40 CFR Parts 260-268.
State of Michigan Act 451 Part 111.
Overview of Procedure
Microscale chemistry is a pollution
prevention method that decreases the amount of chemical waste generated during laboratory
experiments. This concept was first introduced by chemistry professors at Bowdoin College
in Brunswick, Maine. 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. The U-M has implemented microscale chemistry in its undergraduate
inorganic and organic teaching laboratories.
Due to the number of
laboratory experiments that have been converted to microscale, it is not practical to
detail the individual procedures. However, the following table presents a before and after
comparison of the amounts of chemicals used, as well as the cost of those chemicals, for
an Aldol Condensation experiment. These quantities represent the per student amounts.
(gm or ml)
(gm or ml)
*All costs were obtained
from the 1994/95 Aldrich catalogue.
Due to the small quantities of
materials used, it may not be possible to have enough "product" left at the end
of an experiment to run a series of experiments. For example, experiment #1 might have
generated a product that was used to run experiment #2, etc. However, in the typical
teaching laboratory, the "products" typically have no value and are disposed of
& Health Precautions/Personal Protective Equipment
Follow all applicable
safety and health protocols and regulations as established by your institution.
Microscale techniques in
- Reduce chemical waste produced at the
- Improve laboratory safety by decreasing
the potential for exposure to chemicals and reducing the potential for fire/explosion
- Improve air quality due to the greatly
reduced volumes of solvents and other volatile substances used;
- Reduce laboratory costs for chemical
purchase and disposal;
- Reduce the time required to perform
experiments due to shorter chemical reaction times;
- Decrease the amount of storage space
necessary for chemicals; and
- Encourage students to think about waste
To begin teaching
microscale techniques in the laboratory, the institution must purchase microscale
equipment and textbooks. However, the costs can be recovered in a relatively short period
of time due to savings realized on purchase and disposal costs of reduced quantities of
The table below presents a
per student comparison of traditional vs. micro chemical purchasing costs for the
Chemistry 216 course at the U-M. The experiments were performed during the 1996 spring
semester. All costs were taken from the 1994/95 Aldrich catalogue.
The purchasing cost of
chemicals for performing microscale experiments is 99.5 percent less than for traditional
Disposal costs for the individual
experiments were not calculated. However, the quantities of chemicals used for microscale
experiments are typically less than one tenth the amount used in traditional macroscale
experiments. Disposal costs should be reflective of this significant decrease.