laser + coffee = blue?

March 27, 2007 at 10:28 am | | hardware, lab safety, stupid technology, wild web

This guy decided to heat his coffee using a very powerful laser. Stupid, right? Even more stupid, he filmed it and put it on the internets. That’s a good way to get fired. (I’m just jealous.)

[youtube OYvynmK0Slo laser coffee]

My question: How come the light is blue? The safety placard says it’s Nd:YAG (invisible IR 1064 nm) or HeNe (red 633 nm). Even doubled Nd:YAG should be green (532 nm). Strange.

Maybe things looks different at 2 kW.

(Thanks to Geekologie.)

50/50 Beamsplitter?

March 26, 2007 at 8:06 am | | everyday science, hardware, help me

I guess optics are harder to make in the infrared. You ask for a 50/50 beamsplitter for 3.5 to 6.5 microns and you get something like this. I guess it crosses 50% T a couple of times within the spectral window so I shouldn’t complain.

If anyone knows a good source for IR beamsplitters that have flat spectral responses and also don’t achieve their %Reflectance with multiple little reflections leading to strings of pulses separated in time by a few tens of femtoseconds let me know.

great boxes in chemistry

March 17, 2007 at 4:17 pm | | everyday science, great finds, hardware

I get excited when I find convenient containers usable in the lab. For instance, I loooove the boxes that new optical filters come in (e.g. from Chroma). They are sturdy and have little metal closing tabs you can bend over to keep the box closed. Perfect for storing, well, anything!


I hoard these.

Second place for the coolest-boxes-in-the-lab goes to the ThorLabs “Lab Snacks” box. First, you get snacks, then you have a nice little closable box that you can store samples or small parts in:


Probably the most available (and the most used) box in our lab is the pipet-tip box. They’re great for secondary containment for sample vials and for segregating samples. I use them all the time:


In fact, we hardly ever throw any away, which is why we have this pile:


Maybe I should take a trip to the recycling center someday soon, before it gets any more trouble-with-tribbles in here!

OK, so what are your favorite boxes?

new Ar laser installation

January 16, 2007 at 11:41 am | | everyday science, hardware

My lab bought an Argon-ion laser to replace an older one that wasn’t working anymore. That’s good news. Then we had to physically replace the old one. That’s the bad news. (We’re chemists, not weight-lifters….) But it ended up being really fun. I missed the worst part—moving the heavy laser down the stairs into the basement—because of a well timed vacation. But after the winter break, we moved it into the lab.

First, out with the old laser:


That wasn’t too bad, but the new laser was heavier and longer. But we did it:


The old power supply was fascinating: Read more of this post…

laser cowboys

January 10, 2007 at 2:28 pm | | everyday science, grad life, hardware, lab safety, nerd

The 23rd century cowboy…



Hey, is there a “sexy men of the spectroscopy laboratory” calendar out there? Here are January and August for you!

better gloves

December 5, 2006 at 6:00 pm | | everyday science, hardware, lab safety, stupid technology

Man, my least favorite part about wearing nitrile gloves is that my palms get all sweaty. Gross. So I came up with a great way to avoid that discomfort:


Isn’t that great. Much more comfortable. Now I can work for hours without changing my gloves, all the while feeling vented and fresh.

And then it hit me: why vent just the palm when you can vent the back of your hand, too? That’s when I came up with an even better idea:


I should really patent these!

This idea was so successful that I went to work on my safety glasses. Did you know that if you remove those silly lenses, the safety glasses are much lighter? And I don’t think those lenses actually do anything, because I can see much better without them, now (they were all foggy from a bunch of solvents, acids, etc. splashing on them).

This post has been censored by your friendly lab-safety coordinator. We apologize for any inconvenience. –Sam

My nerd-factor goes to 11!

October 12, 2006 at 10:45 am | | great finds, hardware, nerd

Hey hey hey, do you know what Saturday is? Its electronics flea-market day! I plan to check out this fine event at De Anza community college. Interested? come along.

In other news, I just got an ELENCO ANALOG-DIGITAL TRAINER XK-550 from eBay for a song. Finally I can learn some neat-o PIC programming and start working on my next Burning Man project(s). Look ma, no flip-flops.


