24 Jun 2013

Virtual Schlenk Line

Web Resources and Apps

Submitted by Amanda Reig, Ursinus College

This website provides a link to a simple downloadable program that introduces students to a Schlenk line through a series of short animations.  It is designed for Windows (does not appear to work on Windows 8 or on Macs).  While a bit rudimentary, it does a nice job of showing students the basic setup, discussing safety concerns with the liquid nitrogen trap, and outlining the general procedure for starting up and shutting down the Schlenk line.

Learning Goals: 

After viewing the program, a student should be able to:

  • describe the three major components of a Schlenk line (liquid nitrogen trap, vacuum manifold, and nitrogen manifold) and understand how they are connected,
  • understand the safety concerns related to use of the liquid nitrogen trap,
  • demonstrate how to operate a 3-way valve to connect a flask to the nitrogen or vacuum manifolds, and
  • know the correct order of operations for setting up and shutting down a Schlenk line,
Implementation Notes: 

To install the program, download the .zip file from the listed website.  Unzip the file, open the Disk 1 folder, and double-click "setup.exe".  The program will work on an individual PC or across a network.

I have students download, install, and view the program as part of their pre-lab exercise for our laboratory experiment involving Schlenk line work in our 300-level inorganic course.  They are also required to answer a few related questions as a part of the assignment (Describe any specific safety concerns for working with a Schlenk line; Outline the steps required to set up the Schlenk line for use). 

I would think the program would also be very a useful resource as an introduction or refresher for research students using Schlenk line techniques.  

Time Required: 
30 minutes
Evaluation Methods: 

The students are initially evaluated on their answers to the prelab questions.  In addition, when instructing students in use of the Schlenk line during the laboratory period, I ask them to explain the different parts of the Schlenk line and the safety concerns with the nitrogen trap.  I also have them describe the path of the inert gas through the Schlenk line to demonstrate their understanding of the setup.

As part of their laboratory final exam, I ask a descriptive question related to correct usage of the Schlenk line.  This question has varied the last two years, but an example is "Describe the proper series of steps required to start up a Schlenk line".  (Other questions have been more specific to the other Schlenk techniques used like cannula transfer.)

Evaluation Results: 

Students generally perform well on the pre-lab questions.  They come to lab with a basic understanding of the safety concerns and can usually identify the nitrogen and vacuum manifolds without my help.  The start-up/shut-down procedures are more in-depth, but students have reported that walking through the animations prior to lab helped them understand the process better as we went through it together.

Our lab final is open notebook, so students that have taken good notes and completed the prelab assignment well perform well on the exam questions related to the Schlenk line.  Those who have not tend to struggle as it is a multi-step process and the lab occurs early in the semester.

Creative Commons License: 
Creative Commons Licence


This program does not appear to run on Windows 8 and some versions of Windows 7. As near as I can tell, it is a 16 bit program. From what I have found, some versions of Windows 7 are much friendlier when it comes to running an emulator that can handle 16 bit programs. I am running Windows 7 Enterprise and it does not seem to be one of the friendly versions. If I (or someone else) come up with a simple work around for this, it should be posted. But for certain the double-click "setup.exe" method does NOT work on my system.

Alas, not Windows 7 Home Premium, either. At least, not by this method and without an emulator.

I am really excited to try this out as soon as I can find a PC.  If it's not working well, then maybe that's a sign that someone else (one of our students?) should develop a new one!

The problem appears to be whether you are running 64-bit windows or 32-bit windows.  I have Windows 7 Professional running 32-bit and was able to install the program fine.  Those running 64-bit cannot.  I will try to see if I can find a simple work-around, but so far, it does not seem promising.

I agree with Anne that maybe we need to make a new one!

The following video doesn't address safety issues but does describe the set-up decently.



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