water solubility test – if yes, you go into organic things that float land
- Thermal analysis test – if yes, you go into things that burn land
- Bob learned that the unidentified liquid was nitric acid because…
- The oxidizer test was positive
- It dissolved completely in water
- It had a strong acid pH test result
- When taken together, these results moved them into the liquid acids chart
- The whole testing process took Bob 15 minutes, and he’s a novice at wet chemistry
18:20 Bob and Todd’s Wet Chemistry Solid Experiment
- Todd presented Bob with an unidentified solid that looked like chunky crystals of sea salt
- Recommended questions from the chart and book:
- Is it an enclosed glass bottle?
- Is it fibrous?
- Is it black or solid?
- Is it pyrophoric?
- Does it appear to be inert?
- Based on the answers to these questions, they moved on to the oxidizer test – result was “any other reaction,” which meant it was oxidizer negative
- Ran the acid test next – didn’t produce any concrete answers
- Proceeded to the water solubility test – substance dissolved
- Ran the pH test next – substance was relatively neutral (4-9)
- Moved onto thermal analysis – took a metal rod and a Q-tip with hydrochloric acid, swabbed the crystals, and tried to burn them
- Looked for thermal ignition – can the vapors coming out of the test tube be lit on fire? This determines whether it’s organic, inorganic, or an oxidizer
- Followed that up with an ammonium salts test – brought them to the conclusion that the substance was some kind of iodide
- Lit the substance on fire, which produced a lavender flame – checked the book and learned that the mystery substance was potassium iodide
31:25 Where to Take Classes and Where to Find Todd
- The Industrial Emergency Council offers classes on the West Coast – built into hazmat tech and specialist classes
- Todd’s YouTube: Hazmatter 7
- THMG101: Chemistry Nomenclature
- THMG123: Chemical Reactions
- THMG063: Top 5 Chemicals That Will Hurt You
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