Time permitting, I’ll be throwing out schematics for my latest and greatest circuit ditties occasionally for the masses

Sam’s Laser Site (Different Sam)

October 9, 2006 at 11:05 am | | hardware, wild web

I came across this absolute compendium of amature laser know-how a while back, and figured I’d post it for the world to to share. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about building your own laser.

Let’s just say this has given me a couple of pet projects, with updates to follow any actual progress.

flory surplus

September 26, 2006 at 6:05 pm | | great finds, hardware

I think that it’s super cool whenever I find some old piece of equipment floating around the lab from labs past. Here’s a perfect example: a PMT or something from Paul Flory‘s lab.


Who knows how we got this: W.E. didn’t even arrive at Stanford until more than 10 years after Flory died. I suppose I could ask W.E. the story, but I’d rather just assume that it involved a lot of sex and espionage a la James Bond.

big duct tape

September 25, 2006 at 6:40 pm | | great finds, hardware

OK, this warrants a new category: great finds. Look at the size of this roll of duct tape I found in lab:


If regular duct tape is the most useful tool in lab and in life, then this roll is doubly useful! But actually, I can’t really think of many uses for duct tape that wide: it’s hard to handle and regular duct tape can do just about everything this roll can do.

Oh, wait! I just thought of a great purpose:


Hmmhm, hmm hmhm hmmm hmmh mmm …

electronics flea market

September 23, 2006 at 10:40 pm | | great finds, hardware, nerd, stupid technology

Sorry I haven’t written lately: I was busy at the ACS meeting, then I was the opposite on a nice vacation.

Recently, my lab took a field trip to the local electronics flea market (William joined us, and can add his own comments). It was really a blast, especially if you’re this guy:


Mostly, the stuff for sale was real junk:


but there were some good finds. W.E. bought a “broken” green laser pointer for $15, and “fixed” it by flipping the batteries to be in the correct orientation. I found a great pair of magnifying eyeglasses, which didn’t even need tape:


and William bought at decelerometer for a dollar:


So, you know, it was worth the trip.

Good Conduct

August 15, 2006 at 5:47 pm | | everyday science, hardware

My lab is involved in several highly sensitive experiments that require complex data acquisition hardware. Much of our hardware is homemade, old, or inevitably unstable. As a result, we have to spend time fixing these systems, and that cuts into actual experiment time. To streamline the repair work and prevent future breakdowns, we have developed the flow chart shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Dishearteningly accurate.

I really like this figure. It’s truly a contender for best figure ever.


August 1, 2006 at 4:37 pm | | everyday science, hardware

Our 12 W Ar ion laser needed a tube change.* All it took was three weeks to convince Spectra Physics and two days with the service engineer. In the end, she’s a beaut’, Clark (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. Looking good, Billy Ray. Feeling good, Louis.

*The tube is changed every 6-12 months.


July 19, 2006 at 2:44 pm | | great finds, hardware, nerd

I found a great calculator in lab today. I actually think it was from the old Pecora lab, because we took a few of their rooms. It’s a TI-1250, circa 1975. Wow!

Figure 1. A TI-1250, not a calculator from the future.

At first, I thought it was a calculator from the future: I have a new calculator, and it’s only the TI-89. But it quickly became apparent that this was an older piece of scientific equipment. You can’t tell from the picture above, but the screen is on. You can only read the display at very precise angles and the whole screen flashes every time you press a button. It has an AC adapter, so you have to be plugged into the wall if you don’t have a 9-volt battery.

The best part is on the back, where it tells you how to do math:

Figure 2. What’s the point of the calculator when they print all the answers right on the back?

And look how thick this monster is!

Figure 3. Is that a TI-1250 in your pocket? Unlikely.

Note the on-off switch on the side. I just find that amusing. Plus, check out this website, where some guy with access to an X-ray machine shows us the insides of one of these beasts.

three lasers

June 6, 2006 at 3:28 pm | | cool results, everyday science, hardware

In an older post, I talked about aligning multiple lasers on my setup. Now I have a cool picture of all of them (I used a little liquid nitrogen for scattering):


Those are lasers at 488, 532, and 633 nm.

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