Imagine for a minute that you aren’t an electronic-savvy Hackaday reader. But you find an old chemistry book at a garage sale and start reading it. It has lots of interesting looking experiments, but they all require chemicals with strange exotic names. One of them is ferric chloride. You could go find a scientific supply company, but that’s expensive and often difficult to deal with as an individual (for example, 2.5 liters of nitric acid costs over $300 for a case of six at a common lab supply company). Where would you go?
As an astute electronics guy (or gal) you probably know that ferric chloride is common for PCB etching, so you would check the electronic store down the street or maybe Radio Shack if you are lucky enough to find one that still stocks it.
So sometimes knowing where to look for a chemical is a key part of acquiring it, especially when the names are not the same. For example, do you have any amylose? No? That’s corn starch. Want to try making your own cadmium sulfide light sensor? Go to the art supply store and ask for cadmium yellow pigment. Need magnesium carbonate? Stop by a sporting goods store and ask for athlete’s chalk.
You can find a list of these and many more on–of all places–Wikipedia. The table shows the chemical name, the formula, the common name, and some notes for quite a few chemicals that could be useful for the home lab. Sometimes easily available sources need further processing and that’s noted as well. For example, the notes indicate that town gas contains carbon monoxide but that can be removed by passing the gas through a large quantity of citrated chicken blood. You can’t make this stuff up, and if someone has a post to their homemade citrated chicken blood gas scrubber, I’m sure we will post a link to it.
There are a few other places you can check for similar information, including one from California State University. There’s a lot of duplication among these lists, and you can certainly find others with Google.
Of course, you need to be careful. There are a few notes about safety (for example, how to clean up hydrofluoric acid spills). However, a lot of this stuff is dangerous when used improperly or mixed with other things, so if you don’t know what you are doing, you should probably not be doing it.
Photo credit: [Joe Sullivan] Creative Commons