Organic chemistry is a highly specialized branch of science. The equipment needed to run organic chemistry experiments and analysis won’t be in a general chemistry lab.
Rather, organic chemistry requires specialized laboratory equipment in a dedicated lab space.
Whether you’re thinking about putting together an organic chemistry lab or renovating existing lab space for organic chemistry, you need to take the field’s complexity into account.
At OnePointe Solutions, our dedication is to help you build your ideal research facility. We know that all laboratories aren’t built the same, which is why we design and manufacture lab furniture to fit your specific needs.
There’s no need to settle for anything less than a totally custom lab space.
If you’re curious about the characteristics of an organic chemistry lab, then keep reading. We will cover everything you need to know about what goes into making an ideal organic chemistry laboratory.
What is Organic Chemistry?
Organic chemistry is the study of the chemistry of life. Organic chemists are primarily interested in carbon reactions in molecules that contain a carbon-hydrogen bond.
These are the building blocks for all living things on Earth, and this study applies to many different questions and research areas.
Organic chemistry has a great number of applied uses as well. Many organic chemists assist in product development for things like pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, detergents, insect repellents, and other products.
What is an Organic Chemistry Lab?
An organic chemistry lab is a lab space dedicated to organic chemistry projects, experiments, reactions, and observations. Since organic chemistry relies on specialized equipment, you can’t really do other types of chemistry in an organic chemistry lab.
At its most basic, the lab space must have durable lab furniture and equipment, plenty of working space, and secure storage areas.
What Happens In an Organic Chemistry Lab?
No matter what specific research projects an organic chemist is working on, the heart of organic chemistry is reactions and their mechanisms. Every chemical reaction proceeds according to a reaction mechanism.
This is the step-by-step description of what occurs during a reaction on the molecular level.
Each step of the mechanism (or elementary process) describes a single moment during a reaction in which molecules break and/or form new bonds. Organic chemists observe and describe how these elementary processes build into mechanisms, and from there describe how the chemicals they are studying react.
Using this basic set of steps, organic chemists can then investigate numerous topics, including:
- Crystallization and recrystallization
- Melting points
- Thin-layer chromatography
- Vapor pressure and volatility
Once completed, numerous industries utilize organic chemistry research for their products. Countless advancements in our lives tie back to an organic chemist.
Which Industries Use Organic Chemistry Research?
Organic chemistry is widely used in many industries. While pure organic chemistry research does happen (often in a university setting), most organic chemistry is directly tied to the industry.
Virtually all biotechnology products are the result of organic chemistry. Biotechnology is a cutting-edge field that involves using living organisms and bioprocesses to create or modify products or other organisms for a specific purpose.
This might include things like drought or pest-resistant crops, or fungus that’s modified to consume microplastics in the oceans. There are a lot of biotechnology projects that use organic chemistry.
This is including projects in:
- Pharmaceutical development, crop production, non-food uses of crops, biofuels, consumer products like biodegradable plastics, and the environmental sector.
Most consumer products involve organic chemistry. If we eat or drink a product, put it on our skin, or consume it in some other way, organic chemistry was part of its development process.
One of the most visible examples of this is the cosmetics industry. Organic chemistry labs research how the skin responds to metabolic and environmental factors.
This, in turn, informs the formulation and manufacturing of products.
Soaps, plastic goods, perfume, detergents, and food additives are other examples of consumer products that rely on organic chemistry.
Petroleum and Organic Industrial Chemistry
This type of organic chemistry research focuses on converting raw materials into consumer and industrial products. Today, the primary focus is petrochemicals: petroleum and natural gas.
Since these are not renewable resources, there is a heavy emphasis on learning how to convert renewable resources like crop waste and other plants into usable, industrial organic chemicals.
Other industrial organic chemistry research examines rubber and plastic products, textiles and apparel, petroleum refining, and pulp and paper.
One of the first reactions that many students of organic chemistry learn is how to synthesize aspirin from salicylic acid. The pharmaceutical industry relies on organic chemistry to develop and produce medications.
This industry also relies on organic chemistry labs to test the safety and efficacy of these pharmaceuticals before bringing them to market. Organic chemistry also helps to make chemically-equivalent, generic versions of medications.
Or, conversely, to develop patents for brand-name pharmaceuticals.
Regulation and Government
Federal and state offices like the Food and Drug Administration and Patent and Trademark Office hire organic chemists to ensure the safety and purity of various consumer products.
What’s in an Organic Chemistry Lab?
While no two organic chemistry labs are identical, there are some pieces of equipment that virtually all organic chemistry labs need to function properly.
Standard Scientific Equipment and Glassware
Some of the equipment that you’ll find in an organic chemistry laboratory will be familiar and found in most scientific labs (regardless of the lab’s specific field.) These include equipment such as:
- Balances and scales
- Buchner funnels
- Fridges and freezers
- Hirsch funnels
- Magnetic stirrers
- pH meters
You’ll always find beakers, flasks, and vials, but you’ll also find some more specific glassware, too. Glassware is essential for microscale experiments and reactions and the types used in organic chemistry labs allow for extreme precision.
Some of this glassware includes:
- Air condensers
- Claisen adapters
- Clay tiles
- Conical vials
- Drying tubes
- Evaporating dishes
- Hickman heads
- TLC chamber
- Storage vials
- Water condensers
Organic Chemistry Equipment
Organic chemistry requires a lot of specialized equipment. This includes:
- Atomic force microscopes
- Chromatographic systems (HPLC and GC-MS)
- Fourier-Transform Infrared spectrometers
- Heating mantles
- Laser flash photolysis spectrometers
- Mass spectrometers
- Scanning probe microscopes
- X-ray diffraction equipment
- XPS-X-ray photoelectron spectrometers
Storage and Safety Equipment
Organic chemists are often working with potentially dangerous chemicals. Even stable, safe chemicals can have volatile reactions with each other.
To make sure that everything is safe, organic chemistry labs need safe storage for their reagents and a workspace that allows a good, smooth workflow.
Some of the safety and storage solutions that you’ll see in an organic chemistry laboratory include:
- Biosafety cabinets
- Cabinets and casework
- Countertops and durable workbenches
- Eyewash and emergency shower stations
- Fume hoods and laminar flow cabinets
- Industrial tool storage solutions and other lab furniture
Need Help Designing an Organic Chemistry Lab?
If you’re thinking about designing, expanding, or remodeling your existing organic chemistry laboratory, then it’s time to call us at OnePointe Solutions. We are experts at scientific laboratory design and can help you no matter where you are in the process.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or renovating an existing space, our team has the knowledge you need to truly optimize your laboratory.