The traditional round-bottom glass used by chemists for generations could be under threat after Danish scientists invent a new two-chamber flask that can change CO2 into medicine, while protecting against contact with dangerous chemicals. Jim Drury went to see how it worked.
The craft of glass-blowing is at least 2,000 years old.... but Jens 'Chris' Kondrup's new design could change chemistry forever. Alongside scientists at Aarhus University's iNANO Centre, he's created a dual-chamber laboratory flask. JENS KONDRUP SAYS "This is how it's done" Professor Troels Skrydstrup says the two-chamber flask allows chemists to safely turn CO2 waste into carbon monoxide, a useful chemical, by removing one oxygen atom. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR OF ORGANIC CHEMISTRY TROELS SKRYDSTRUP, UNIVERSITY OF AARHUS iNANO CENTRE, SAYING: "One of the cool things that we've developed here recently in Aarhus is taking greenhouse gas, such as carbon dioxide, which is an unwanted combustion product, and convert it into something useful, so the idea of taking a waste and converting it into a valuable product. And here we've actually taken CO2 and converted it to pharmaceuticals." Pharmaceuticals for anaesthesia, depression, and ovarian cancer have been produced with the device, which the team hopes to improve further. Assistant Professor Anders Lindhardt says it's quicker and more effective than using traditional glass-bottomed flasks, which require large cylinders and can be dangerous. SOUNDBITE (English) ANDERS LINDHARDT, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR IN THE DEPARTMENT OF ENGINEERING, UNIVERSITY OF AARHUS, SAYING: "The two-chamber is basically two chemical reactors set up aligned to each other connected by a gas bridge allowing any gaseous re-agents that are formed in the head space to diffuse back and forth between these two chambers.....So this device allows the operator to very safely handle a toxic gas because what he does is he puts in his re-agents, he seals the system off, and the carbon monoxide will not be released until he initiates the reaction." The team have formed a start-up company and say that in principle any drugs could be produced this way. CO2 emissions are blamed by many scientists for much of the global rise in emissions. The iNANo team think that by utilising CO2, while also making chemistry easier, is the ultimate 'win-win' scenario.